FORT MYERS, Fla. (AP) -- Red Sox prospect Kason Gabbard pitched three shutout innings in his third start of spring training.
"I thought it's the best arm speed he displayed yet," manager Terry Francona said after the Boston Red Sox lost to the Pittsburgh Pirates 3-2 Wednesday. "He's getting better. I was really impressed."Gabbard had a 3.51 ERA in seven games for the Red Sox last season, when the rotation was rocked by injuries. Barring injuries, there's little chance of that happening out of spring training since the Red Sox rotation is set with Curt Schilling, Josh Beckett, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Jonathan Papelbon and Tim Wakefield."My confidence is through the roof right now," Gabbard said. "I know I can pitch up here and I just need to work on some little things to obviously stay up here."He allowed one hit and struck out three."Obviously when you take the ball you go out there and try to do the best you can and work off that," Gabbard said. "You can't really worry about too much stuff that happens with the ballclub because there's a lot of veteran guys in here and it's tough making this club."Pirates starter Zach Duke gave up four hits, including a two-run homer to Mike Lowell in the fourth."It was supposed to be a sinker down but it stayed up, and sinkers that stay up get hit hard," Duke said.Ian Snell, one of the Pirates top two starters, entered in the sixth and pitched three hitless innings, striking out four and walking one."They have an air of confidence about them," Pittsburgh manager Jim Tracy said of Duke and Snell. "They know who they are, they know what their pitches are all about, even when they're behind in count. They're throwing the ball great."Neil Walker hit a tiebreaking homer in the seventh against J.C. Romero.
Besides Lowell's homer, Boston managed just three singles: by Manny Ramirez, J.D. Drew and Dustin Pedroia. But Pedroia struck out against Josh Sharpless with a runner on third and two outs in the ninth. ... Bautista and Walker each went 2-for-2. Walker has reached base seven times in his last nine trips to the plate.