ANOTHER UPDATE (3:06, MID 7, 2-0 SOX)
Jon Lester and Takashi Saito were discussing their outings down in the clubhouse, so we missed some action there. Wes Littleton, Fernando Cabrera, and Hunter Jones have provided a scoreless inning each, and it's still 2-0 Red Sox. Lars Anderson, in his first at-bat of the day, grounded out to short to lead off the seventh.
Lester summed up his outing by saying it felt good to get back out on the mound. As opposed to last spring, when he spent the majority of the time honing his fastball command, he's been focused on improving his changeup, a pitch he rarely used last season. By polishing his changeup, Lester belives he can make all of his other pitches better, too.
Saito said he experienced no trouble with his shoulder, and he feels like a new pitcher after struggling mightily in the playoffs while confronting that shoulder injury. "I was able to reset myself emotionally leading into the season," he said.
MORE PITCHING FOR SOX (2:21, END 4, 2-0 SOX)
Every notable Red Sox pitcher aside from Tim Wakefield has looked sharp in his limited performance over the past two days. Okajima set down the Pirats in order, getting two weak groundballs and striking out Brandon Moss.
It's easy to envision a deep, opressive Red Sox pitching staff, but don't let these performaces shape your opinion too much. Here's Terry Francona from earlier this morning, after he was asked about the strong starts yesterday of Masterson and Buchholz:
"The hard thing is -- and if I was you, I'd be asking the same questions; that's why your watching the game -- but it's Feb. 25. There's a lot of baseball. It's so early, you can fall into a trap, if it's me or the coaches, by doing too much evaluating this time of year."
Bailey just nailed another another ball, sending the centerfielder darting back toward the warning with a rope. The ball was caught, though, and the Red Sox were retired in order. Here comes Wes Littleton. And also, No. 1 prospect Lars Anderson is in at first base.
VETERANS GO DOWN 1-2-3 (2:08, END 3, 2-0 SOX)
Ross Ohlendorf struck out David Ortiz (looking) and J.D. Drew (swinging) and got Varitek to ground out to second base. Now we're about to get our first look at Hideki Okajima.
EASY WORK FOR SAITO (2:02, MID 3, 2-0 SOX)
Saito looked good for the rest of the inning, allowing only a bloop single to right by Shelby Ford (what a name!). He struck out Andrew McCutheon swinging at a high, 3-2 fastball to end the inning.
Programming note: The requests in the comment section for a live chat are not falling on deaf ears. We'll see what we can do tomorrow. Thanks for the feedback.
SAITO'S TURN (1:53, END 2, 2-0 SOX)
Lester turned in a strong first spring outing, allowing two hits, both sharp ground balls, in two innings. He threw 30 pitches, 19 for strikes. Brandon Moss got the hit in the second inning, but he was erased two batters lated when Jason Jaramillo smoked one back at him. Lester snared the liner and doubled off Moss.
Nick Green singled to begin the bottom half of the inning, but Snell struck out Chip Ambres, Lugo, and Pedroia in order. Now Saito is pitching, making his debut in a Sox uniform. He struck out Bixler to start the third. His pitches really have a lot of movement, dipping and sinking.
BAILEY'S HOT START (1:29, END 1, 2-0 SOX)
Jeff Bailey went 2 for 2 last night, and he continued his strong spring start today in the first. With two outs and the bases loaded, Bailey, the reigning International League (that's Pawtucket) Most Valuable Player, flared a single to right, scoring Dustin Pedroia and J.D. Drew, who both walked. So Bailey's still batting 1.000.
In his first plate appearance of the spring, Jason Varitek grounded an Ian Snell pitch to shortstop Brian Bixler, who stumbled while fielding the ball and couldn't field it cleanly. The runners on first and second base were off witht the pitch, so Bixler had to eat the ball and take an error.
LESTER STARTS STRONG (1:14, BOT 1, 0-0)
The game is underway, and we have more idyllic weather at City of Palms Park. The Sox are wearing their red tops with white pants; the Pirates are in black tops and gray pants. Jon Lester sat down the Pirates in the first yielding only a single up the middle by Andy LaRoche. He threw 16 pitches, 10 for strikes, and struck out one batter, Andrew McCutheon, looking at a slider on the outside corner.
Julio Lugo grounded out to begin the bottom of the first.