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BOSTON (CBS) – When acquired by the Red Sox along with closer Andrew Bailey, Ryan Sweeney was nothing more than a fourth outfielder.
But with Carl Crawford on the shelf to start the season, Sweeney got the start in right field on Opening Day in Detroit Thursday, something he called “a dream come true.”
The six-year veteran made sure to make the most of the opportunity.
Sweeney collected two hits for Boston, including one of their two off Detroit starter Justin Verlander. But it was his triple in the ninth, which drove in the tying run with Sox down to their final out, that will stick with Sweeney.
The line drive off Sweeney’s bat nearly went into the Comerica Park stands, which would have given Boston their first lead of the day. More impressive is that it came off closer Jose Valverde, who was a perfect 49-for-49 last season in save opportunities.
“He fell behind 2-0 and threw me an elevated fastball and missed that. Then he threw a split-finger down and in and I put a good swing on it,” Sweeney said after Boston’s 3-2 loss. “I thought I got it at first when I hit it, but it hit off the wall and got away from [right fielder Don Kelly].”
Going yard is rare for Sweeney, as he has just two round-trippers in the last two seasons. But his triple was part of a two-run, ninth inning rally by Boston that gave them a positive to take away from the opening day defeat.
“(It was) huge; it just shows we’re not going to give up,” said Sweeney. “To have that happen against Valverde is a huge accomplishment too. We just didn’t score enough runs today.”
The hit came after Sweeney had some trouble tracking down an Edwin Jackson triple the inning before. After the ball left Jackson’s bat, Sweeney took a step in the wrong direction, and couldn’t make a play on it.
“It was just a hard hit ball,” Sweeney said, also pointing out that a lot of balls hit his way were doing “weird things” on Thursday. “I did a drop step back and it kind of tailed on me, so I had to turn back around. It was just out of my reach, I couldn’t get it.”
“It’s a damn tough ball, but Sweeney is a terrific outfielder so I didn’t ask him if it was the sun or the wall,” manager Bobby Valentine said after the game. “It’s tough to go straight back there.”
Sweeney will have more opportunities in right with Crawford nursing a wrist ailment. While it will be nice to look back to his 2-for-4 showing against one of the best starters and one of the best closers in baseball on Opening Day, in the end it wasn’t good enough in his eyes.
“Realistically it doesn’t matter if we don’t win the game,” said Sweeney.