When I realized how close my Spring Break was, I decided to start getting into Spring mode, which meant I had to divert some of my attention to the Red Sox.
The Sox were about to start Spring Training and it used to be a family tradition to drive down to Clearwater, FL to watch the Phillies play and every once in awhile we would catch a Yankees game in Tampa. My mom grew up a Yankees fan, originally living in New York before raising my brother and I in Boston.
My Spring Break fell on a Friday and the Sox played the Yankees in Tampa, so naturally my mom and I felt the need to make a trip down. We got up at two in the morning Friday to make the eight hour trek down to our hotel in Clearwater, where we settled in before heading over to the ball park around five that night.
The Red Sox generally don’t bring their starters on the road early in Spring Training, even if they were playing the hated Yankees, so the lineup included ace Clay Buchholtz and veteran catcher Jason Varitek. We also got to witness the young up-and-comers such as Daniel Nava, Jose Iglesias, Yamico Navarro, Ryan Kalish, and Josh Reddick. The Yankees boasted a full lineup complete with the stars (Jeter/Tex/A-Roid/Cano) and some of the new guys (free agent Russell Martin and highly touted prospect Manny Banuelos).
When we walked into George Steinbrenner field, the fans were uncharacteristically nice, as it was only a Spring Training game. When chatting with a couple fans on the Yankees side of the field they mentioned that regardless of it being the spring this meant a little something. Of course it does, it’s Yankees-Red Sox and after the big Boston summer, these guys were ready to come play.
I was settled right next to the Yankees bullpen so I was able to witness every guy they had in there going through the motions and preparing for the game. Maybe heckling Bartolo Colon was a bad idea, because he came out firing. Really frustrating to see this guy flourishing in the pinstripes, even against the youngsters the Sox put out there. Colon pitched three scoreless innings, where he allowed two hits and struck out five.
Josh Reddick made the play of the night, chasing down a fly ball in left as he tracked the ball coming over his shoulder and dove toward the fence for the first out of the second inning. Buchholtz closed his day allowing no runs on one hit in three innings and looked fantastic against the bulk of New York’s bombers.
The youngest player in camp made the biggest impact on the score as Oscar Tejeda made a had a huge night at plate. In the seventh, Tejeda banged in a two-run triple to deep center to get to 3-for-6 through the spring. Tejeda would drop in another run to make it 5-1 in the top of the ninth as the Sox rolled through the Yanks 5-3. The young guys were able to hold their own and beat New York in one of their many matchups this season. Tejeda is beginning to make a name for himself at the plate, while Reddick and Navarro are showing their worth on the defensive side of the field.
On Saturday, my mom surprised me with tickets to the Red Sox-Orioles game down in Sarasota, the Orioles new Spring Training facility. It was a split-squad day, but I was able to again watch some of the new guys while also seeing the likes of Carl Crawford, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Alfredo Aceves. We had standing room only tickets but got right next to the Sox bullpen and talked a little with the guys getting warmed up. Scott Atchison and Aceves are classy guys and took their round in the bullpen while interacting with the crowd. The same goes for Crawford, who was clearly the fan favorite.
Aceves, who could make a run for the last spot in the rotation toward the end of Spring, had another strong outing with one unearned run on only two hits in three solid innings. Crawford broke through with his first hits of Spring Training in a Boston uniform as Ellsbury went 0-for-3 with walk in the game. Tejeda broke through again for the Sox as he drove in three runs for his second straight game, making it six RBI’s in two games. The game ended in a 4-4 tie, the only downside of Spring Training ball.
All in all it was a beautiful weekend to be in Florida and like many others, I can’t wait for April and Red Sox season to begin.