Brandon Workman

Observations from Steinbrenner Field: Alex Rodriguez can still hit home runs; Joe Kelly is back in Cy Young race

Rob Bradford
March 11, 2015 - 1:34 pm
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TAMPA -- Chances are the biggest takeaway from the Red Sox' 10-6 win over the Yankees at Steinbrenner Field Wednesday won't be the fact that John Farrell's team has now won six straight. And few will probably take note that the Sox finished their day with 18 hits. No, the highlights will likely lead with one particular fourth-inning home run. For the first time since Sept. 20, 2013, Alex Rodriguez hit a ball over the fence in a real, live big league baseball game. Granted, this was simply his team's ninth Grapefruit League game of spring training, but it was ... well ... it was, A-Rod. Unfortunately for Red Sox reliever Brandon Workman, he will be part of that highlight reel. "That 3-1 count to A-Rod caught a little bit more of the plate than I wanted to with a fastball," Workman said. "On 3-1 he was looking fastball away and I gave him a fastball out over the plate, he put a good swing on the ball and obviously he's a really good hitter. On 3-1 he got in a count where he could look for something, got it and put a good swing on it. "It's my second time facing big league hitters this spring, 3-1 to my first batter of the day, fastball away and he swung it like he knew it was coming. I didn't see anything wrong with him up there." -- Joe Kelly wouldn't buy the fact he was clocked at 99 mph Wednesday afternoon. "That's probably false. My arm doesn't feel that good," the Red Sox starter said. "It's definitely running a little hot. If they told me that at the end of the season last season when my arm was feeling good, I'd believe that. But there's no way." Kelly may have not bought into the reported radar gun readings, but he was feeling pretty good about the outcome after making his second Grapefruit League outing of spring training. The righty allowed two runs over his three innings, but felt like his command and stuff was night and day compared to that last appearance, against the Twins. "Overall, better control, better command within the strike zone," said Farrell, comparing Wednesday to his start against the Twins in which virtually every ball put in play was hit hard. "I thought both curveball and changeup he threw effectively, with the exception of the two-strike curveball to Perala. Certainly a step in the right direction. I think more than anything the commanding the strike zone was improved over last time out." "It was a lot better," said Red Sox catcher Christian Vazquez. "He was throwing the four-seamer better, and he hit his spots with a good changeup. He was consistent with all of his pitches. The command was much better." -- Travis Shaw continued to be an intriguing player, particularly considering his skill-set: power-hitting corner man. Shaw opened eyes once again Wednesday by taking former Red Sox reliever Andrew Miller over the right field fence on a first-pitch fastball. It was an encouraging sign for the left-handed hitting Shaw (who also doubled), having hit just .189 against lefties in 2014. "Impressive," said Farrell of the 24-year-old Shaw, who hit 21 home runs between Double- and Triple-A in '14. "He had a little bit of a breakout year last year. I think it was more of him knowing himself as a hitter. Seeing him year over year, he'€™s much more comfortable in this environment. Against two very good arms, he gets a first-pitch fastball against Miller and then the 1-0 fastball where he'€™s looking for a specific spot away and puts a very good swing on a pitch. He'€™s swinging the bat good." Others standing out offensively for the Red Sox were Mookie Betts (3 hits), Luke Monz (HR, 2 hits), and Jemile Weeks (HR). -- Craig Breslow, who pitched a scoreless inning -- allowing a walk and hit -- is hugely encouraged by his progress. The lefty reported that his fastball has been sitting at 91-92 mph, which is a far cry from the 86 mph he opened his season with in Yankee Stadium a year ago. "I've never thrown this hard at this point in spring training," said Breslow, who still hasn't allowed a run in his three spring outings. "Usually I'm at 86-87. It just feels really good coming out of my hand right now." -- Another reliever who continues to make a comeback is Mitchell Boggs, the righty who pitched with a hernia for two seasons before finally getting surgery in October. After his scoreless eighth inning, Boggs said, "I haven't thrown like this since 2012," referencing the season in which he served as one of the best set-up men in baseball. Boggs explained that he did have some regrets about not undergoing the surgery earlier, but "bad timing" prevented such a decision. After initially feeling the discomfort in the 2013 World Baseball Classic, he chose not to reveal the injury for fear of losing the closing job to start the season. Then after being traded midseason, Boggs hesitated letting on once again due to a desire to make a good first impression. Then, in the offseason leading up to the 2014 campaign, the reliever chose not to have the operation due to his pursuit of a major league contract. Something to keep in mind: Boggs -- who is in camp on a minor-league deal -- does have an opt-out of his contract for April 4. -- A good chunk of the regulars will be making the trip to Bradenton Thursday, with Dustin Pedroia, David Ortiz, Hanley Ramirez, Pablo Sandoval, Mike Napoli and Shane Victorino all slated to get starts. Clay Buchholz will start against the Pirates, with Alexi Ogando and Eduardo Rodriguez also scheduled to make the trip.

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