Besides trying to find that diamond-in-the-rough prospect and evaluating young players in actual game situations, the biggest thing teams want out of the baseball exhibition schedule is to see their key players making steady plays as the spring schedule wears on.
The Red Sox have seen a lot of that this spring and it continued today as they beat the Minnesota Twins 7-3. They are now about halfway through the exhibition schedule and the name players on this team continue to make good progress.
Ryan Dempster, Daniel Bard, Will Middlebrooks and Jacoby Ellsbury were the big names that lead the way today in different ways.
Dempster went four innings, 73 pitches, 43 for strikes and continues to look like he will actually be a solid addition to the middle of the rotation. Dempster’s control has been very good this spring as his two walks today were the first issued in his 12+ innings this spring.
Bard was able to show his old form as he topped out at 96 mph with good control and he also wiggled out of a sixth inning jam with no runs after allowing the first two batters of the inning to reach. That is an encouraging sign that Bard may be back to getting in a groove in tight situations. If he can do that Boston is set up beautifully in the back of the bullpen.
Middlebrooks crushed a three run double and he must be a mid-lineup power threat both to ease the early loss of David Ortiz and to protect Papi post injury.
Ellsbury’s play has kind of gotten lost in the shadow of the electric spring put up by Jackie Bradley, Jr. Ells came in 5-for-25 this spring but looked better today as he had two hits, a walk, two runs scored and an RBI. He must produce all-around stats like this all season. Hopefully this game will turn out to be the first building block in that process.
The Red Sox have accomplished a lot this spring, in my opinion. Their progress is slow and steady and when you are coming off a terrible season, slow and steady is not such a bad thing as the team looks to rebound.
Next up for the Sox: a split-squad doubleheader on Friday. One team will go to Sarasota to face the Orioles at 1:05 p.m. Another will host the Twins at 7:05 p.m.
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