FORT MYERS, Fla. — Matt Barnes glanced at the daily schedule posted in the Red Sox clubhouse to see what time he would be throwing live batting practice.
When his eyes moved to the right, the 23-year-old righthander saw that he would be facing David Ortiz and Mike Carp.
“That gets your attention, facing a guy like David. It puts things in perspective because I grew up watching him,” Barnes said Sunday. “Obviously everybody knows who he is and what he has done. But you still have to compete and go out there.”
Barnes, a native of Bethel, Conn., rooted for the Yankees as a kid and remembers being disappointed when Ortiz delivered so many big hits against New York in the 2004 American League Championship Series. Now there he was, standing at the plate with mirrored sunglasses on, menacingly swinging a bat back and forth.
“You can’t get nervous. If I’m going to succeed in the majors, I know I’m going to face great hitters,” Barnes said. “I took it as a challenge.”
Barnes had a little trouble throwing strikes, but the pitches he got over the plate produced some poor swings by Ortiz.
“Guy is tough,” Ortiz said when he left the cage.
The Red Sox are counting on that. Barnes was the 19th overall pick of the 2011 draft out of the University of Connecticut and signed for a $1.5 million bonus. He has a 3.48 earned run average in 50 minor league starts and ended last season with Triple A Pawtucket.
Barnes has struck out 275 in 233 minor league innings. He has one of the best fastballs in the system, but needs work on his secondary pitches. This is his first year in major league spring training.
Barnes was excited to be able to face Ortiz, but said the best part of the day was throwing to veteran catcher David Ross.
“Great feedback from Rossy, that was helpful to me,” he said. “He has so much experience and knows the game so well. Those kind of moments are valuable for me.”
Until Sunday, Barnes said the toughest hitter he faced was Shelley Duncan, a power hitter with major league experience who spent time last season in Triple A.
“Nobody like David,” Barnes said. “But it was fun. I want to do it again.”
Pierzynski settles in
Manager John Farrell is pleased with how new catcher A.J. Pierzynski is learning the pitching staff.
“That’s happening through the daily work schedule, watching guys in batting practice and the conversations that lead up to those work sessions,” Farrell said.
Farrell said the conversations are just as important as actually catching. The schedule calls for Pierzynski to catch each starter two or three times in spring training.
The Red Sox have no plans to make up particular pitchers with Pierzynski or Ross.
“There’s no intention of that right now. We’re confident in both guys and every pitcher that walks to the mound to have confidence in the guy behind the plate,” Farrell said. “Our game distribution [for catchers] is going dependent upon a number of factors, not just who the starting pitcher for us is on a given night.”
The Sox will start Brandon Workman Thursday against Northeastern. He and Henry Owens each will get two innings before Noe Ramirez and Burke Badenhop come in.
In the second half of a doubleheader, Rubby De La Rosa and Barnes will go two innings against Boston College with Miguel Celestino, Tommy Layne, and Alex Wilson following.
Anthony Ranaudo, Dalier Hinojosa, Francisco Cordero, and Andrew Miller will pitch the Grapefruit League opener against the Twins Friday. On Saturday, Allen Webster, Drake Britton, Brayan Villarreal, and Jose Mijares will face the Twins 6 miles down the road at Hammond Stadium.
Capuano jumps in
Chris Capuano was not scheduled to throw live batting practice, but he took a turn after telling the Red Sox he had thrown off a mound eight times before he was signed Friday and was ready. “He felt like he wanted to jump right in and wanted to see hitters,” Farrell said. “He keeps himself in great shape.” . . . Will Middlebrooks played four innings at second base last season and started one game at first, but Farrell said he would be working only at third base in spring training . . . A comedian from Japan, Hironari Yamazaki, attended the workout in his own uniform and was on the field while the players stretched. “He can’t be any funnier than Koji [Uehara],” said one Red Sox player.