FORT MYERS, Fla. - As the available Grapefruit League innings dwindle down to a precious few, the Red Sox sent a passel of pitchers to the player development complex to throw in minor-league games against teams from the Twins organization.
While the big-league team was in Jupiter, losing 15-7 to the Marlins, Tim Wakefield, Jonathan Papelbon, Daniel Bard, Hideki Okajima, Scott Atchison, Rich Hill and Felix Doubront traveled to the end of Edison Avenue to get in their innings. Wakefield and Hill appeared in the Triple-A game, with Wakefield starting. Papelbon started the Double-A game, followed by Okajima, Bard, Doubront, and Atchison.
Wakefield went five innings, giving up six runs (five earned) on seven hits, a walk, and a hit batter. He also gave up a home run, throwing 78 pitches, 52 strikes.
When a passerby asked him how his outing went, Wakefield replied, "Good enough."
For Wakefield, the most important part of his outing was to get his work in, keeping him stretched out.
"I got up and down five times. Got up to my pitch count," he said.
"It's a different atmosphere. I take it seriously but there's not a whole lot of adrenaline down here. But you got to get your work in somewhere."
Papelbon has not appeared in a spring-training game since March 17, when he went two-thirds of an inning against the Mets and gave up four runs on two hits and two walks. In six Grapefruit League games he has given up seven earned runs on three hits, five walks, and two hit batters with three strikeouts, for a 12.60 ERA.
He started the Double-A game, going one inning, giving up two runs on one hit, a home run, with one strikeout.
"I got in exactly what I wanted to do, which is touch up my delivery a little bit, simple and on-line mechanics," Papelbon said. "That was really all I really wanted to worry about today. So, I accomplished that."
Despite a couple of difficult outings this spring, Papelbon is happy with the way he came into spring training, with better mechanics.
"I'm pleased with the way that I came into spring and my mechanics were pretty good," he said. "A couple outings, I kind of got off track there. But I was able to kind of go back to simplifying it a little more. For me, I was able to take that out there today. The delivery that I had out there today, just try to keep perfecting it and take it into Arlington against the Rangers on Opening Day. That's the most thing I'm pleased about. I'm also pleased about the way I'm throwing my slider, because it's going to be a big pitch for me this year."
Papelbon said he is excited about the potential depth of the Sox' bullpen.
"I do feel excited this year, but I feel excited about every other year, too," he said. "We got to still go out there and find our identity as a bullpen, our roles, our swagger, everything. And all that will hopefully start in Houston a March 30 exhibition game against the Astros and as we get into the season. On paper it looks great. I'm sure you guys have heard that before."
Doubront, slowed by tightness in his left elbow, appeared in a game for the first time this spring. He threw one inning, giving up two runs on three hits with one strikeout. He threw 19 pitches, 13 for strikes.
"Elbow's fine. My body's fine. That's all that matters to me," he said.
Okajima went one scoreless inning, with two strikeouts. He needed just nine pitches, six strikes.
"I felt good today, my conditioning is good," he said. "My first game this spring, I got hit pretty hard, but it was actually good for me. It was good that I could learn from my mistakes.
"I'm ready for the games. My control was poor, but I've been working on that. I am also working on my offspeed pitches, I need to control them or they are pointless.''
Okajima, who has been working on adding a cutter this spring, said he doesn't think he's guaranteed a spot in the Sox bullpen, despite re-signing as a free agent in January on a one-year, 1.75 million contract. Last season right-handed batters hit .340 (34-for-100) and slugged .540 with 4 home runs and 10 walks against him. Lefties hit .284 (25-for-88) and slugged .375 with 2 home runs and 10 walks. Over his four-season career, righties have hit .257 with a .404 slugging percentage, while lefties have hit .214, slugging .320.
"I was good against righties because I threw tough pitches on the inside," he said. "I have to be able to do that or they can target my changeup. I am also using a cutter.''
Bard went one scoreless inning, giving up one hit on seven pitches, six strikes. Atchison went three innings, allowing one run on six hits and walk with three strikeouts. He threw 46 pitches, 31 strikes. Hill pitched one scoreless inning, with one walk and one strikeout. He threw 20 pitches, nine strikes.
The Red Sox got drubbed by the Marlins, 15-7. Clay Buchholz (0-2) took the loss, going four innings, giving up 11 runs, six earned, on 11 hits and one walk with five strikeouts. He allowed four home runs, including two three-run homers to Mike Stanton. Michael Bowden also had a tough outing, going two-thirds of an inning, allowing three runs on five hits. Jacoby Ellsbury went 2-for-3, with a two-run homer. He is hitting .383 this spring. Jarrod Saltalamacchia went 3-for-3 with a home run and four RBI.
Maureen Mullen is on Twitter athttp:twitter.commaureenamullen