Hanley Ramirez

Observations from Red Sox' victory over Phillies: Hanley Ramirez, Mookie Betts turn on power, Clay Buchholz on track for opener

John Tomase
March 22, 2015 - 12:30 pm

Just call them Thunder and Lightning. For all the questions about the Red Sox rotation, one aspect of their club no one disputes is the offense, which should be one of the best in the game. Two examples were on display in Sunday's 7-6 victory over the Phillies at JetBlue Park -- Hanley Ramirez (thunder) and Mookie Betts (lightning). Ramirez blasted a titanic three-run homer to dead center and Betts added an inside-the-park shot that paced a 13-hit attack and made a winner of knuckleballer Steven Wright, who tossed four shutout innings. Betts and Ramirez both went deep in the third inning. Betts led off with a drive to the wall in center that eluded Phillies outfielder Odubel Herrera. Thinking two bases out of the box, Betts turned on the jets around second, and when Herrera struggled to find the ball at his feet, raced safely for home, waved in aggressively by third-base coach Brian Butterfield. After Dustin Pedroia and Pablo Sandoval reached, Ramirez followed with a monstrous blast to dead center with a swing reminiscent of Manny Ramirez, fully extending his arms on a fastball over the plate and punishing it. "I mean, I was working on stuff," Ramirez told reporters. "Like I told Panda, we're not trying to make the team. We're just trying to get ready for the season." The homer was Ramirez's first of the spring. Betts, meanwhile, went 2-for-2 with a pair of runs to raise his average to .471. Ramirez said he's using the spring to get his timing, and he has a particular method of doing so. "I've been feeling comfortable with what I've been doing to get ready," he said. "I've been trying to slow my swing down and hit a hard ground ball to second. I wasn't trying to get hits. This is what we use spring for, to get ready for the season. Get your stroke back and make some adjustments." Betts seemingly hasn't needed any time at all to hit the ground running. "You're always anxious for the season to start," he said. "Things may change as the season goes and you get more scouting reports and those types of things. I think I'm in a pretty decent spot now. I know it's going to be hard to maintain as they keep learning more and more about me. I feel like it's just going to be a chess match and both sides making adjustments. I feel like I'll let it naturally happen and do all right." Manager John Farrell is impressed with both players. He described Ramirez as developing, "better timing," and said Betts "gives you a threat even as the game begins. He's an exciting player." EVERYTHING IS CLAY-OK Clay Buchholz looks more and more like the Red Sox' Opening Day starter. The right-hander skipped his regular turn against the Phillies -- Boston's first opponent of the season in April -- to dominate a group of minor leaguers. Appearing in a minor league game, he tossed five no-hit innings, striking out 10. He remains on track to start in April 6 when the Red Sox open the season. "That's the thing you can take away from spring training, is knowing you're in a good position to go into the regular season," Buchholz said. "There's a lot of guys that don't rely on results or don't think about results in spring training, which I don't think you really should, but it's hard to be confident when you're getting hit around in spring training going into the season. Obviously, if this were a perfect world, you'd want to do as good here as you would in the season. You've got to work on stuff here, so you might get hit around and give up a couple of runs here and there. I feel like I'm in a pretty good spot." WRIGHT ON As for Wright, the knuckleballer allowed two hits and two walks, striking out two. He lowered his spring ERA to 1.80 and improved to 2-0. With the Red Sox facing uncertainty in their rotation -- not to mention durability issues with every starter except Rick Porcello and Wade Miley -- a need could arise sooner than later for a sixth starter. And that man would be Wright. "He continues to get outs," Farrell said. "There was a little bit of a stretch where he lost his release point for about 7-8 pitches, but I thought he threw a number of real quality knuckleballs today. And it's not hard to envision him pitching quality innings for us at some point this year." If the Red Sox want Wright to make a spot start or a relief appearance, he feels he'd be more than ready to fill in as a swing man. "I feel like if I'm going to be on this team, that's going to be my role," he said. "And I love that role. I love the fact that no matter what day it is, I have a chance to pitch. That's what I like. I just want to go out there, especially like today, I found out a couple days ago I was starting. That's kind of how it's going to be, and I'm all right with that. I like that. In the end, I've still got to go out there, still got to throw strikes. Whether it's the first inning or the last outing, it doesn't matter. For me, I try not to hype it up because it is just another outing, except for I'm starting it versus coming in in the middle of the game."