3/1/2014 6:30 P.M. ET
'Johnny Football' visits Red Sox
By Ian Browne / MLB.com
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- At morning workouts at the player-development complex outside of JetBlue Park, fans rushed around to try to get a glimpse of Johnny Manziel, the quarterback simply known in gridiron circles as "Johnny Football."
Wearing khaki pants and a white Red Sox jersey with the number 2 and the name Manziel on the back, the Texas A&M star, who will be in the upcoming NFL Draft, roamed from field to field.
Manziel was in town doing some sponsorship work. He is a client of Fenway Sports Group, a marketing arm affiliated with the Red Sox.
Before the Red Sox took the field for their drills, he visited with players in the clubhouse.
"I met him last year in Texas, he came in and I met him there," said catcher A.J. Pierzynski. "So I just said, 'Hi,' to him again and that was it -- and I wished him luck. Obviously, he's a great player -- and him being an SEC guy and me being an SEC guy, I root for those guys. I know I liked watching him play. I liked the way he played, because he was an amazing player."
Mookie Betts, one of the brighter prospects in Boston's farm system, came out to the field to get his picture taken with Manziel, who declined to do any interviews.
"I think he'll do [well], if he's given the right opportunities," said Pierzynski. "He should be a heck of an NFL guy."
Pierzynski makes Red Sox debut
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Playing his first game with the Red Sox, A.J. Pierzynski heard a sound that has become very familiar in his career.
The crowd at Hammond Stadium, the home of the Minnesota Twins, gave him a round of boos.
Good-natured about it, the former Twin tipped his cap. Over the years, the outgoing and hard-nosed Pierzynski has been one of those players opposing fans love to hate.
"Whatever," said Pierzynski. "It's fine ... [I] expect nothing less. It's fine, just one of those funny moments. It's good."
The Red Sox are the fifth team Pierzynski will play for in his career. But the veteran is blending into a veteran clubhouse and learning a new pitching staff.
"Just hearing him talk around the cage, around the clubhouse, he's not trying to be somebody other than who he is -- and he's fit in well, so far," said Red Sox manager John Farrell. "[I] really didn't anticipate anything different than that."
Batting cleanup on a day many other Boston regulars didn't make the short road trip, Pierzynski went 0-for-3.
Nava starts spring out on right foot
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- After being slowed by a neck strain in recent days, Daniel Nava skipped the portion of Spring Training in which hitters take live batting practice off pitchers.
But Nava was in the starting lineup on Saturday against the Twins, and in his first at-bat against an opposing pitcher since the 2013 World Series, he went deep.
"I think I closed my eyes and the ball hit my bat -- and that's all I remember of it," quipped Nava. "Those first couple of swings weren't too good, so I was trying to shorten things up. Fortunately, he threw a good pitch -- and fortunately the ball went over the fence."
It was noteworthy that the home run came hitting right-handed for the switch-hitting Nava.
To this point in his career, Nava has been a much better hitter from the left side. Last season, he hit .322 with 10 homers, a .411 on-base percentage and .484 slugging percentage against righties. Against lefties, he hit .252 with two homers and a .311 on-base percentage and .336 slugging percentage.
"I'll take any of them -- left-handed, right-handed -- it doesn't matter," Nava said. "But, obviously, I know I have work to do from the right side. Any time I can put together a good at-bat, whether the result is a home run or not, that for me is what I'm trying to allow one of the things of Spring Training to be about."
Sizemore passes another test
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- If it was any other player, there would have been no talk of when the center fielder lost his footing a little and banged slightly into the wall trying to track down a double by Brian Dozier in the first inning on Saturday.
But it wasn't any other player. It was Grady Sizemore, who is trying to make a comeback with the Red Sox after not playing in the Majors since 2011.
Sizemore was surprised to even be asked about the incident moments after the game.
"I'm fine," Sizemore offered.
"When he lost his footing and he went down, you recognize that he's going to pivot and torque on the leg. But he came out of it fine," said Red Sox manager John Farrell. "It was good to see him get three at-bats and continue to build [on what he's done so far]."
Sure, he will try to pick his spots more than when he was a young superstar. But Sizemore knows that if his body can't withstand normal aggression, there's no sense in even playing.
"I'm not going to think about it," said Sizemore. "Obviously, I'm going to try and be smart. But I'm still going to play aggressive and try not to change the way I play or think about it while I'm out there."
This was Sizemore's second game in three days, and first against a Major League opponent. He went 1-for-3 against the Twins, lacing a single through the hole at second base and into right field in his final at-bat.
The Red Sox will give Sizemore the next two days off before he returns on Tuesday. Later in the week, he might get a three or four-day break.
"Just to gradually ramp up the overall workload," said Farrell.
Britton dominates Twins
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- After pitching 18 games for the Red Sox last season, lefty Drake Britton clearly has some confidence this spring.
In his first Grapefruit League outing, Saturday's 6-2 loss to Minnesota, Britton struck out four of the seven batters he faced and allowed just one hit.
"He was crisp. He was powerful," said Red Sox manager John Farrell. "One of the more impressive things was his ability to throw the fastball in on some right-handers -- and he had an assortment of secondary pitches. He threw both his breaking ball and his changeup for strikes."
Though it could be tough for Britton to win a spot in a loaded bullpen, he is clearly a pitcher the organization thinks highly of.
"Do just what I've been doing," Britton said. "I've been told, 'Don't change a thing,' just keep doing what I'm doing, and that's what I'm focused on."
For Britton, it was gratifying that some of his work paid off in game action.
"I've been working really hard on my mechanics and being able to put myself in a very good position to deliver the baseball down in the zone," Britton said. "It all came together for me today."
Webster still making adjustments
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- When Allen Webster came to the Red Sox for Spring Training last year, perhaps he was trying to impress too much with his velocity. While that might have helped him dominate hitters during the exhibition season, perhaps it also created some unfair expectations.
"By his own admission, last year he was in a new place, tried to impress, tried to get over that initial uncomfortable feeling," said Red Sox manager John Farrell. "That's behind him, and I think he knows himself a little bit more and what we're trying to get across to him."
Webster is still trying to iron out his mechanics and gain more consistent command. During Saturday's 6-2 Grapefruit League loss to the Twins, he got roughed up a bit, giving up four hits and three runs over 1 2/3 innings.
"I just got in there, got a little anxious, left a few balls up, fell behind, and they made good contact with it," said Webster, who was acquired from the Dodgers in the Aug. 25, 2012, blockbuster. "It was my first outing so far, so I was definitely amped up."
What is the main thing Webster is working on?
"Delivery-wise, he was a guy who went over his head with his hands and was a little bit stagnant with his movement, where he'd begin his delivery and pause at the top with his hands at the top of his delivery," said Farrell.
And how will that adjustment help him?
"It takes the tension out of his shoulders and, in some ways, it's comparable to when Clay [Buchholz] made the adjustment, as well," said Farrell. "You would see Clay begin a game -- every pitcher -- as they're trying to get into the flow of the game, there's anxiety and there's some uncertainty -- and that translates to some tension.
"The key with Clay was, let's work to get the first ground ball on the infield. Then, you could see the tension come out. This is taking it out naturally by the adjustment in delivery. It just feels more loose and fluid."