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Red Sox Spring Training Blog: Pitchers Way Ahead Of Batters At This Point

By Dan Roche, WBZ-TV Sports
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FORT MYERS, Fla. (CBS) — It was full squad workout day two Friday for the Red Sox as they held a brief team meeting and then hit the warm Florida sunshine for a two hour workout.

Meanwhile, many of the Sox players and staff took part in the team’s annual charity golf tournament Friday afternoon as they helped raise thousands of dollars for Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida.

I sat down with Jon Lester on Friday morning before the workout. In a wide-ranging interview — which you can see Sunday night on Sports Final on WBZ-TV at 11:35 p.m. — we’ll cover such topics as 2013 spring training 2013 vs 2014 spring training, the off-field chemistry, Boston Strong, and his contract. He also had some interesting things to say about the so-called “hometown discount” he’s willing to take.

As for the workout:

–Friday was the first time that pitchers threw live batting practice. It’s always a sight to see as hitters step into the cage and either don’t swing at all or usually barely get a piece of the bat on the ball……

–Dustin Pedroia said it initially looks like the ball is coming in at about a thousand miles per hour and that he used to panic for the first couple of days of camp thinking he couldn’t hit, but that he’s now used to it……

–David Ortiz told me he never swings on the first day…..he just watches and track pitches to get a feel for being back in the batter’s box. Manny Ramirez used to do the same thing. But, Manny took it a step further because even in regular batting practice he wouldn’t even swing hard for a few days once arriving in camp…..

Watch Dan Roche’s Video Blog

–Watched Felix Doubront throw live BP. He looked smooth for the most part, although the slimmed down pitcher did have some issues with finishing his pitches. Again, very early though.

–Allen Webster also threw. When he keeps everything down in the zone and displays confidence….he cam dominate as his stuff is electric…..

–Poor David Ross got re-introduced to the wear and tear that catching can do to your body. About 3 swings in on Pedroia facing Felix Doubront…Ross got nailed with a foul tip in the neck-collar bone area. Ouch! As usual, he paused…gathered himself and kept going……

–Dustin Pedroia told me the biggest thing he accomplished in the past six months..and it wasn’t winning a World Series. You can hear what it was Friday night at 11pm during our WBZ-TV news………

–John Farrell says yes Chris Capuano, who is expected in camp Saturday, is insurance now that Ryan Dempster has moved on…..but that he likes him as a third lefty in the bullpen(behind Breslow and Miller) especially against the AL East….

–Larry Lucchino took some shots at the Yankees again….called them a “different animal” than the Sox for signing all these free agents to long term deals the past two years…….

–Larry also said there was a “conversation” with David about a contract extension on Thursday…….and he was thrilled with Jon Lester’s hometown discount and wanting to finish his career in Boston type of comments this past off-season and that the two sides would get together sometime this spring to begin negotiations on a long term deal…..

1:40 p.m.:

Dan Roche called in to chat with Andy Gresh and Scott Zolak, and from what he’s seen thus far it’s startling to notice the difference in progression between the pitchers and the hitters.

At this point, the batters are “way behind” and will take some time adjusting to the high velocity. When David Ortiz was in the batting box today he didn’t even take any swings. Rather, he wanted to track the pitches and train his eyes this early in the season.

Mike Napoli and Mike Carp both struggled at the plate, further proving Roche’s point.

Listen to Roche on Gresh & Zo:

8:40 a.m. Rochie was asked about John Lackey’s complete transformation on Friday’s Toucher & Rich Show.

Here’s what he said:

I think what we found out about John Lackey was how hurt he was. When he first signed with the Red Sox, it was an offseason where they felt like they had to sign somebody, they had to spend payroll, and they out of nowhere gave this guy a five-year, $82.5 million contract with a clause that basically said if his arm breaks down or if it falls off, he can give them a season later for the major league minimum. So the Red Sox knew going in what was going on.

And then he had that kind of transformation. The one thing that’s impressed me that I think comes through is that he jokes around about having a couple of cold ones after winning the World Series, but when someone asked him, “You pitched 215 or so innings last year, did it surprise you?” and he kind of almost got snippy and he said, “No, not at all. I busted my [butt]. So I felt like I could give that.”

He’s a fierce competitor. That’s the one thing that comes across when you sit down and talk to him and watch his actions, especially around his teammates. I was watching them do some rapid-fire fun drills where they use soft baseballs and it’s almost like you have to be a goalie on the mound. He was getting into it and the pitchers were all going back and forth, and I think there was some wagering going on between Lackey, Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz and Jake Peavy.

So he’s a fierce competitor and that’s kind of shining through and I think it’s helped him transform himself. Even though he said he didn’t really pay attention to it, it had to make him feel good to get back to where he is right now.

Listen to Roche on Toucher & Rich:

Pictures from Friday’s practice:

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