Friday from the Fort

Manager Terry Francona was in the middle of his post-game session with the media, when Ron Gardenhire spotted him.

“Tito!” the Twins’ manager yelled.

“Gardy!” Francona shouted back.

“One and one, baby!” Gardenhire said, as Francona howled with laughter.

Yes, the riveting Mayor’s Cup — a best-of-seven series this spring — is now tied at 1-1. This on a day the Twins beat the Red Sox, 5-0.

The day started at City of Palms Park, where the Red Sox went through a normal pre-game routine at their own park before taking the seven-mile jaunt to the Twins’ complex.

“It’s like a Spring Training day in Arizona,” quipped Francona, who was definitely talking about the proximity and not the weather, which is still chillier than Floridians are accustomed to at this time of year.

Daisuke Matsuzaka reeled off 58 pitches in the bullpen, the last 10 of which came with the catcher in a full crouch. Yes, the Red Sox are easing the righty back into a full throwing program after the back woes that plagued him at the start of camp. But all systems are now go for Matsuzaka, who will throw a full side session on Sunday and then progress to game action at some point in the near future. There is no official word yet, but judging by the timing alone, it’s doubtful Dice-K will be ready for the very start of the season. But this isn’t big news when you consider the Red Sox have three off-days before they play their eighth game. Do some quick math and you realize Francona doesn’t even need a fifth starter until April 18. Expect the club not to rush Dice-K and keep the long term as the priority.

Third baseman Mike Lowell is also feeling quite well in his recovery from right thumb surgery, and he told Francona he could play in a game next Wednesday. But it doesn’t sound like that will happen. I’m sure Lowell is antsy to get back out there, so his situation can start getting resolved. Obviously he wants to prove his health and possibly land an every-day job somewhere else.

“He was pushing today to play Wednesday so obviously he’s feeling pretty good,” Francona said. “I still think that’s pretty quick.”

The Red Sox have long road trips on Thursday an Friday of next week, so the home game on March 13 against the Pirates could be a more realistic date for Lowell to make his spring debut.

The game itself — other than the drop in the Mayor’s Cup standings — was pretty uneventful. Jon Lester had a rocky first inning — three hits, four runs —  but nobody was concerned about it. Tim Wakefield dazzled in his first two innings since back surgery, giving up one hit and no other baserunners. The knuckleballer threw 22 pitches, 16 for strikes.

Saturday, the stage will belong to John Lackey. The $82.5 million man will throw his first game pitches in a Red Sox uniform, which will be a soft launch of sorts for his real debut next month, likely against the Yankees at Fenway.

1 Comment

Is anyone watching the game against the Oreos today? I’ll be checking in on it shortly.
I do hope Lester has a better second outing than his first one. Beckett would be wise to stop surrendering 1-2 runs in the first inning also!
Lackey looked great against the Twins. If he can carry that into regular season, esp. against the Yankees in the Opening Series, that would be a great start to the year (no matter where he pitches in the rotation)! GO SOX!

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