My column last week in the Biddeford Journal Tribune was partly about all the ex-Red Sox players we saw in Spring Training in Florida getting key hits and looking good for their new teams.
The last day of Spring Training, the Tampa Bay Rays traditionally hold what amounts to a dress rehearsal for their stadium staff for Opening Day at Tropicana Field. They sell only general admission tickets, with no assigned seats, for $19., and use the game to fine tune their staff and functions for the season.
This year, they played the Detroit Tigers and I was there. The game ended up 1-0 in favor of Detroit with the only run coming on a second inning homer to deep center by Victor Martinez another of the old Red Sox players looking good around the league. Of course, the first baseman in that game for the Rays was James Loney, who the Sox had briefly when he came over in the Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez trade. All Loney has done in the two years since the Sox let him get away is play 158 and 153 games and batted .298 and .291.
I also saw Mike Carp, now with the Washington Nationals, hit a three run homer deep over the center field fence against the Yankees in the seventh inning to put the Nats up 6-3. Of course we were in Florida and the bulk of the pitching staff that the Sox unloaded last year is out west so we didn’t see them.
Did anyone notice that, after the Sox won game one of the series this past Monday against the powerful Washington Nationals pitching staff en route to a 2-1 series win, their third series win in three tries so far this year, the Yankees came from behind to beat the Orioles in the first game of their three game series?
This game is relevant to this article in that, with the Yankees trailing 4-2 in the seventh inning, Yankee left fielder Brett Gardner had to be taken out of the game for a pinch hitter after being hit in the wrist with a pitch earlier in the game. Who did the Yankees send up as a pinch hitter? You guessed it, ex-Red Sox player, Stephen Drew, who hit just .162 for the Sox and Yankees last year. What did he do? Hit a grand slam home run, naturally, to put the Yankees ahead to stay 6-4.
The Yankees gave up a run in the last of the seventh and went to the eighth ahead 6-5. When Yankee reliever Dellin Betances gave up a single and a walk to start the eighth inning, Joe Girardi pulled him. Who did he bring in as a reliever to close the game? You guessed it, ex-Red Sox pitcher Andrew Miller who struck out the first three batters he faced and got a five out save.
This is not an unusual circumstance given the way players move around from team to team in this day and age. There are a lot of players out there that the Red Sox and other teams wish they had back. However, as Lou Pinella used to say, baseball is a results driven industry and if the Sox can continue to win at the rate they have started the season, no one will complain. Especially if this turns out to be the second worst to first in four years.