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Red Sox notebook

Lackey not thrown off

By Peter Abraham and Nick Cafardo
Globe Staff / March 29, 2011

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With rain in the forecast yesterday, the Red Sox did not want No. 2 starter John Lackey to make a three-hour bus ride to Dunedin, Fla., to face the Blue Jays on a wet field. He was instead scheduled for a minor league game.

When that also became imperiled, Lackey settled for a simulated game at 10:30 a.m. at the Player Development Complex. Facing teammates Carl Crawford and Kevin Youkilis along with a rotating cast of Triple A players, Lackey threw 74 pitches over five innings.

“It worked out perfect. It’s probably the toughest lineup I’ve faced this spring, facing those guys every inning,’’ Lackey said.

In preparation for his start on Saturday against Texas, Lackey struck out seven with one walk and allowed five hits.

“I feel real good. Physically I feel really strong and I feel like I’m ready to go,’’ he said.

Lackey’s battles with Youkilis were fun to watch. Youkilis struck out three times, emitting a loud curse after a changeup split the plate for a called third strike, but also drew a walk and homered to left field.

Jonathan Papelbon struggled with his command during one inning of work, throwing nine of 21 pitches for strikes. He walked two of the five batters he faced and bounced several sliders. Daniel Bard was sharp in his inning, throwing nine of 13 pitches for strikes.

The final batter he faced, 24-year-old Jorge Padron, doubled down the line in left field. But pitching coach Curt Young, wanting Bard to throw a few extra pitches, called the ball foul. A befuddled Padron then struck out looking at a hellacious slider.

Crawford had nine at-bats and Youkilis eight. They also faced Triple A righthander Adam Mills. Crawford is hitting .217 in spring training and Youkilis .196, hence the extra work.

Losing streak ends The Red Sox beat the Blue Jays, 3-2, in a game stopped by rain in the eighth inning. The win snapped a 10-game losing streak.

“I don’t think most of the players knew,’’ manager Terry Francona said. “I think perspective is a big word with that.’’

Jeremy Hazelbaker, who played last season in low Single A Greenville, hit a two-run homer in the seventh inning, the ball sailing into the palm trees beyond the fence in left. Tony Pena Jr., Eammon Portice, and Seth Garrison combined to allow six hits without a walk.

“The swing that kid [Hazelbaker] took, I’ll take that bus ride any day. The ball came off his bat good,’’ Francona said.

Mike Cameron, Dustin Pedroia, and Adrian Gonzalez each had a hit. Cameron also drove in a run as he prepares for his first season as a bench player. Spring training, he said, went smoothly.

“It was better on my body because my body had been trained to go every day,’’ he said. “Difficulty now is trying to figure when you’re going to play and basically how to stay ready. That’s going to be the toughest thing. I know I’ll get reps vs. lefties and try to manage it and stay positive about it even when you’re not having success.’’

With two exhibition games remaining, Gonzalez has had 24 at-bats since returning from shoulder surgery.

“It’s as good as it’s going be in spring training,’’ Gonzalez said. “I’m driving the ball. [The shoulder] feels good. I think it’s going to get better as the season goes on.’’

Off they go The Sox will play their final game as the home team at City of Palms Park today when they host the Rays. The team is scheduled to move into a new facility in Fort Myers, Fla., next season.

Since their first season in 1993, the Sox are 141-117-7 at City of Palms and have averaged 6,833 fans per game. Lee County officials are hoping to lure another team to the facility, with the Nationals a possibility.

Francona is expected to make some brief remarks to the crowd before the game.

Showalter apologizes Orioles manager Buck Showalter called Sox general manager Theo Epstein Sunday to apologize for comments he made to Men’s Journal magazine. In the story, Showalter questioned Epstein’s intelligence, saying the Red Sox’ success was a product of their payroll.

On Sunday, Francona said he felt the remarks were out of line. Showalter also called Francona to express his regret.

“I just felt like I need to call [Epstein],’’ Showalter said. “It just caused them to sit around and answer questions or whatever, so I spoke to both them.’’

Cabral returns Lefthander Cesar Cabral, who was taken by the Rays in the Rule 5 draft, was returned to the Red Sox. He had a 5.59 ERA in seven games during spring training . . . The Red Sox fly to Houston after the game tonight for tomorrow night’s game at Minute Maid Park against the Astros. Josh Beckett will face Nelson Figueroa. The Sox will have a workout in Houston Thursday morning before traveling to Dallas. Daisuke Matsuzaka will throw a simulated game as part of the workout.

Peter Abraham reported from Fort Myers, Fla., and Nick Cafardo from Dunedin, Fla.

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