Improving Crawford keeps Opening Day goal
Trainer offers encouraging report on outfielder's left wrist
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Left fielder Carl Crawford calls the bout of swelling he had on his surgically repaired left wrist earlier this week a "little setback." But that doesn't mean he's ready to give up his goal of making it into the Opening Day lineup on April 5 at Detroit.
"That's what I'm trying [for]," Crawford said. "That's definitely the goal of mine. We just have to wait and see."
In fact, by Saturday morning, trainer Rick Jameyson had already provided manager Bobby Valentine with an encouraging report on Crawford.
"Swelling is down, nice range of motion, progress from the last couple of days," Valentine said. "He said he was feeling good this morning when I saw him."
There's no set timetable for Crawford to appear in an exhibition game.
General manager Ben Cherington hopes that Crawford's swelling is "just a minor bump on the road to recovery."
Crawford thinks the swelling was nothing more than the case of a competitive athlete trying to do too much too soon.
"This is probably myself just trying to push it a little bit. Probably shouldn't have done as much as I was doing, but I wanted to see," Crawford said. "It was feeling so good at first. I thought I could just keep going and going. Now I know what kind of pace I have to do things at. Once the inflammation goes down, I'll know not to push it so much."
Lester gets first start of spring out of way
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- In Jon Lester's career, he has pitched a no-hitter, won a World Series clincher and won countless other big games. In theory, that would make Saturday's start against Northeastern seem ho-hum.
But when you're a Major League pitcher and you haven't pitched in a game in over five months, that is anything but the case.
"Like I told somebody in the dugout before, if I don't get nervous for a game, whether it's against [Northeastern] or anybody else, then it's time for me to go home," said Lester. "I had the same butterflies, same everything. Just trying to go out and execute pitches and like I said get the first one under your belt. That seems to be the hardest, so it's good to get it out of the way."
Lester reeled off two shutout innings, allowing one hit and striking out two.
"I was just trying to throw strikes. Just trying to throw the ball downhill and not overthrow, which I did a couple times," said Lester. "But all in all, I felt pretty good with where I was at."
The lefty will take the ball next in a "B" game on Wednesday.
"He threw the ball well," said Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine. "His breaking ball was good. His command was good of both sides of the plate."
A-Gon settled in, glad to start year healthy
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Unlike a year ago, when Adrian Gonzalez was still recovering from right shoulder surgery, not to mention acclimating to life with the Red Sox, he is in a comfort zone from the start this year.
Gonzalez missed the first week-and-a-half of exhibition play last year. But on Saturday, he batted cleanup in the first game, belting a three-run homer over the Green Monster in his second at-bat.
"Yeah, this year is definitely a lot more relaxed," Gonzalez said. "I feel better overall and I'm not rehabbing, I'm not getting acquainted with new people and going through all that stuff. It's a pretty big difference from last year to this year."
Raring to go, Cook understands taking it slow
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Due to his recent medical history, fifth-starter candidate Aaron Cook agreed with Boston's plan to give him a slightly slower pace than the other pitchers during camp.
That said, the righty thinks he could pitch in a game within five or six days.
"I feel really good," Cook said. "You get the natural competitiveness, but you also realize what you have to do. I'm at the point in my career where sometimes it's better to go slow than it is to go at it full bore. I'm just doing everything they ask me to do, and I'll be ready to pitch when they tell me it's time."
Cook is competing with Vicente Padilla, Alfredo Aceves, Carlos Silva, Andrew Miller and Felix Doubront to be the team's fifth starter.
Valentine wants Sweeney to find place as hitter
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Before Saturday's game against Northeastern University, Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine described Ryan Sweeney as a hitter who is still trying to find himself, from a mechanical standpoint.
Perhaps the work he has done this spring with hitting coach Dave Magadan will pay off sooner than expected.
While college pitching isn't the best gauge for a hitter's progress, Sweeney did take some fine cuts amid a 4-for-5 performance that included a double, a homer and five RBIs.
"I've sat down with the hitting coach and talked about my swing, and I'm just trying to get back to some of the stuff I've been doing in '08 and '09 as far as rhythm at the plate," Sweeney said. "I didn't really have a lot of rhythm last year at the plate because I wasn't in there every day. I've been working on a few things with my hands, just trying to get in a good rhythm and maybe a little bit of lift on the ball."
While Sweeney has hit for average during his career, the power hasn't come yet. Why is that?
"Bad mechanics," Valentine suspected. "Doesn't know himself as a hitter. ... Oh, he's hit some balls really far. He was the one early on who was hitting them into the bullpen over there when we were warming up. Branch Rickey said, if you see a guy hit a ball 500 feet, that means he has Major League power. It's up to the coaches to get him to perform at the Major League level."
In Saturday's game, Sweeney walloped a homer over the Boston bullpen in right-center in his final at-bat.
Though Valentine said earlier in the winter he's not a huge fan of platoons, he said that Sweeney could very well get the bulk of starts against righties, while Cody Ross plays against lefties.
"When the game starts, that might be exactly the way it works so that they understand where they are," Valentine said. "As the game progresses, when I say strict platoons, if it's fifth inning and we're up 5-0 and they bring in a left-hander, I expect Sweeney to hit. If they bring in a right-hander, I would expect Ross to hit. That kind of thing."
Red Sox to get good look at Iglesias
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Why was shortstop prospect Jose Iglesias in the leadoff spot for Saturday's game against Northeastern? Mainly so that manager Bobby Valentine and the coaching staff can get as many looks as possible at him.
"[To] see him more, yep. Mike [Aviles] might be leading off a couple of games, too," Valentine said. "Just get guys who we haven't seen and the jury is out on, let them play when the game is fresh and maybe turn their third at-bat over a little sooner, so maybe they get a full days' work and somebody else can also get some playing time."
While there's been a lot of talk about Iglesias needing to improve his patience at the plate before he becomes an opportunity in the Major Leagues, Valentine said it goes a lot deeper than that.
"For my money, if he's a good baseball player at the Major League level, his offensive resume has to read more than plate discipline," Valentine said. "He has to be able to bunt for base hits in game situations. I don't mean leading off the game and bunting for a base hit.
"A man on second and no outs, he better be able to bunt for a base hit and get them over. Or squeeze if necessary if it's a big run and I don't want to take his defense out of the game or hit and run in a situation where I need runners advanced and I don't want to just sacrifice a play.
"I think that his offense needs to be fine-tuned, and that if he learns to start his swing a little sooner so that he's not jumping at the ball, his discipline will be fine. I think. But we'll see. He has pretty good skills. I'm surprised at his skills."