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Sometimes It All Works Out

Thursday, February 28, 2013 – JetBlue Park, Ft. Myers

Spring Training Workouts

On Thursday, the Red Sox had a game against the Pirates in Bradenton, up beyond Sarasota.  Since we had already traveled to Sarasota for a night game the day before, we chose to not make this trip and to drop by JetBlue Park instead.  Even though the official workouts ended when the games began, there’s still activity on the back fields every morning.  The complex is open to the public, although the concession stands are not open like they are during the official workouts.  Most of the action comes from minor league camp, which consists of all the players in the low minors who are not among the 60 or so top players invited to big league camp.  There is also the possibility of seeing some of the major leaguers who are rehabbing or not participating in that day’s game, although they have the option of working out in the training rooms or batting cages, out of sight of the fans, so nothing is guaranteed.

2011 draftee Mookie Betts rounds third base in a baserunning drill.

20-year-old 2011 draftee Mookie Betts, who played for the Single-A Lowell Spinners last year, rounds third base in a baserunning drill.

We arrived shortly after the complex opened up at 9:30, and at that time, it was just the minor leaguers out on Fields 3, 4, 5, and 6, working on the usual fielding and baserunning drills.  It wasn’t until an hour later that we saw any sign of the major leaguers.  Catchers Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Christian Vazquez came out onto the agility field to do a unique but cool drill.  They started out lying facedown while a coach fired two baseballs in the air from a pitching machine.  They had to jump up, discard their mask, and then catch both baseballs, without even seeing where they had been launched.  Here’s a quick video of the drill:

Both catchers successfully caught the balls several times, but the whole thing took place too far away from where the fans are for us to be able to call over to them, and then they went in a few minutes later.  I figured that we were going to be out of luck today, that with most of the regulars playing in last night’s road game, they’d be told they could come in late and work out inside.  We could hear people in the batting cages, and though we couldn’t see who they were, that seemed to confirm this theory.

New left fielder Jonny Gomes wheels out a basket of balls for batting practice.

New left fielder Jonny Gomes wheels out a basket of balls for batting practice.

But at 11:00, out came almost the entire roster from major league camp.  The only ones missing were those who were on their way to the game in Bradenton, which ended up being mostly minor leaguers, since the regulars had all played the night before.  And better yet, rather than entering Field 1 via the agility field, where barriers keep the fans from being able to get close, they walked right down the pathways where fans were standing.  My natural instinct when a player walks by is to step back quietly and let them pass, but they were letting fans come up and talk to them, and several stopped to sign autographs when asked.  So I asked for and got autographs from Mauro Gomez, Christian Vazquez (I told him I’d enjoyed watching him play the past couple of days, when he’d been making a series of good defensive plays), Joel Hanrahan, Andrew Bailey, and Felix Doubront.  Jonny Gomes didn’t stop, but I told him, “Nice home run last night,” and he said, “Thanks.”  My strategy when a group of players walked past together was to ask the more obscure guys in the group rather then the stars, because they’d be more impressed that someone knew who they were, and I figure the stars can’t stop anyway because they’d get mobbed.  So I was looking around at Pedro Beato, when I realized that Jon Lester had stopped to sign right next to me.  My mother was even able to get Dustin Pedroia to sign the picture she had brought.

New closer Joel Hanrahan was one of the players who was kind enough to sign for quite a while.

New closer Joel Hanrahan was one of the players who was kind enough to sign for quite a while.

When the players all made it out to the field, we watched the infielders take fielding practice, and then several rounds of B.P.  I was most happy to see Will Middlebrooks participating in all the drills.  He had had to leave last night’s game after trying to check his swing in his first at-bat and appearing to re-injure the wrist he had fractured last season.  I was worried about the possibility of him missing time again this year.  But the way I figured it, this early in spring training, if there was any chance at all that he was less than fully healthy, they’d keep him out of practice – at least today – until they were really sure.  So seeing him in there fielding, throwing, and batting with everyone else made me feel a lot better.

It was a relief to see that Will Middlebrooks had apparently not re-injured the wrist he had broken last season.

It was a relief to see that Will Middlebrooks had apparently not re-injured the wrist he had broken last season.

While the position players batted, the pitchers went off somewhere that we couldn’t see, presumably to the bullpens in the back of the complex, but they came back up to the agility field afterwards to run.  When they finished with that, more of them came over to sign, including intriguing top prospect Rubby De La Rosa.  As batting practice wrapped up, some of the position players stopped on their way in, including infielder/outfielder Justin Henry, whom I called over and mentioned having seen him at the PawSox Hot Stove Party last month.  I ended up getting 11 autographs, which makes it my most productive day in the 11 years I’ve been coming to spring training.  I had them all sign a printout of a photo I had taken at Fenway last year, which I’ll frame and hang in my guest room with the rest of the ones from the past 10 years.  All in all, it was a really fun morning.  If we had gone to the game, we wouldn’t have seen all these players, and we certainly wouldn’t have been able to interact with them like we did.  I think it also helped that there were probably only about 100 total fans in the complex, rather then the normal crowds who come out for the official workouts.  On tap for tomorrow: a night game at JetBlue Park.

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