The first workout
There were about 900 fans there — and surely many more watching the live coverage at home on NESN — for Saturday’s first official Red Sox workout of Spring Training.
Josh Beckett, Jon Lester, Tim Wakefield and Jon Lester threw on the side at the same time. Dustin Pedroia, Jacoby Ellsbury and Jed Lowrie took some hacks. Terry Francona pelted line drives at his pitchers — called the rag ball drill — to make sure the reflexes were sharp.
And after that, there were press conferences galore. Wakefield and Jason Varitek talked about their expectations this spring. Francona and Theo Epstein gave their state of camp address, as captured below by photographer Brita Meng Outzen.
The offense? Don’t worry about the offense, urges Epstein. Look at the big picture, he says.
“I think we still have a chance to be a really good offensive club,” said Epstein. “I think there’s been a lot of skepticism out there about our offense. I think we still feel like we can be one of the top handful of offenses in the league. What we’re really striving for is balance.
“We want to do be one of the best pitching teams in the league. We want to be one of the best defensive clubs in the league. We want to be one of the best offensive clubs in the league. The years that we’ve accomplished that are the years that we tend to do better. 2004, by the end of the year, we had accomplished that. 2007 we had accomplished that. We’re really looking to be well rounded. Looking back at last year’s club, we were one of the better pitching clubs, we were one of the better offensive clubs. We were sub-par defensively. The goal this year is for us to achieve better balance.”
Two of the players who figure most prominently in this year’s offense? Ellsbury and Pedroia, shown here by Brita from today’s workout.
The pitching? Yes, that looks loaded. But Epstein preaches caution.
“Ask that in about eight months,” Epstein said. “On paper, I think we have a chance to be as solid a 1-5 pitching staff as we’ve been here and a chance to be pretty top heavy too if things go right. You’ll have guys vying to be called the number one on this staff, some pretty talented pitchers. It’s all theoretical this time of year. It doesn’t’ really matter how it looks on paper until we go out and do it.
“Just keeping a single pitcher healthy and effective from this point through September and hopefully through October in the American League East is a chore, let alone doing it with five guys or 11 or 12 on the pitching staff so we know we have our work cut out for us. Certainly there are some guys here who’ve had very effective seasons before in this league and if we can have them all do that at the same time, we could go pretty far.”
One pitcher who will be one of those five at some point, probably within a couple of years, is phenom Casey Kelly, who is experiencing his first spring at Major League camp.
“I’d actually like to be a little bit guarded in that,” Francona said. “The reason I say that, he just turned 20 years old. This kid is in a major league camp and we don’t want him to try to do more than he needs to. What we really want him to be is a sponge and soak up everything he can. He’s got a great feel for a young kid. Watch the way Beckett and Lester and those guys do things and just soak up as much as he can. He needs to prepare for his year, wherever that ends up being. Just have a real good experience and see how we do things here in our Major League camp.”
Daily Dice-K update? The righty is doing just fine, and his back injury is anything but significant. Matsuzaka will start playing catch again on Saturday.
“Dice will start playing catch tomorrow. Sixty feet,” Francona said. “Again, now, because of some of the downtime, we need build a base as we’re going to do with everybody. He was looked at by Dr. Gill, we got a very productive report through that, so now we’re going to start back up again and get him strong.”