Knock on wood. Right now, everything seems to be going right for the Boston Red Sox in spring training. Young pitchers like Rubby De La Rosa and Allen Webster are performing far better than expected, third baseman Will Middlebrooks survived an early injury scare, and even John Lackey looks decent as he attempts a comeback from elbow surgery. This weekend, the good news continued to roll in.
In Friday’s Grapefruit League game against the Pittsburgh Pirates, Mike Napoli made his long-awaited debut and had great results. Then, on Saturday, Clay Buchholz returned from a hamstring injury and seemed to have no lingering effects.
Napoli, who’d been out since the beginning of camp due to the much talked about hip injury that was discovered during his team physical back in December, started Friday’s game and was 1-2 at the plate. He had an RBI single in the Red Sox’ three-run first inning and eventually came around to score on a wild pitch. He also played great defense at first base. Napoli has played 133 games in his career at first, so all this talk about him “learning a new position” is a bit of an exaggeration. Still though, it was nice to see him field a bunt, make a clean short-hop scoop, and assist on a couple of 3-1 putouts.
On Saturday, Buchholz took the mound and got his first official workout of the spring. The 28-year-old pitched an inning and one-third before leaving the game upon reaching his pitch limit. He gave up just one hit and struck out two. Most importantly, though, Buchholz left the game healthy and feeling good.
“It was good to get out there,” Buchholz said. “Everything felt good. I was a little amped up during the game and left a couple of pitches up in the zone, (but) given the fact that it was the first time out, I was happy with everything.”
Hopefully for the Red Sox sake, things will continue in this direction. The team is desperately trying to rebound from a 93-loss season, and they are confident that they can compete for the A.L. East title—that is, so long as they can stay healthy. In that regard, the debuts of Napoli and Buchholz this weekend were a great start. With any luck, the Red Sox’ good fortune will continue, and they’ll be able to get out of spring training healthy and ready to face the 2013 season head-on. I’ll say it again… Knock on wood.
(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)