Hanley Ramirez swings away Saturday against the Rays in spring training action. (Mike Petraglia/WEEI.com)

Observations from Red Sox' 9-6 win over Rays: Steven Wright, Matt Barnes shine, Hanley Ramirez (2 RBI), Mike Napoli (HR)

Mike Petraglia
March 28, 2015 - 1:44 pm
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PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Steven Wright and Matt Barnes made their best pitches for spots on the Red Sox roster in Saturday's 9-6 win over the Tampa Bay Rays at Charlotte Sports Park. Hanley Ramirez, David Ortiz and Mike Napoli also made big contributions in the win as the Red Sox try to build some momentum at the end of spring training and get over the sting of losing catcher Christian Vazquez indefinitely with a problematic right elbow. Wright no-hit the Rays over the first three innings and appeared ready to get out of the fourth with another scoreless frame before Xander Bogaerts bobbled a routine two-out grounder in the fourth, opening the floodgates for five unearned runs off Wright. The knuckleballing Wright still earned the win, improving to 3-0 this spring. He has an impressive 1.32 ERA, allowing just two earned runs in 13 2/3 innings. "I thought he really established a release point from the second inning on," manager John Farrell said. "There's a two-out error, you'd like to see the ability to pick up your teammate a little bit. I'm not saying he lost the strike zone. They swung the bat and got their base hits. Up until that point, he's gaining touch and feel to off-speed knuckleball. He got a strikeout of [James] Loney on it. I'm a fan of the knuckleball because of the contrast of style." "They got a little [more] aggressive than they were at the beginning," Wright said. "I felt like that they were making me show them I could throw it for a strike. I don't feel like they really got good wood on any of them but they were aggressive and they just started finding the holes. They're a good-hitting team and some of these guys I've faced in the past. They're able to put good wood on it, when you do that, put the ball in play, you start making things happen. Unfortunately, that's what happened today." Wright was the victim of several first-pitch swings in Tampa's 5-run fourth inning rally. "Honestly, I don't mind that because I'm a knuckleballer and I'm kind of banking on the movement," Wright said. "Today, honestly, was the best I've felt with my knuckleball consistency in the strike zone, minus the first couple of walks. Once I found it, I felt like I was able to throw strikes when I needed to. They kind of recognized that. They were still moving. They weren't really hitting them hard but they're in the zone and they're were able to capitalize on it. "The only thing I think should've been a little different was start trying to change speeds a little bit more when they started getting aggressive but I felt so confident in my knuckleball and they weren't really hitting it hard and I didn't really want to change anything because I felt it was working." The man who replaced Wright was Matt Barnes. The hard-throwing righty trying to earn a spot as a reliever showed his value, getting the final out and then finishing the next two innings, allowing just one hit while striking out four. "I thought he was very good. He gives up the 1-2 double and then records the three strikeouts following," Farrell said of Barnes. "He went to his curveball a little bit more to get some swing and miss against some quality major league hitters. He looks poised coming in in the middle of an inning. That's the first time he's come in with men on base. He got the quick out to end the threat. He looked fine. "That's the benefit of being a starter for most of his pro career. It's not like we're conditioning someone to be a one-inning reliever where he might shut it down mentally. I think that's the benefit of being a starter throughout the minor leagues. "We have some pending situations. We're just trying to keep all of our options available to us. And as we've said, there's been a couple of spots in the pen to be in competition for. The way he's thrown the ball, the way Robbie Ross has come in the last three outings, we've got some very good options from which to choose." Brandon Workman followed. Workman was scheduled to appear against the Braves on Friday before rain washed away the final three innings. Workman struck out the side in the seventh, allowing one hit. Offensively, this was a game to watch the lineup produce in spots one through five. Shane Victorino, Brock Holt, David Ortiz, Hanley Ramirez and Mike Napoli all had one hit apiece, with all five except Holt driving in at least one run. Ramirez lined a double to left in his second at-bat and finished with two RBIs as the Red Sox built a 6-0 lead. Mike Napoli followed that third inning double with a two-run homer just inside the right field foul pole for his third homer of the spring. "Hanley comes up and is looking for a certain pitch and he gets it, particularly in the second at-bat for the base hit, RBI. There were a number of good at-bats," Farrell said. "I thought Vic swung the bat well, a really good at-bat to lead things off. He's getting down the line much better in the last couple of games where he's pretty much going full-tilt. We''ll see him on consecutive days coming up. The hitters' timing is starting to come around pretty good."

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