The common theme of young talent trying to make its name was once again present this afternoon between the Red Sox and Marlins. The young Jackie Bradley Jr. continued his torrid stretch this spring with a 3-4 ballgame including a leadoff home run and a walk. Bradley has been a revelation this spring, with his 3-4 effort pushing his average to .519 in addition to playing phenomenal defense. While he has always been highly regarded in prospect circles, (31 overall on Baseball America Top 100), Bradley’s hot start further puts the heat on incumbent Jacoby Ellsbury, who is in the last year of his contract. Although Bradley will likely start in Triple-A Pawtucket this upcoming season, don’t be surprised when Bradley’s name is the first called following an outfield injury.
Not to be outdone, Will Middlebrooks added to the offense with a home run of his own, collecting two RBI on his 7th inning shot. This shot put the Sox up six heading into the bottom of the seventh, where the bullpen proceeded to blow that lead in an increasingly typical Red Sox fashion.
Rubby De La Rosa, one of the talented arms acquired in the midsummer Dodger blockbuster, struggled mightily with his control, walking the very first two batters he faced. After giving up a single to former Red Sox first baseman, Casey Kotchman, De La Rosa furthered his poor outing by walking the next two batters, allowing two runs to score. He capped off his inning of work by giving up a bases-clearing double to Kevin Kouzmanoff, which narrowed the lead to just one run.
Even after the ugly seventh inning, the Red Sox managed to sustain their lead heading into the ninth, when Chris Carpenter (the one acquired in the Theo trade, not the former Cardinals ace) entered the game to close things out. After two quick outs to lead off the inning, Carpenter allowed a hit to Kouzmanoff, putting the tying run at first and the winning run at the plate. Continuing with the young talent theme, Marlins’ stud prospect, Christian Yelich (15th overall on BA’s Top 100), promptly ended the game with a walk-off blast to the deepest part of the park in center.
Prior to the bullpen’s collapse, the Red Sox once again got a productive start out of Jon Lester. Lester lowered his spring ERA to a solid 1.29, striking out four in five innings of work. Lester was a groundball machine, recording eight groundball outs while only giving up one fly ball. Hopefully, Lester continues this trend since the long ball was a recurring problem during a disappointing 2012 season in which he allowed a career high 25 homers.
Spring training games are more about preparation and process than results. The Red Sox should be pleased with some of the performances they’ve seen thus far. The continued development of Bradley should give Red Sox Nation a sense of comfort with the likely departure of Ellsbury. Additionally, Lester’s early success should at least provide some optimism for those that have their doubts following last year.
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