Notes: 1-2 punch primed to set tone
Crisp, Loretta enjoy productive spring atop Red Sox lineup
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- They will be the first two men to step foot in the batter's box for the 2006 Red Sox, and it's only fitting. If there were two players this spring who looked primed to set the tone for their team this season, it was the new tablesetters -- Coco Crisp and Mark Loretta.
Their job is to get on base for two of the best hitters in baseball, David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez.
"I think they'll drive you in if you're leading off," Crisp joked to a reporter.
As prolific as Ortiz and Ramirez are, it is essential that they come to the plate with men on base. Johnny Damon was one of the best in the business at it, and now it will be Crisp's and Loretta's turn.
In short, Crisp and Loretta basically wore out the basepaths on the Grapefruit League circuit. Crisp hit .449, stole eight bases and got on base at a .509 clip. Loretta? He hit .375 with two homers, five RBIs and a .400 on-base percentage.
"With my ability, I understand what I can do and can't do," Crisp said. "Loretta is a veteran -- obviously he's the same way. I think it's a good combination so far during the spring, and hopefully we can transfer it over to the season right away."
With the games about to count, Red Sox fans will get a daily glimpse at the type of havoc the 1-2 punch can provide.
"Loretta is good. He's a good player," said Red Sox manager Terry Francona. "Maybe when you have an injury and you're coming off an injury, it's nice to see a guy in the flesh and be really good. He can move a runner, he can bunt, he can hit and run. He's going to be in a position where he's going to get a lot of fastballs. The infield is going to be covering, you've got the two monsters hitting behind him. I think he's positioned to have a really solid year."
"Coco, I think, has maybe a little bit more explosive speed than we thought," Francona said. "He's a hard worker. Coco's ability to steal bases is better than I realized or thought it would be."
Crisp's speed and Loretta's ability to handle the bat should create a lot of damage.
"Yeah, I think it's going to be a good setup, the way he's been getting on base and running," Loretta said. "I'm going to certainly give him opportunities to steal, but also be aggressive as well. We should score an awful lot of runs if we can get on base."
Nothing final with Tavarez: Francona still wasn't sure if reliever Julian Tavarez would appeal his 10-day suspension, which is scheduled to begin on April 3. However, it is clear that the Red Sox would prefer he accepts the suspension because of the timing.
The Red Sox have two off-days over that 10-day period, meaning Tavarez would miss just eight games. Also, the Red Sox are using a four-man rotation during that span, so they have six relievers, even without Tavarez.
"I think we're well-situated ... nobody is tired," said Francona. "We have some off-days."
If Tavarez does decide to serve the suspension, he will likely pitch in both exhibition games in Philadelphia this weekend.
All's Wells: Though David Wells will start the season on the disabled list, Francona is happy with the way the left-hander has progressed this spring in his battle back from knee surgery. Wells remains on track to make his debut on April 12 against the Blue Jays.
He'll pitch in a Minor League game in Florida on Sunday, and then take the ball for the Pawtucket Red Sox next Friday.
Coming up: In the first of two exhibition games in Philadelphia, Minor League righty David Pauley gets the nod for the Red Sox on Saturday at 1:05 p.m. ET against the Phillies.
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.