FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Jonathan Papelbon's fastball is once again exploding into the catchers' mitt, and that is leaving the closer with a pretty good feeling.
Papelbon fired a scoreless inning in Saturday's 11-2 loss to the Marlins, and the righty hasn't given up a run in his first three Grapefruit League outings.
"The biggest thing I'm pleased with is my fastball right now," Papelbon said. "It's got that late life to it, which is always a plus for me. I've been able to go out there and throw my slider and split just as much, which has been a key for me, because it's something I'm going to definitely be able to do this year. Both of those pitches feel really well."
Last year, Papelbon blew a career-high eight saves. The lack of command and late life on his fastball was probably the top reason.
"My delivery wasn't on time," Papelbon said. "Timing is everything, and I didn't have that timing last year."
Perhaps because he had never dealt much with failure before, Papelbon struggled to adapt on the fly last season. By the time he got things figured out, the Red Sox, besieged by injuries, were slipping out of playoff contention.
"I started to try to do too much, and obviously, when you do too much, you search for answers," Papelbon said. "Things start to go haywire a little bit. For me, I simplified everything -- simplified my delivery, tried to make it be on time."
Crawford stretches to seventh, gets first hits
SARASOTA, Fla. -- The hits aren't always telling, Carl Crawford said. The innings, though, are always important.
Crawford and Jacoby Ellsbury played into the seventh inning for the first time this spring on Saturday in a split Red Sox squad's 4-4 tie against the Orioles. Crawford went 2-for-3 with a walk, collecting his first hits of the spring, and Ellsbury went 0-for-3 with a walk and a run scored.
Bench coach and acting manager DeMarlo Hale called it "a good start" for the outfielders.
"Get your legs up under on you, get your feel for the game," said Crawford, who entered the day 0-for-10. "You want to get those seven innings, so you get that feel going deep into the games."
Crawford said he physically feels strong at the moment, and it's just a matter of finding his "baseball stuff." He said he would leave it up to manager Terry Francona to determine how much action he needs this spring, and that there wasn't a number of at-bats he could pin down as needed.
"It's hard to tell, because even when you get hits sometimes, you don't feel like it's all the way there," Crawford said. "You got to get as many at-bats as you can, I think.
Ellsbury is 2-for-9 in three Grapefruit League games, and Crawford is 2-for-12 in four.
Aceves, Reyes look strong in Red Sox's 'pen
SARASOTA, Fla. -- One can imagine that the lineup the Orioles field on Opening Day this season won't be too different than they one they played Saturday in a Grapefruit League 4-4 tie against the Red Sox, and that caught Boston starter Alfredo Aceves' attention.
So much so, in fact, that he decided to write in the Orioles lineup on the wall in the visiting clubhouse at Ed Smith Stadium, on a sheet where typically just the Red Sox lineup is listed.
"I wrote it over there," Aceves said. "I wrote it with a pen so everybody can see it. It's pretty much the same lineup from Baltimore. ... If we shut it down, we'll be able to shut it down in the season, too."
For almost all of Aceves' three innings on Saturday, he did shut the Orioles down. A fielding error behind him by third baseman Will Middlebrooks led to a run in his last frame after two hits followed the miscue, but that didn't mar the outing.
2010 Spring Training - Boston Red Sox
News & Features
- Ortiz, Drew move closer to joining active roster
- Worth noting
- Farrell has 'successful' first camp as Sox manager
- Red Sox lineup may be altered on daily basis
- Doubront, Red Sox close spring slate on high note
Sights & Sounds
Spring Training Info
"I feel disappointed because with the [RBI hit] I gave up [to Joe Mahoney], I should've thrown inside," Aceves said. "It was in my mind, and I changed it."
Aceves has let up just one earned run on three hits and one walk in five innings this spring, and he said Saturday the back injury that took away almost of all of his 2010 campaign is in his rearview. He threw an additional inning's worth of pitches in the bullpen after he left the game.
"It's all behind," Aceves said. "No pain -- nothing, nothing, nothing. Just pitching."
Combine Aceves' strong start with Dennys Reyes' outing Saturday -- Reyes' first game action this spring because visa issues delayed his arrival -- and the Sox have to feel positive about signing both this offseason.
Reyes threw 15 pitches in a perfect sixth inning, which he started off with a swinging strikeout of Adam Jones.
"I was throwing my fastball down and all my pitches were down today, a good sign for a pitcher," said Reyes, who threw only two-seamers when he threw fastballs.
Contending for a left-handed relief spot, Reyes didn't get a chance to face any lefties Saturday, but that will come.
"We wanted Reyes just to have a clean inning," said bench coach DeMarlo Hale, the acting manager in the split-squad game.
Iglesias, Tejeda carry split Sox squad
SARASOTA, Fla. -- Jose Iglesias has likely earned a day off, while Oscar Tejeda has likely earned a chance to continue his hot streak against the Mets on Sunday.
Playing in a split-squad lineup that was devoid of any regulars besides Carl Crawford and Jacoby Ellsbury, the two 21-year-old prospects combined to drive in the Red Sox's only runs Saturday in a 4-4 tie against the Orioles.
"I think what you see is just them getting comfortable, starting to be around some very good players that we have at the Major League level," bench coach and acting manager DeMarlo Hale said. "And I think it takes them just a little bit more time to kind of get their feet settled."
