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A day at the Player Development Complex

Posted by Peter Abraham, Globe Staff  March 24, 2011 07:09 PM

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FORT MYERS, Fla. — Let's start with the funny scene.

The Twins have a Class AA shortstop named Chris Cates who is 5-foot-3. I'm not guessing, that's what he is listed as. He was one of the hitters 6-foot-4 Daniel Bard faced today. It looked like a father pitching to his son.

But guess what? Cates hit a high hopper into the shortstop hole for an infield single. He must be doing something right if he's made it to AA ball.

As for other observations:

• Felix Doubront had his first game action of the spring and said his elbow felt fine. He was clearly a little shaken up earlier in camp when the joint got stiff and he was shut down. He expects to start the season in extended spring training to build up his arm strength. It may take a while, but I'd bet he helps the Sox this season.

• Hideki Okajima is throwing a cutter for the first time and is pleased with its development. Clearly he's looking for more weapons given the struggles of last season.

"I've been good against righties because I've been able to throw tough pitches on them inside, but I wasn't able to do that last season, which allowed them to target my change-up," Okajima said via interpreter Jeff Cutler. "This season, that's been a main goal. That's why I started throwing a cutter, which has been really good so far, and that should make my change-up that much better."

Okajima also knows that his place on the roster is not guaranteed. It could be between Okajima and Dennys Reyes for one spot.

"I'm still fighting for a position and hoping everything works out," he said.

• Jonathan Papelbon gave up a home to center field by Joe Benson, who had 27 in the minors last season. He otherwise pitched well. Papelbon expressed confidence in his slider, saying it will be a big pitch for him.

• Tim Wakefield put nine runners on base in five innings and didn't have a strikeout. He said his delivery felt better and that he was pleased to get to 78 pitches.

CSNNE.com reported last week that Wakefield's roster spot was safe. There are no indications that has changed despite the recent rocky outings.

Wakefield was asked whether he has received any assurances from the Red Sox. "I don’t think I need to answer that,” he said.

It has to be a tough thing for a manager and a GM to make decisions on veteran players, especially one who has been with the team for so many years. But the Sox did give Wakefield a two-year deal. They ran the risk of this happening.

• Rich Hill is likely headed for Pawtucket to start the season. But he has taken well to a sidearm delivery and that could make him an effective specialist if a need arises.

• There are an extraordinary number of people seeking autographs at the complex. It must be a little like throwing down $2 bets on a long-shot at the track. If you do collect enough signatures, one of two of the players is bound to turn into an All-Star.

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