02/25/2013 6:25 PM ET
Bard takes another positive step forward
By Ian Browne and Matthew Leach / MLB.com
PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- When you're coming off a year like Daniel Bard had in 2012, every little step forward is good news. Bard didn't have a perfect outing in his Grapefruit League debut on Monday, but there was plenty to find encouraging.
Bard and catcher David Ross were pleased with the improvement in Bard's fastball command. The right-hander's slider had sharp bite, staying down in the strike zone. And while his mechanics aren't completely in order, Bard believes he's very close. After a year when almost nothing went right, that adds up to a good day at the ballpark.
"Overall I would say it was better," Bard said. "It's still just [about] working hard to get on top of every pitch. ... For the most part, mechanics feel good. I think just that one little thing, getting on top of the ball and driving down through the zone, is key for me."
Bard faced three batters in the fifth inning of a 6-3 loss to the Rays. He struck out Hak-Ju Lee, finishing the shortstop off with a nasty slider. He walked Leslie Anderson, and Sean Rodriguez lined into a double play to end the inning. Bard counted the outing as an improvement over his previous appearance, in a pre-Grapefruit exhibition against Northeastern University.
"There were a couple times we talked, and he said he felt like he was getting under the ball a little bit, but I thought he looked really [good]," Ross said. "Today was definitely a better fastball command day."
Napoli likely to make Red Sox debut Friday
DUNEDIN, Fla. -- The Red Sox will probably get their first look at new slugger Mike Napoli on Friday night, when he is projected to make his Grapefruit League debut at JetBlue Park in a 7:05 p.m. ET game vs. the Pirates on MLB.TV.
Napoli will get the start at first base. The right-handed hitter started camp on a more conservative program due to a hip condition (avascular neucrosis) that he was diagnosed with over the winter, but he has progressed well with his running program and recent fielding drills.
As a primer for Friday, Napoli will hit against Red Sox righty Clay Buchholz in a simulated game on Tuesday morning.
"Napoli will hit live tomorrow against Buchholz in the [simulated] game, and then we're projecting that he'll be able to get some at-bats on Friday," said manager John Farrell. "So there will be another time. We'll increase the intensity on the basepaths between now and then, but everything looks in order for Friday."
Pain-free, Pedroia not worried about thumb
PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Dustin Pedroia played much of 2012 in pain, due to a right thumb injury that never completely went away. He finished the year strong just the same, playing some of his best baseball over the season's final six weeks, but that doesn't mean he wasn't affected.
On Monday, a pain-free Pedroia hit the first of what could be quite a few 2013 home runs. In the first inning of the Red Sox's 6-3 loss to the Rays, he turned on an Alex Cobb offering and pummeled it well over the left-field wall at Charlotte Sports Park. The second baseman followed that with a hard line-drive out to right field in the sixth, and he came away from his second game of the spring feeling pretty pleased.
"It was good to hit a couple balls on the barrel," Pedroia said.
There's nothing worse for a hitter than an injury to his hands or wrists, so Pedroia is delighted not to be dealing with that issue anymore.
"It was painful [in 2012], Pedroia said. "I couldn't rest it. The vibration would keep hitting it every time I hit. It's a good feeling when you can just worry about having a good at-bat, rather than, if I get jammed, it's going to be the worst pain."
Webster turns in dominant outing
DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Allen Webster might not have gotten as much publicity as Rubby De La Rosa when the pair of prospects were traded to the Red Sox last August, but he certainly made his mark during his Grapefruit League debut on Monday.
Known for his sinker, Webster was clocked at 98 mph in his outing against the Blue Jays. Though he gave up a run and two hits in his first inning of work, Webster also blew fastballs by accomplished sluggers Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion for strikeouts. Webster struck out four over two innings.
"It's the first game action we've seen," said manager John Farrell said after the Red Sox's 4-2 victory. "Equally impressive to the arm strength, and the action to his fastball is that he has a secondary pitch he can go to as a put away with a changeup. And when he gets in trouble, he has the ability to slow people down with a power change that's got finishing action to it. He was impressive -- very impressive."
Webster admits that he was a little amped up when he came on in relief of Steven Wright in the third inning.
"When I started out, my heart was racing," said Webster. "It was the first outing of the year, but I finally got settled down."
