Some takeaways from Florida Auto Exchange Stadium, where the Red Sox earned a 4-2 win over the Blue Jays.
* While John Farrell may dismiss facing his former team as “just another game,” fans have a different opinion. During batting practice and team introductions, a large contingent of the Toronto faithful in the crowd of 4,824 booed vociferously. Then, following the game, while Farrell was conducting his media session with reporters just outside the visitors' clubhouse, a fan who was exiting the stadium shouted: “You suck Farrell.”
Farrell didn’t initially acknowledge the man, but toward the end of the interview, the Red Sox skipper jokingly said, “OK, you’ll have to excuse me. I have to go meet up with my friend.”
Before the contest, Farrell had dismissed any notion of animosity over his signing to manage the Red Sox as part of an agreement that saw the Blue Jays trade RHP David Carpenter to Boston in exchange for infielder Mike Aviles.
“Well, if memory serves me correct, I was traded,” Farrell said when asked if he had any regrets leaving a team that made waves in the offseason with major acquisitions, including knuckleballer R.A. Dickey and shortstop Jose Reyes. “These questions were raised during the winter meetings, and I spent quite a bit of time talking about it at that time. To go back, my focus is on what the Red Sox need to do to get ready for this season.”
Farrell said he wanted to make the trip with the split squad of players -- the other half went to Port Charlotte to face the Rays -- so he could see knuckleball righty Steven Wright and the hard-throwing right-hander Allen Webster pitch.
“April will get here when it does,” Farrell said in reference to a rivalry brewing. “We’ve got a lot of work to do right now. I’m certainly not looking too far ahead. How that unfolds -- we’ll see. I fully respect that team. They’ve got a darn good team, and I look forward to competing against them.”
* Farrell used the word “impressive” several times in discussing Webster’s performance against the Blue Jays.
“Impressive arm strength with the ability to put away batters with a deceptive change-up,” Farrell said. “Very impressive. The finishing action on his fastball is as good as advertised. At times, they have a sink. And to have such deception with it, along with an impressive change-up, is very encouraging.”
Webster hit 96 mph consistently, topping out at 98, over two innings in which the 23-year-old right-hander allowed one run on two hits while striking out four, including Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion, J.P. Arencibia and Brett Lawrie.
“Those are definitely the toughest hitters I’ve faced,” said Webster, who is being looked at for a rotation spot.
Webster, who was one of the players acquired in Boston's mega-deal with the Dodgers, allowed just two homers in 130 2/3 innings last year in 29 outings (24 starts) with the Double-A and Triple-A affiliates of Los Angeles. He finished with 129 strikeouts while posting a 3.86 ERA.
“As the spring moves along and if he ends up starting the season in Triple-A, we will determine how things are, needs-wise,” Farrell said. “But his performance is very encouraging.”
* Farrell was also impressed with Wright, who is being considered for a rotation spot as well.
“The thing I liked the most is he didn’t take too long in between pitches to make decisions,” Farrell said. “That’s the sign of a pitcher understanding how to do things on the mound.”
Farrell said he is looking forward to Wright working with Tim Wakefield, who has been hired by the organization to work as a mentor to Wright.
“With every pitch thrown there will be the ability to see his delivery,” Farrell said. “One of the checkpoints Wake used so much was where his head position was in relation to where the ball was being released. I'm sure he'll be able to lock into the basic checkpoints he used. I think they are ones that are pretty common for most, if not all, knuckleballers. It will also give them something to discuss when they get into their side session on Wednesday.”
* Jackie Bradley Jr. continues to turn heads, going 3-for-3 and reaching base five times. The centerfield prospect scored in the first inning after reaching with a single to center, was hit by a pitch in the third, doubled in the fifth, walked in the seventh, and had a run-scoring single in the ninth. In doing so, he raised his on-base percentage to .750.
“He looks impressive at the plate and he also has shown the ability to run down balls in the outfield,” Farrell said.
The 22-year-old, who was drafted in the supplemental first round, batted .359 with a .480 on-base percentage in 67 games at Class-A Salem last year before being promoted. With Double-A Portland, he batted .271 in 61 games.