Red Sox

Strong Grapefruit League debut for Price

Strong Grapefruit League debut for Price

David Price's Grapefruit League debut was nearly perfect.

The Red Sox left-hander pitched four scoreless innings, allowing a hit and a walk and striking out five in a 7-5 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays in Fort Myers, Fla.

Price threw 55 pitches, 34 for strikes. He cruised through the first on nine pitches. He allowed the single and walk in the second.  

"It feels good. This is March 15 and I've never been able to have a four-pitch mix on March 15," Price told reporters after his start. "I've never been this far along in spring training even though I've only thrown in one game. I'm excited about that."

The Red Sox open March 29 at Tampa Bay, with Chris Sale likely to start. Price will likely pitch the second game of the season, March 30 at Tropicana Field. 

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Don't look for Swihart behind the plate in Arizona either

Don't look for Swihart behind the plate in Arizona either

At least part of the reason the Red Sox parted ways with Blake Swihart was said to be their lack of faith in his catching ability.

It sounds as if Swihart's new team, the Arizona Diamondbacks, doesn't plan on using him a lot at catcher, either. Dbacks GM Mike Hazen, the former Red Sox GM was in Boston's front office when Swihart was a first-round pick in 2011. He told the Arizona Republic he sees the versatile Swihart moving among several positions.

“We really like his bat and think he has a chance to hit,” Hazen said. “If he ended up in a spot where he got to play every day and did what we felt like he could do with the bat, we wouldn’t have had a chance to acquire him.”  

Look for Swihart to fill in at both corner outfield spots, first, third and even second base, Hazen said. Swihart, 27, appeared in one game at second and three at third in his Red Sox career. Hazen said doesn't see him displacing any of the three catchers on Arizona's roster.

When asked where he envisioned Swihart playing, Hazen said, “It could be behind the plate. It could be at a different position.”

A stint in left for the Red Sox ended disastrously for Swihart in 2016 when he injured his ankle colliding with the side wall in left field at Fenway Park. He was limited to only six games the following season before bouncing back last year to appear in 82 games (catching in 28). He hit .229. 

Swihart was designated for assignment earlier this week before the Sox worked out a trade with Arizona on Friday. They also sent $500,000 in international bonus pool money to the Dbacks in exchange for minor league outfielder Marcus Wilson, 22, ranked Arizona's No. 20 prospect by Baseball America. He was hitting .235 with a .879 OPS and two homers in 12 games for Double-A Jackson. Last year, he hit .235 with a .678 OPS, 10 homers and 26 doubles with Class A Visalia. 

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Mookie Betts blasts desperately needed homer, but what really mattered was his reaction

Mookie Betts blasts desperately needed homer, but what really mattered was his reaction

The swing looked vintage. The fist pump around the bases felt like a dam bursting.

But for my money, the most encouraging aspect of Mookie Betts' go-ahead homer to center on Friday night was his ear-to-ear grin in the dugout.

Sounds corny, but we haven't seen much in the way of happiness from Betts this season. Mired in a slump that dates to the 2018 postseason, the defending MVP has spent April trying to find his way, with limited success.

On Friday night, however, he showed signs of life. Not coincidentally, so did the Red Sox, taking an embarrassingly important 6-4 victory from the division-leading Rays in the opener of a three-game series at Tropicana Field.

After grounding into a double play as the second batter of the game and seeing his average fall to .197, Betts found his groove. He doubled to left leading off the sixth and scored on a J.D. Martinez single. Then he unloaded on a 97-mph, dead-red fastball in the eighth of off Diego Castillo to break a 4-4 tie, slamming it 424 feet to center.

Betts pumped his fist once around second, once as he neared third, and once again as he turned towards home plate. He may not have exhibited the exuberance of, say, his joyous race around the bases after his marathon at-bat grand slam against J.A. Happ last year, but he at least looked more like himself in the dugout.

He ran the high-five gauntlet before breaking into a broad smile, which he repeated moments later at the bat rack.

That's the Betts the Red Sox want to see. That's the Betts the Red Sox need to see. The season hasn't started the way anyone wants, but it's not like it's over.

"When you look around in big league stadiums and there's a lot of -- look everywhere, there's the average," manager Alex Cora told reporters in Florida, including Jason Mastrodonato of the Boston Herald. "Back in the day, you didn't have that. You only learned because of the newspaper. Now it's all over the place. Although you don't want to look, it's there for you. It's not cool when you're struggling.

"It's hard to smile when you're struggling. But he prepares, gives 100 percent regardless of the results. Sometimes, yeah, he gets down, because he knows what he can do. But just like the team, it's a long season. Still got plenty of games. Good to see him doing that."

Betts takes his struggles very seriously, which is why he termed his play unacceptable last week. The concept of a short memory doesn't always apply. He wears it when things aren't going well, and he'll work himself to exhaustion trying to make it right.

He needed to feel rewarded.

"He keeps working," Cora told reporters. "He was hitting .380 or .400 last year and kept working the same way. He tries to be the best out there. He showed up today and worked his swing and didn't start the right way, but the double, then he crushed that pitch. It's good to see him contribute."

Cora has insisted for the last week that a hitter as talented as Betts can turn things around with just one swing. Who knows? 
Maybe this was the one.

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