Any reason for the uptick in velocity?
"I'm just staying within the mechanics. I'm getting a little bit stronger, which might be helping out," Webster said.
When the Red Sox acquired De La Rosa and Webster in the blockbuster with the Dodgers for Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford and Josh Beckett, the hope was that one -- or both -- could become centerpieces of the rotation at some point.
As it stands, Boston's rotation appears full to start the season, but if something should happen, Webster could become one of the top choices to fill the void.
Carp wastes little time getting into lineup
PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Mike Carp didn't look like a man who spent a chunk of February in roster limbo. Carp, designated for assignment by the Mariners just as Spring Training camps opened, didn't join the Red Sox until Friday.
Three days later, thanks in part to a split-squad day, he was in the lineup against the Rays at Charlotte Sports Park. He jumped right into the fray, doubling in a run in his first at-bat in a Boston uniform.
"It felt good," he said. "Definitely a good way to start out. Just have a good at-bat, put a good swing. I took two tough pitches, put myself in a good hitter's count and put a good swing on the ball."
Carp isn't sure exactly what his docket looks like for the next few days. The Sox may still be cautious with him for a little while as he catches up on game readiness, but it shouldn't take long for him to be on a normal program.
Aceves settles down after rough start
PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- It just wouldn't be an Alfredo Aceves outing if there weren't something a little unconventional about it.
Aceves had a fairly normal first appearance of the spring in Monday's 6-3 loss to the Rays at Charlotte Sports Park. He walked a couple of batters and allowed two runs in the first inning before settling in for a solid second.
After Aceves finished pitching, he headed down to the Red Sox's clubhouse briefly and then rejoined his teammates in the dugout for the remainder of the game. It's not all that bizarre, but it's not typical for a veteran this early in the spring. Aceves viewed it as an opportunity to show some team spirit.
"I want us to win," Aceves said. "I want the best for us. Whatever I can do to help, they're going to get that from me."
On the mound, Aceves looked like a pitcher making his first start of the spring. He walked the second and third batters of the game, then allowed a two-run double on a 2-0 count to Yunel Escobar. But Aceves followed that by retiring five of the last six batters, and four of his six outs came via ground ball.
"I missed one pitch," Aceves said, before quipping, "I walked two guys, scored two runs. They got me two hits. Pretty much the number two. Today was the number two."
Aceves likely has one more outing before joining the Mexican team for the World Baseball Classic. He's been pitching in winter ball, he said, and that likely helped him maintain his strength throughout the 10-batter outing.
"I feel really strong," Aceves said, "but whatever the team needs, I'm going to do it. I'm OK with that. I didn't get tired. I was maintaining my endurance. I feel like I have endurance. They wanted me to throw two innings, so I'm OK with that."
Wakefield ready to help out this week
DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Unlike his former teammates Pedro Martinez and Jason Varitek, Tim Wakefield doesn't have an official title with the Red Sox. But he is still very much a part of the organization, as evidenced by his arrival in Dunedin on Monday to watch knuckleballer Steven Wright.
Wakefield will go to Fort Myers for the next couple of days and will monitor Wright's side session on Wednesday. Wakefield watched Monday's knuckleball match against the Blue Jays from the stands.
"I don't have [a title]," Wakefield said. "I'm still going to do some NESN [studio work] this year, but I don't know what my capacity will be. We're talking about it right now. My main goal right now is to help Steven out and be a mentor to him."
While working with Wright is Wakefield's immediate task, he is looking forward to helping the Red Sox in any way they need it.
"When I was here, we had guys like Luis Tiant and Jim Rice," said Wakefield. "It's nice to add some more people to that list -- guys that knew what it meant to wear a Red Sox uniform and guys who knew what it meant to compete at the Major League level for a long time.
"I think that's a valuable asset the organization has taken pride in. Bringing guys like 'Tek or Pedro or me or whoever. Our job is to help the Red Sox win, even though we're not playing anymore."
Wakefield, who retired at the beginning of Spring Training last year, lives in Florida most of the year. He still spends his summers in Boston.
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brownie Points, and follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne. Matthew Leach is a writer for MLB.com. Read his blog, Obviously, You're Not a Golfer and follow him on Twitter at @MatthewHLeach. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.