JUPITER, Fla. — Red Sox manager John Farrell has made it very clear that he’s not happy with the overall performance of his pitchers, and on Wednesday the performance of his defense in an 8-6 loss to the Cardinals.
Third baseman Will Middlebrooks was the biggest culprit in the field, making an error in the first inning and then muffing a hard-hit ball that was ruled a hit later in the game. Shortstop Xander Bogaerts looked slow on a couple of balls in the hole between short and third.
“Tough day defensively,” Farrell acknowledged. “We’ve got a lot of work to do. We’re well into the game schedule but we have work to do as a team. It was a tough day for Will defensively, but compounded by [pitchers] being behind on the count. We have to do much better pounding the strike zone than we have.”
Farrell later acknowledged that the Red Sox have been spoiled by having Gold Glove-caliber shortstops recently in Jose Iglesias and Stephen Drew.
Bogaerts, who hit a long two-run homer, said he’s never felt better at shortstop.
“Definitely the best I’ve ever felt at shortstop in my whole minor league career,” he said. “With all the work I’ve put in with [coach Brian Butterfield], I feel amazing at shortstop right now.”
He may be better than he ever was, but in comparison with Drew and Iglesias? The Sox certainly knew that Bogaerts was not either of them, which is why they have contemplated moving him to third. But Middlebrooks, with his 30-plus home run power potential, is there.
Shortstop Deven Marrero and second baseman Heiker Meneses also made errors.
There were some good plays, though. Bryce Brentz made a no-hop throw from deep right field to third base to nail a runner. Christian Vazquez threw out another runner, although he also committed a passed ball.
The Sox were involved in their first instant replay review of spring training when Cardinals manager Mike Matheny challenged whether Meneses was pulled off the second-base bag on a tapper back to the mound in the eighth inning on a double play.
The ruling on the field was that Boston pitcher Noe Ramirez’s throw to Meneses did not pull Meneses off the bag. After Matheny objected, crew chief Jerry Meals reviewed the play in about a minute.
“They ruled that he stayed on the bag for enough time,” Farrell said. “It was all done without much delay.”
Meals said after the game that the delay would have been shorter had it not been for a head-set issue while communicating with the command truck.
Chris Capuano got his first action as a Red Sox and went two innings, allowing two runs on a homer by Xavier Scruggs.
“I thought he made good pitches in fastball counts,” Farrell said. “I think he used his breaking pitches well. The one pitch to Scruggs he pulled a sinker back over the plate. For his first outing he threw quality stuff and pitched.”
“Good to get my feet wet,” said the West Springfield, Mass., native. “I was able to work all of my pitches, got to work out of the stretch, field my position [a 1-6-3 double play], and got to do a little of everything out there.
“Scruggs put a good swing on that one. But I threw all four of my pitches and felt I had pretty good location. Fortunately, I was on a good schedule [at home in] Arizona. My second day after I arrived, I got a live BP in. I feel like I’m on schedule.”
Asked whether it was difficult to build up as a starter and then go back to the bullpen, the lefthander said, “At least in the immediate term building up arm strength takes all of my focus right now. We’ll see where it goes.”
Jon Lester made his first appearance, on Field 1 behind JetBlue Park in Fort Myers, throwing 38 pitches over three innings in a simulated game. He threw in front of a dozen or so fans and teammates Drake Britton, Clay Buchholz, and John Lackey, as well as Carl Yastrzemski and Dwight Evans. General manager Ben Cherington was another interested spectator.
Lester faced Justin Henry, Carlos Rivero, Manuel Margot, Jesus Loya, and Kendrick Perkins.
Lester was held back a turn in spring training after making five starts and throwing 34⅔ innings in the postseason. The simulated game was a way to ease the lefthander into action.
Lester understands why the team is being cautious. But he felt ready to go from the start of camp.
“I don’t like to be put in a bubble like that,” Lester said. “Kind of restricted before anything starts, especially if there’s no physical problems. Might as well go ahead and get after it and get ready for the season. Felt fine. Physically today is just getting through the first one. Get some innings and get ready for some real game action.”
Lester threw his fastball, cutter, and curveball and mixed in two changeups.
“I ended up throwing everything,” he said.
Pitching coach Juan Nieves said Lester would start against Tampa Bay Monday.
“I thought he looked great,” Nieves said. “The ball came out really well. The spin on the breaking ball was very sharp. Bottom line is, as long as they walk off the mound feeling healthy and not grabbing anything, they’re fine.”
Lester said that to his knowledge there is no progress in negotiations on a contract extension with the team. His agents, Seth and Sam Levinson, spoke to team officials earlier in spring training.