After playing nine innings and going 2-for-3 with a walk against the Yankees on Friday, Iglesias played 10 innings and went 3-for-4 Saturday. Hale approached the shortstop late in Saturday's game and asked him if he had the steam to continue in the day game after a night game.
"He said, 'I'm fine, let's go,'" Hale said. "That says something, and it means something that he'd want to stay out there. He just played 20 innings in less than 24 hours. ... I'm pretty sure he got a day off tomorrow. He's been going at it pretty good."
Tejeda didn't come into Friday's game until the sixth inning, and he went 2-for-2 with a triple and three RBIs. Starting at second base, he tripled again Saturday in a 3-for-5 performance, with three more RBIs.
"He does [board the bus to St. Lucie to play the Mets], because he's hot," Hale said. "He does. he's one of our hottest hitters here over the last few days."
Saltalamacchia gets look at knuckleball
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who is entering his first season as Boston's primary catcher, passed another initiation test on Saturday, when he caught Tim Wakefield's knuckleball for the first time in a game.
Saltalamacchia handled it without much of a hitch. The only time he had caught a knuckleball in a game before was in winter ball.
"It was fun," Saltalamacchia said. "I enjoyed it. We've been working hard at it. Usually every off-day we have the knuckleball machine going. I've caught a few of his [side sessions], and it was fun to get in the game and do it."
What is the key for handling the pitch?
"Just relax, it's basically everything [Doug] Mirabelli [did]," said Saltalamacchia. "He was the starter of it, so you kind of watch him and pick up things from him, and that's kind of where we're at now. Honestly, it's just letting it get to you, not trying to poke at it. You're not going to catch every one, obviously. You've just got to be soft back there."
Wakefield, entering his 17th season with the Red Sox, gave up five hits and two runs over 2 2/3 innings. Though there doesn't appear to be a spot for him in the starting rotation, Wakefield is preparing for this season like he's done in past Spring Trainings.
"Yeah, because you never know what might happen in Spring Training," Wakefield said. "They told me from the first day that they're going to stretch me out as a starter, because you never know what might happen. You'd hate to be behind the eight-ball if somebody got hurt or something else happened and I wasn't ready. That's how I've approached every Spring Training since I've been here, regardless of what my role might be. When spring is over with, we'll see what my role might be."
Pedroia takes appetite into own hands
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- When Dustin Pedroia exited Saturday's exhibition game against the Marlins after five innings, he was hungry. So instead of waiting for the food to come to him, Pedroia went and got it.
Dressed in civilian clothes, Pedroia roamed the concession stands at City of Palms Park and bought three hot dogs, one of which he gave to a clubhouse attendant. It isn't a move you will likely see the second baseman execute at Fenway Park anytime soon.
"They probably didn't think he was a player," said manager Terry Francona. "Did you see that outfit he had on? He looks like he's going into second grade. I've got to go out and do [an event] with him, and I'm embarrassed for him."
As far as baseball goes, Pedroia hasn't been slowed at all this spring by the broken left foot that required surgery last September.
After a heavy workout day on Friday, Pedroia was back in the lineup for Saturday afternoon's home game against the Marlins, going 1-for-3. Pedroia made a terrific play on defense in the top of the third, ranging up the middle and making a strong throw from behind the bag to nail Josh Kroeger.
Pedroia will take a day of rest on Sunday.
"He's actually done a really good job of kind of concentrating his work," said Francona. "He never goes half speed. You see him, they hit him grounders in the morning and he's gung-ho every second of the day. But we've tried to condense that where it's not different times of day. Tomorrow, he will have kind of a down day. He had a big work night last night. We kept the infielders back, and they had a real good work night. I think from time to time we probably need to respect the fact that he's got a screw in there. But he's doing really well."
Lester to miss Sunday's start due to flu
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Jon Lester will not make his scheduled start Sunday due to the flu, and the Red Sox will have Michael Bowden take Lester's turn in the rotation against the Mets.
The flu bug making its way through the clubhouse is all but a rite of spring. Right fielder J.D. Drew didn't play on Saturday for that reason.
Lester will likely get his work in on the backfield in the next couple of days and then take his turn in the rotation next time out.
"We'll let him have a little simulation and then we'll get him right back on his day," said manager Terry Francona. "It's probably going to run its course. Guys are going to get it and get sick."
Doubront's elbow improves, cleared to throw
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- After an encouraging checkup with medical director Tom Gill, Red Sox lefty Felix Doubront has been cleared to resume throwing.
Doubront was down for a couple of weeks with tightness in his left elbow.
"He's already checked out -- had a good checkup," said manager Terry Francona. "He'll play catch today. If everything goes OK, he'll start his throwing program, but he checked out real well."
The injury was likely nothing more than typical Spring Training soreness.
"We're pretty confident that's what it was," Francona said. "He's had it before. We were talking about nickel-and-diming it and going day to day. But we thought this was the best way and in his best interest."
The club also got a positive report on utility infielder Brent Dlugach, who separated his left shoulder making a diving catch at third base on Tuesday.
In a statement, the team said that Dlugach will resume baseball activities once his range of motion and strength are ready. Surgery won't be necessary.
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brownie Points, and follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne. Evan Drellich is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @EvanDrellich. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.