Three things learned from Red Sox 6-2 win over Indians
1) David Ortiz knows when to turn it on
Throughout the spring, Ortiz didn't show much in Grapefruit League play.
He was 8-for-45 (.178) with just three extra-base hits (two doubles and a homer). It's worth noting, too, that until the final week of spring training, every one of his hits was a single and his lone homer didn't come until, literally, his final at-bat in the final game.
But Ortiz has long demonstrated that spring training stats are meaningless when it comes to predicting how he's going to start. In 2013, for instance, he had only a handful of at-bats because he was dealing with an Achilles injury from the previous season. Once he rejoined the club in mid-April, he raked from the beginning.
This year, it's more of the same. Ortiz sliced a double to the opposite field in his second at-bat - Ortiz going the other way is almost always a good sign - and nearly drove the ball out in his next at-bat before the ball was hauled in on the warning track.
In the ninth, with the Red Sox leading by two, Ortiz gave them some insurance by cranking a pitch from Trevor Bauer into the seat in right for his fifth Opening Day homer, most among active players.
"When the lights go on,'' said Ortiz, "Papi goes on.'' "I know he doesn't care at all about spring training,'' said teammate David Price. "He's just saving it all for the season.'' Even in his final season, Ortiz remains a marvel. And just when some unimpressive spring at-bats make you wonder how much he has left, he shows you with a display like the one he put on Tuesday afternoon.
2) Being an ace is more than having elite stuff.
David Price has four quality pitches, including a changeup that's among the best in the game.
But what makes him great is his toughness and approach.
On a bitterly cold day Tuesday, Price didn't necessarily have his most electric stuff. His fastball seldom registered more than 91 mph on the radar gun. But he limited the Cleveland Indians to just two runs on six innings, and that was in large part due to his ability to limit damage and make big pitches when he had to.
Case in point, part one: In the second inning, with his fastball command off some, he issued two walks to start the inning. But he got a flyout and two strikeouts to keep the Indians off the scoreboard.
Case in point, part two: In the fourth, he needed 33 pitches to get through the inning when the Indians used four singles and a sacrifice fly. But in that same inning, Price got into an epic battle with Mike Napoli before slipping a called third strike past him. He then stranded two more runners when he struck out Collin Cowgill for the final out
"You've got to focus in on the task at hand,'' said Price, "and that's what I was able to do. I'm happy that it went the way it did - going out there and keeping us in the game, because it could have swung out of control in the second and fourth innings. That was good.
"(But) it's not all me. I've had a lot of help along the way and you just have to be able to step back, take a deep breath and focus on that next hitter, next pitch.''
3) On a day like Tuesday, the sky seems the limit for Mookie Betts
For the second year in a row, Betts began the season with a homer on Opening Day. He hit one in Philadelphia last year when the Sox routed the Phillies, and on Tuesday, he jacked a two-run shot in the third to stake Price and the Red Sox to a 2-0 lead.
But that wasn't the only contribution for Betts. In the fifth inning of a 2-2 game, Rajai Davis led off by smoking a rising liner to right.
Betts seemed to initially mistime his jump, but remained in the air long enough to pull the ball down before it shot past him for what almost certainly would have been a leadoff triple for the speedy Davis.
Power in the form of a two-run homer, and elite defense to take away a run. That combination is rare, but hints at what Betts may be capable of accomplishing in this, just his second full season.
"Superstar, man, superstar,'' said David Ortiz in admiration. "He's got that swag. He's got what the game needs right now. You've got to just led that kid play and enjoy. You don't see that (level of talent) everyday.
That's him, man. He doesn't surprise me anymore. He's always out there doing things. He's super athletic. We're happy to have him. He's always enjoyable to watch.'
Betts fell two homers shy of being a 20-20 player -- 20 homers, 20 stolen bases -- in his first full season and sometimes it's easy to forget that he's just 23 years old.