Mookie Betts homers in the fourth inning Friday against Atlanta starter Julio Teheran. (Mike Petraglia/WEEI.com)

Observations from Red Sox' 4-2 rain-shortened loss in Disney: Mookie Betts (HR) shines, Clay Buchholz (12 hits) spotty

Mike Petraglia
March 27, 2015 - 12:58 pm
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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The stormy weather that ended Friday's game here at Disney was appropriate because the day for the Red Sox featured the thunder and lightning of Mookie Betts and bleak results from Clay Buchholz in a 4-2 loss to the Braves at Champion Stadium. Betts registered his first two walks of the spring in his first two plate appearances, swiped his first base, connected for his first homer that actually cleared the wall in his third appearance before being retired minutes before the rain halted the game at 3:28 p.m ET. Betts is now hitting .487 (19-for-39) with a gaudy .923 slugging percentage and a .512 OBP in 13 games. Betts got an inside fastball from Julio Teheran in the fourth inning and laced a homer over the wall in left for his second homer of the spring, and his first that cleared a wall. "I don't look at it any different than any other day," Betts said of his continued spring tear. "I just had to do a couple more things but it's always nice to be able to do those things and be able to affect the game in many different ways. That's kind of the way I look at it, being able to affect the game in different ways. "I'm pretty comfortable. I'm not going to go out and stress or anything. I feel like the year of being able to play last year got me kind of comfortable this year. Now, I'm just going in and playing and I feel like I'm just settling in with the guys." "He seemingly is on-time all the time at the plate," Farrell said afterward. "He's never seen the guy before. Second pitch is a line drive base hit. He takes a lot of good pitches off the plate to stay in command of the count for the base on balls. Obviously, the two-run homer, he's done it a few times where guys try to pound him in and he's so quick in there that he's capable of that. But it's been very exciting to see. It hasn't been against pitchers that might not be seen during the regular season at the major league level. He's facing some of the better pitchers that are going to be pitching this season." Betts' only miscue actually ended an inning as he misjudged a fly ball with the bases loaded and two outs. Phil Gosselin took a full swing at a Buchholz pitch but the ball didn't carry. It was headed for the grass of shallow center when Betts broke back on the swing. But Betts used his speed and quickness to sprint forward and make a diving catch. "Plays like that are rare," Betts said of his play from center field. "Just to get one play like that I feel like I'll be able to do something different next time and maybe the same thing happens but as long as I catch it, that's the main thing." "Full swing, he's reading the ball of the bat and he breaks back but he recovers," Farrell said. "Maybe made the play a little bit more difficult than he needed to but an out's an out." As for Buchholz, he had the roughest outing of the spring, ten days removed from his expected start on Opening Day in Philadelphia. The Red Sox starter threw 96 pitches against the Braves and allowed 12 hits and four runs over five-plus innings, getting pulled after Kelly Johnson launched a long homer to right-center off him to open the sixth. "He gave a lot of hits," Farrell said. "There's a couple different ways you can look at it. One, he made some big pitches as he had men on base quite a bit today. I thought his stuff and the definition to his pitches, were better than the line score. Now, granted there were 12 hits on the board that he gave up. I thought he had a number of opportunities where he was ahead in the count where he could've done a better job of finishing hitters off, particularly expanding the strike zone down on top of the plate for some chase." "You can't pay attention to results in spring training," said Buchholz, who is now 2-2 in four starts with a 3.60 ERA. "You take the goods away from it but you can't dwell on the bads. You just have to try to learn from them and get better at them." Buchholz and Farrell both pointed to his approach to Pedro Ciriaco in the second, when he allowed a two-out, three-run double on a badly placed cutter, as an example of where Buchholz must improve by April 6. "If you go back to the sequence, he chases a changeup below the zone on the first pitch, pretty much telling you he's going to chase some pitches," Farrell said. "He's aggressive in that situation. So, to throw a pitch on the plate is almost doing him a little bit of a favor rather than taking the aggressiveness as something to exploit from Clay's standpoint. "The pitch to Ciriaco was one he's typically not going to make and that's the one that kind of stands out most. But we got him up to 96 pitches. I thought he maintained his delivery fairly well, didn't fall off to the first base side so there's some positives inside of this and yet there's definitely room to improve with finishing hitters off." "I felt like the stuff was really good and command of it," added Buchholz. "I thought fastball command was OK, except for the balls they squared up and a little bit of misfortune with a couple of cut-balls and fisted balls. I'd rather it happen in spring training than carry over to the regular season. There were a lot of good things I was able to do today. "It's going to happen. Going through spring training and not having any situations to go through to simulate, I don't think you'd get a whole lot out of it. So, it's good to have to pitch out of stuff like that because it's inevitable it's going to happen during the season at some point. What was the biggest positive from Buchholz for Farrell? "I'd look at just today in and of itself," Farrell said. "I thought there were a number of things with men in scoring position, less than two outs, Clay made some big pitches. I thought he didn't try to overthrow. In some of those situations, he kept a pitch-to-pitch mentality but there were opportunities where he could've used a little different attack plan when he had a hitter on the defensive." Buchholz is slated to start Wednesday against either the Blue Jays at JetBlue Park or the Twins across town at CenturyLink Sports Complex. "Typically, we'll back down guys a little bit from the 95 [pitches]," Buchholz said. "That is our goal before we get into our last start. So we'll see how he feels [Saturday] and on the side day but that's the tentative plan, to pull him back a little bit." Brandon Workman was scheduled to pitch Friday before rain came in the top of the seventh. Robbie Ross did get some work in Friday, coming in for Buchholz in the sixth and pitching a perfect inning with two strikeouts. "We need to get Workman on the mound," Farrell said. "We'll see where we go with [Saturday's] lineup." Dustin Pedroia went hitless in four at-bats as the designated hitter while Brock Holt joined Betts as the only other Red Sox batter with two hits on the day, going 2-for-2 with a walk. Farrell confirmed afterward that David Ortiz and Mike Napoli will both make the trip to Port Charlotte for Saturday's game against the Rays. In addition to Ciriaco's bases-clearing double, there were two other former Red Sox players who made an impact Friday. Jonny Gomes made a pair of sliding catches along the left field line, one to end an inning. Gomes spent time chatting with Dustin Pedroia and coaches in front of the Red Sox dugout before the game. Braves catcher A.J. Pierzynski started and caught Julio Teheran. He also went 2-for-3 at the plate, improving to .393 this spring.

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