See You on Opening Day
Monday, February 28, 2011 – City of Palms Park, Ft. Myers
Red Sox 7, Twins 6
Monday was my last day in Ft. Myers, and I had one last game to go to. We arrived at 10:30, just as the gates were opening, and I went down near the Red Sox dugout to see if I could get any autographs. The Red Sox were taking batting practice, and I had just pulled out my camera when I heard someone say, “Beckett looks hurt.” I hadn’t even noticed him yet, but I found later that he was in the background of some of my pictures, on one knee and holding his head. We heard later that Beckett had been hit in the head by a ball that coach Ino Guerrero had batted back toward the infield after shagging a fly, and had suffered a mild concussion.
When batting practice wrapped up, we were able to call Darnell McDonald over for autographs. After the Red Sox came off the field, we grabbed a bite to eat but then went back down by the dugout seats to wait it out, knowing that they won’t come back out until just before the start of the game. When they did come out for their warmups, we called Lars Anderson and Clay Buchholz over to sign.
Daisuke Matsuzaka got his first start of the spring, and in the first inning he gave up a solo homer to Jason Kubel, one of the few major leaguers the Twins brought over for the game. Dice-K walked a batter in the second, but other than that it was a decent outing, and he only needed 25 pitches for the two-inning stint. Matsuzaka was replaced by Tim Wakefield in the third. He gave up a home run to Luke Hughes, but all three runs the Twins scored off Wake were unearned due to an error by shortstop Brent Dlugach. Wakefield’s second inning of work was less eventful, as he worked around a walk and a double to emerge unscathed.
The Red Sox found themselves in a 4-0 hole heading into the bottom of the third, but with one out Jacoby Ellsbury singled and Dustin Pedroia walked. Carl Crawford, playing his first spring game with the Red Sox, flied to left (he finished the day 0-3). That brought up Big Papi with two on and two out. He crushed a towering shot into right that actually went over the City of Palms Park sign and out of the park, bringing the Sox back within a run.
Daniel Bard gave up two runs in his inning of work, but that was the last time the Twins would score. Andrew Miller, the tall lefty who is now my personal choice for the last spot in the ‘pen, had an impressive 10-pitch inning which included two strikeouts, and Michael Bowden, Jason Rice, and Matt Albers also threw scoreless frames.
The Red Sox got some more runs in the bottom of the sixth, but it wasn’t an easy trip around the bases for Josh Reddick. He had come on to pinch-run after J.D. Drew’s one-out single, and he had second base stolen – complete with a late throw and a safe sign from the ump – on Luis Exposito’s strike three, but for some reason he had to go back to first. (Earlier in the game Ellsbury had gone down to first base after an apparent walk, and the next batter was even introduced before the pitch was changed to a strike and he had to come back to the plate. He ended up grounding out.) I missed why Reddick had to go back, but he was back at first and Exposito was out. The next batter was Dlugach, and he drove one into the gap in left-center for a double. Reddick came all the way around from first to score – except the ball had bounced over the wall and was called a ground-rule double, so Reddick had to go back (again) to third. Finally, first baseman Drew Sutton lined a single, and both Reddick and Dlugach were able to score.
Reddick came up again in the seventh inning with one out, a runner on first, and the Sox still trailing by a run. This time he hit a home run out to left, giving the Sox a 7-6 lead and allowing for a much easier trot around the basepaths.
The Red Sox pulled off a nice come-from-behind win and evened the Mayor’s Cup series with the Twins at 1-1. “Dirty Water” blared (only one verse, though, before they switched to the dreadful “Happy Trails”, which for some reason they played in its entirety) but as much as I love that dirty water, I wasn’t really looking forward to my 6 am flight back to Boston the next morning. The Grapefruit League was just getting underway, but for me it was back to the land of snowbanks and black ice. The next time I see see the Red Sox will be Opening Day. It’s a little over a month away, and I certainly won’t be picking up a sunburn before the game like I did today, but that’s OK as long as the result is the same.