SARASOTA, Fla. — Aaron Cook may not make the Opening Day roster for the Red Sox, but the 33-year-old sinkerballer is making a strong bid to join the rotation at some point.
Cook threw 3.1 scoreless innings against the Orioles in a split-squad game this afternoon, allowing one hit with one walk and one strikeout. The game finished 3-3 after 10 innings.
In two starts, both against Baltimore, Cook has thrown 5.1 innings without giving up a run. Of the 16 outs, eight have come on groundballs.
“That’s me. I’m pitching to contact. I’m trying to get guys out of the box as quickly as possible and get our offense back on the field,” he said. “I like to work quick and pitch to contact so I accomplished everything I wanted to accomplish.”
Cook did not make his first start until March 11, as the trainers were concerned with the health of his shoulder. He threw 39 pitches on Saturday and may not have the time to build up the endurance to open the season as a starter.
“I’m going have to see how it plays out. We have two-and-a-half weeks and that’s a long time. A lot can happen. I’m just going to keep taking the ball and see what happens,” said Cook, who feels better physically now than he did at any time last season and most of 2010.
"I feel like the ball is coming out of my hand really well. For me to have a true spin on the ball is big. I have my legs underneath me, my shoulder is good," he said. "To have those things that I haven’t had for a couple of years, I’m definitely going out there with more confidence knowing I’m healthy.”
Bench coach Tim Bogar, who managed the team at Ed Smith Stadium, was impressed.
“He pounded the strike zone. Working fast, working the ball in and out real well," Bogar said. "Little work to do on his breaking stuff. Didn’t command it like I thought he wanted to. Commanded it better as the game went on. But every time you needed something to happen he threw that little sinker and got the job done."
Another plus is working with Bob McClure, his pitching coach in the Rockies system in 2001-05.
"He knows my quirks and my ins and outs," Cook said. "I knew most of my mechanics by heart, but there are times a pitcher needs his pitching coach to fine tune things and tweak things. He always has the right thing to say at the right time. It’s been huge having him come over here and work with him again.”
Cook can opt out of his minor league contract on May 1, which could prompt the Sox to give him a chance early in the season.
Also in Sarasota:
• Ryan Lavarnway was 3 for 3 and is now 8 of 17 this spring. "He’s mature past his age. You’re seeing a kid who understands the strike zone," Bogar said. "He understands what he’s supposed to do. Most of the time he doesn’t miss the pitch he’s supposed to miss. Quality at-bats every time.”
Lavarnway sees plenty of room for improvement, however.
“Ups and downs. It’s spring training for a reason," he said. "You try to feel your way back to where you were. It’s unrealistic to expect to start where you left off the end of the year, but I feel things here and there. Working with aggression levels for my direction and path my body is going in.”