Red Sox open spring exhibition schedule against Northeastern
By Sean Penney
The Boston Red Sox kick off their spring training schedule with a game against Northeastern University. Who will be in the lineup?
The long wait through the cold winter months is finally coming to an end with signs of spring in plain view. That’s right, the Boston Red Sox are playing today. Baseball is back!
Well, sort of. Thursday’s tune up comes against Northeastern University, so they aren’t exactly being challenged by big league talent. Still, it will be good to have our favorite players back on the field for live game action again. Some of them, anyway.
The Red Sox have a trio of aces that fans are salivating over seeing on the mound, but we’ll have to wait a little longer to see any of them pitch.
Today’s start goes to left-hander Brian Johnson, who hasn’t appeared in the majors since his brief debut in 2015. A promising start in Pawtucket earned him a promotion that year, but he couldn’t make it through the fifth inning before getting pulled. Johnson was shut down for the season following two more starts in Triple-A due to a nerve issue in his throwing elbow.
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He returned to make 19 starts across three minor league levels last season, but hasn’t quite recaptured his pre-injury form. The Red Sox rotation is currently stacked with more reliable options, but Johnson is one of several pitchers expected to serve as depth in Pawtucket. This spring will be an important step toward establishing himself in the heirarchy.
Johnson is expected to toss two innings, followed by Jamie Callahan for two more. Johnson and Luis Ysla are the only pitchers from the 40-man roster expected to be available today, with the bullpen made up primarily of non-roster invitees.
As for the hitters, only about half the lineup is made up of players expected to be regulars by Opening Day.
What stands out most if seeing Mookie Betts at the top of the lineup. He was Boston’s lead-off hitter for most of last season, but eventually moved to the middle of the lineup in order to take advantage of his blossoming power. Is manager John Farrell toying with the idea of moving him back to the top of the order?
We shouldn’t read too much into the lineup card for one game, especially when the full group of regular starters isn’t included. Farrell likely wanted his primary starters to bat near the top of the lineup to ensure they get more plate appearances and Betts is the best suited of the bunch to handle the lead-off role. We will likely see Betts moved in the lineup later this spring, but it’s a situation that bares monitoring.
Thursday’s game will not be broadcast on television or radio, but you can find the list of games NESN will be covering this spring here.
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It’s only an exhibition game with a mere handful of players expected to open the season in the big leagues, but it’s still great to have baseball back in our lives again.