The Boston Red Sox opened up their live-game competition today with a seven-inning scrimmage against Northeastern University. The Sox used seven different pitchers and limited their starters to two at-bats during the 3-0 win. The big story, though, was the performance of relief pitcher Daniel Bard.
Trying to bounce back from an absolutely awful season, Bard shined in his spring debut. The 27-year-old gave up a bloop single in the second inning, but shook it off and struck out the side in order after that. His slider was sharp, and he threw 72 percent of his pitches for strikes. It’s just one inning, but it’s a huge step in the right direction for Bard, who posted a 6.50 ERA in 91.1 innings split between Boston and Triple-A Pawtucket last season.
In total, Red Sox pitchers surrendered just four hits in the exhibition game, with Pedro Beato finishing off Northeastern in the seventh.
Another good sign from this game came with the play of catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia. “Salty” has seemingly been under the gun all winter, with the Red Sox bringing in two other catchers during the off-season—Mike Napoli and David Ross. Napoli was originally signed as a part-time catcher that would take at-bats away from Saltalamacchia, but that plan has now been scrapped due his ailing hip. In today’s game, Saltalamacchia lined a double off the wall with two outs in the first inning to drive in the Red Sox’ first run. He drew a walk in his second at-bat, which is noteworthy because he had a lot of trouble with his patience at the plate last season (139 strikeouts to just 38 walks).
Like I said, this was just a small sample, so I don’t put much weight on what took place in the exhibition, but there was a lot of good things to take away from the game for the Red Sox and very little to complain about. And that’s not something Sox fans have been able to say in quite a while.
(JM Catellier is the author of the book Fixing Baseball, a guide to restructuring the Hall of Fame. Follow him on Twitter: @FixingBaseball and Facebook, and check out his site: www.fixingbaseball.com)