What started as a day that was cloudy, and, I dare to say, chilly, turned warm and beautiful in Ft. Myers.
On all the printed material, the PawSox were supposed to play Norfolk in Sarasota today, about a 90 minute drive from JetBlue. However, that schedule did not match the one that was posted in the clubhouse which said the club was to play Norfolk at home. Thank you kindly scheduling!
After a morning of individual work for the infielders and outfielders, pick-offs and PFP's (pitchers fielder practice) for the pitchers, games were under way as the sun peaked through the morning marine layer.
A nice surprise was learning that Grady Sizemore was going to be playing for the PawSox rather than appear in the 7pm Red Sox/Pirates game a few hundred yards away.
Keith Couch started on the mound for Pawtucket and breezed through the first.
Sizemore gave the better than average minor league crowd a jolt as he swung at the first pitch he saw and blooped a double into left field. He would be stranded at third base in the inning.
Couch was able to pitch around a leadoff, Jack Cust double in the 2nd, before retiring the next seven batters in order.
Pawtucket finally cracked the score column in the 4th as Garin Cecchini singled, moved to second on a wild pitch and then to third on a Travis Shaw single, who was thrown out trying to stretch the hit into a double. A walk and a strikeout later, Carlos Rivero lined a single to left scoring Cecchini.
Other than Grady Sizemore, who added two more singles to his double to finish his day 3-for-4 in seven innings of play, the offense was rather quite until the 9th for Pawtucket.
Couch ended his outing after four innings of work allowing just two hits while walking one and striking out three. Chris Balcom-Miller followed throwing two scoreless frames allowing a hit.
Mike Olmsted, known as "Big Mike" for his 6'6", 280lb frame, pitched around a walk and a single in the 7th, but allowed a pair of runs in the 8th to the Tides. After a lead off solo homer by Cust, on a fastball near his shoulders, Olmsted walked one and allowed a hit and run single to put runners on the corners. A batter later, the Tides executed a double steal to score the go-ahead run. Olmsted did pitch out of trouble recording a pop up and a fly out to end the 8th.
Jose Valdez tossed a perfect 9th including a strikeout.
In the bottom half of the 9th, the PawSox faced a familiar foe in former Pawtucket reliever Brock Huntzinger. Mike Brenly led off with a single, but then Huntzinger struck out Travis Shaw and Justin Henry. After a Shannon Wilkerson single to center put runners at second and third (Wilkerson took second on the throw to third), Ryan Dent singled to left to tie the game, 2-2. Derrik Gibson then battled before lining out to a lunging shortstop stranding the winning run at third ending the game in a 2-2 tie.
The PawSox are now 2-3-2 in Grapefruit League action.
I get to double-up as the Red Sox and Pirates play in a couple hours. Jake Peavy will make the start for Boston. The rest of the lineup...
Jonny Gomes LF
Shane Victorino RF
Dustin Pedroia 2B
David Ortiz DH
Mike Napoli 1B
Xander Bogaerts SS
A.J. Pierzynski C
Will Middlebrooks 3B
Jackie Bradley Jr. CF
Looks a lot like an Opening Day lineup March 31 at Baltimore. Unless Grady Sizemore has anything to say about it.