FORT MYERS, Fla. — It’s early in spring training and players are still getting their feet under them. Position players are getting their first real taste of live pitching again, while pitchers are still going through their throwing progression.
But Bobby Dalbec has hit the ground running.
Dalbec has swung the bat well. His swing appears as if it’s more compact, displaying a cleaner path to the baseball. He’s driving the ball on a line, and the power that eluded him last year is clearly there. Dalbec has been locked in during his live batting practice sessions. He homered last weekend during a session and hit at least two more — both tape-measure shots — in Tuesday’s live batting practice.
“I feel good,” Dalbec said. “It doesn’t feel like I’m just going up there to try and do damage. I‘m just trying to stay inside of the ball. This offseason, I worked really hard with my starting points and my effort levels and got back to where I was a couple of years ago with my swing and body. Now, I can do the things that I’ve been trying to do in the games. The last couple of years I haven’t been able to do that.”
Dalbec, 27, knows this is a different spring for him. Triston Casas will open the season as the Red Sox’ first baseman with Justin Turner serving as backup.
A trip to Worcester to start the season is certainly a possibility for Dalbec, who finished last season batting .215 with 12 homers and 118 strikeouts in just 353 plate appearances.
Dalbec talks a ton about timing. When his timing is off, he’s off. When timing is on, he’s on. Dalbec, who made the majors in 2020, understands that knowing the tendencies of his opponents and how they want to attack him is a bonus.
“I know what to do in these situations. I know how to slow myself down. I know when I am in between pitches, what works for me,” he said. “The last two years I felt like I was in the cage when I was in the batter’s box. That’s not a good headspace to be in.”
You should never make much from spring training. That’s a rookie mistake. But Dalbec sure is making an impression at the start of camp.
Mata making an impression
The Red Sox still have big expectations for pitching prospect Bryan Mata. The 23-year-old righthander, who underwent Tommy John surgery in 2021, is now at big league camp.
“We’re very pleased with where he’s at in his development,” Sox manager Alex Cora said. “His stuff is legit . . . The ability is there. At one point, he’s going to be part of this and he’s going to help us to win a few games. He’s in a good spot right now”
Mata returned last season, pitching for four minor league teams. In 83 innings, he compiled a 2.49 ERA, striking out 105 batters.
His stuff is indeed legit, but Mata needs to show improvement in his strike throwing in order to remain a starter. Mata walked five batters per nine innings last year.
“I think that’s the most important thing,” Cora added. “If we can throw more strikes, and with two strikes put people away right away, he’s going to be good.”
So far so good for Sale
Chris Sale came out of his up-and-down session unscathed. Sale will throw a live batting practice Saturday … Brayan Bello (forearm soreness) played catch up to 75 feet. The Red Sox will see how he responds Wednesday before deciding what’s next for the righthander . . . Garrett Whitlock (hip) is throwing bullpen sessions, but the team is bringing him along slowly after he underwent hip surgery in the offseason . . . Lefthander Oddanier Mosqueda will start Friday against Northeastern, Josh Winckowski will start Sunday at home against the Rays, followed by Kutter Crawford Monday vs. the Twins at home. Saturday is still to be determined . . . Corey Kluber will make his Red Sox Grapefruit League debut in next Tuesday’s away contest against the Marlins . . . The Sox added catcher Elih Marrero, 25, to the team’s spring training roster as a non-roster invitee.