Rites of Spring Day One: PHI@BOS

While Special K is off in South Carolina building houses for the impoverished and down-trodden (bless his soul), I’m on a whirlwind tour of the Grapefruit League with a sabermetrics pioneer. Saturday brought us and the Philadelphia Phillies to the home of Special K’s favorite team, the Boston Red Sox. First the juicy stuff:

  • Papelbon’s “Start”: Even though he came in for the third inning, converted Boston closer Jonathan Papelbon considered today’s two-inning appearance to be his first start. Semantics aside, the Boner (that’s my new nickname for him) looked electric, striking out four (including the side in order in the third inning) and allowing no baserunners. Key moment: getting MVP Ryan Howard to whiff on a 93-mph fastball (or as Jon Miller likes to say, “FASTBALL”). True, it’s only two innings, which is almost standard for an experienced closer, but Yankees be warned: this dude looks like trouble.
  • Wakefield’s “Start”: If the Red Sox do indeed have the best rotation in baseball, it ain’t because of this guy. Despite the rock-solid presence of Doug Mirabelli, Tim Wakefield’s command looked shaky from the first pitch, and though he struck out two, he threw one wild pitch and gave up three hits, including an RBI-double by Howard.
  • Eaton Alive: I’m working on my bad punny titles; what’d y’all think of that one? Free-agent signing Adam Eaton was solid through three innings; he looked sharp against the signature Sox thumpers, and his only hit was a (controversial) home run that seemed to come more from sloppily underestimating a AA hitter in the nine-hole than lack of command.
  • Boston’s Pen Pall: Jayston Stark is an idiot. Today was an open audition for the closer role, and it was the baseball equivalent of the first horrendous weeks of “American Idol.” The oddly heralded Joel Pineiro gave up four runs in one and a third innings, including a two-run shot by Triple-A regular Greg Dobbs. Manny Delcarmen lost a ninth-inning tie off three hits and two walks. None of the other guys looked particularly impressive. The best showing came from Julian Tavarez who allowed no baserunners and brought his ERA down to a respectable 13.50.
  • Other random notes:
    – The aforementioned Greg Dobbs had a spectacular day for Philly, going 4-for-5 with 2 runs, 4 RBI and a walk. He may have earned a spot on the bench, but in all likelihood you’ll probably never hear of him again.
    – Phillies’ invitee Brian Mazone may have reached the high point of his career during the fifth inning, when he struck out David Ortiz swingingand worked to 0-2 on Manny Ramirez. He then walked Manny and gave up a three-run Mike Lowell homer. Despite two more seemingly unfazed innings, it was never quite the same as that magical afternoon forty-five minutes earlier in the day.
    – One pitcher (don’t remember who) was having a difficult battle with Doug Mirabelli. I suggested that he throw a knuckleball, with the hope that Mirabelli would instinctively drop his bat and try to keep the ball from going to the backstop. Alas, the pitcher did not heed my advice, and Mirabelli got on base.
    – Dustin Pedroia looks sharp and he should be on track to start at second. He did not get on base today.
    – Randall Simon, known primarily for assaulting anthropomorphic meat, hit a bloop single before getting picked off. According to one vocal spectator, he “hit that sausage harder than he hit the ball.”
    – Reason #4,238,909 why the win is a bad statistic: Phillies’ reliever Jeff Farnsworth gave up three runs in the bottom of the ninth to tie the game. The Phillies rally in the tenth, some dude from AA earns the save by shutting down Boston’s AA players, and Farnsworth gets the win. If he did that twenty times in one year, he would technically be a legitimate Cy Young candidate.

    This was my first spring training game since converting to hardcore baseball fandom, and it was interesting to see how the game slowly regresses from a somewhat relaxed exhibition contest into a Double-A war of attrition. Basically, you shouldn’t get hung up on your team’s record in March; or, as Special K likes to say, it’s not about the result, it’s about the process.

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