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BLOGGING FROM THE FORT

Spring things: Sox 'D' getting an 'A'

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Let's go around the horn with some notes and observations from yesterday’s Red Sox-Dodgers contest.

The real deal in the field
The Sox defense was sharp yesterday against the Dodgers. In the top of the third, Wakefield was effective in holding baserunner Antonio Perez close to first, twice throwing over and forcing Perez to dive back to the bag. The Sox sniffed out a steal in the same sequence, pitching out when Perez took off for second. Doug Mirabelli threw him out easily.

In the fifth, Jason Repko smashed a Bronson Arroyo pitch into left field for the Dodgers’ first hit of the game, but was thrown out at second on a great relay from the Sox. Manny Ramirez, fresh off a homer the inning before, fielded the ball on a hop in shallow left, flipped it to Edgar Renteria, who got it to Mark Bellhorn to nail Repko by four feet.

Big hand for Manny on that one.

And in the sixth, Trot Nixon reached his glove over the right field wall to rob what would have been a home run from Olmedo Saenz.

Dodger blues
The sky was no longer crying here yesterday, but Tim Wakefield and the Red Sox pitchers who followed him had every right to weep after their strong performances were wasted against the Dodgers. The spotty Sox offense was limited to just a Manny Ramirez towering home run in the 2-1 loss at City of Palms Park.

If you got up to grab a quick $5.75 beer, you may have missed the single by Trot Nixon in the second, the long ball by Manny in the fourth, or the Hanley Ramirez single in the ninth. That was it for hits.

Fort Myers fueled by greed?
I’m still trying to figure out what’s going on with tickets down here. In one ear, I listened to local play-by-play guy Dave Moulton telling his audience that unlike other games to date, you could not get a ticket yesterday.

Meanwhile, in my other ear, I could hear the ticket takers at the City of Palms gates yelling, “Does anyone need any free tickets? We’ve got free tickets here!”, much to the chagrin of the half dozen scalpers trying to move their ducats for 20-50 percent less than face value.

Methinks the Fort Myers not-so-faithful grabbed all the early-bird tickets they could get their hands on in January, thinking Fort Myers would be converted to Fort Knox and the price of their seats would rise along with gasoline. However, most of the resellers are left holding their extras by game time.

Boston fans that really want to see the games overpaid online for standing room. Meanwhile, rows of great seats in the lower perimeter are going unfilled as the ushers are cracking down on anyone looking for seating without the proper paperwork.

Wake up
Wakefield has looked sharp this so far this spring. In his first outing against Northeastern (not exactly major league material), Wake pitched two perfect innings, striking out three. He kept the hitless streak alive against the Dodgers yesterday over three innings, fanning three. Control seemed to be an issue, however, as he went to 3-2 counts four times and walked three.

Binky jinx illustrated
Bad news bore down in camp at the bottom of the first inning yesterday, when it was announced that my new binky, Roberto Petagine (who I proclaimed would be the backup first baseman in the last blog entry), was headed back to Boston for knee surgery, missing at least a month.

According to the Globe’s Nick Cafardo, Sox skipper Terry Francona expects Petagine to play a little at Pawtucket when he recovers and then help Boston down the road.

Common sense reigns
While ordering a Sam Adams is always a good decision, no better decision was made on this trip than my decision to turn the car around before crossing the state for a three-hour trek to Jupiter, Fla., for Wednesday’s Sox-Marlins game, which was rained out. I’m sure many of the Sox who were stuck on a bus for seven hours wish someone had made that same good decision for them.

It was reminiscent of when the Sox crossed the state a few years ago for what was obviously going to be a rained-out game against the Orioles in Fort Lauderdale, only to turn around and head back to Lee County. The Sox never forgave the Birds for that forced-busing fiasco and the Orioles paid a price, having been waxed from the Sox spring schedule for a spell before being reinstated this year.

Great Scott?
Scott Erickson looked like Roger Clemens, and a smart pickup for the Dodgers, against the Red Sox yesterday, pitching four solid innings and giving up a single run. By the time he reached the fourth inning he had struck out four Red Sox and gave up just one hit. But in that frame he left a slow curve up in the zone and Manny Ramirez hit a towering drive over the CVS canopy in left field. It was Erickson’s lone mistake, as he finished with five K’s and yielded two hits to a major league Sox lineup.

Fastball
The first half of yesterday’s game took about an hour and 10 minutes.

Playing pepper

  • Arroyo looked sharp in his first two innings of work. He threw mostly fastballs in his first inning, the fourth, and went with more offspeed pitches in the fifth. But in the sixth, Arroyo left a fastball over the plate that Jose Valentin crushed for a two-run homer that proved the deciding margin in the game. Saenz almost hit the next pitch out after Valentin’s homer, but Nixon reached up over the wall to make a homer-saving catch for the final out of the inning.

  • Twenty-one-year-old Edwin Jackson has a future in this game. The Dodgers pitcher didn’t give up a hit in 3 1/3 innings. He did, however, yield four walks.

  • One report had Red Sox reliever Alan Embree throwing 94 miles per hour when he came into the game yesterday. If legit, he’ll make a nice bookend to Matt Mantei’s 95 mph gas, giving the Sox the fireballers they haven’t had in the late innings in a while.

    As ESPN’s Peter Gammons used to say about the Sox relief corps last season, “there are too many guys who find bats in the sixth, seventh, and eighth innings.” Maybe that will change if Embree has the heater back and Mantei can stay healthy.

  • Thirty-seven-year-old Sox farmhand Josias Manzanillo walked himself into a jam in the ninth, loading the bases with walks to catcher Jason Grabowski and right fielder Henri Stanley, whom the Sox traded to the Dodgers to acquire Dave Roberts last season. Manzanillo worked out of the jam by striking out shortstop Jose Flores to end the threat, showing some emotion on the mound after the punchout.

  • The Sox youngsters managed to rally again in the ninth, but the Dodgers went a pitcher per out, going from Duaner Sanchez to Mike Venafro to Aquilino Lopez, who got the save after Tim Hummel was caught looking to end the low-scoring affair with runners stranded on first and second.

  • Here’s hoping the Sox offense gets cranking today in Dunedin, where they take on Shea Hillenbrand and the Toronto Blue Jays in 1:05 p.m. matchup.


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