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Masataka Yoshida makes powerful Red Sox debut with big swings in exhibition opener

Masataka Yoshida took his place in left field at JetBlue Park and went 0 for 1 with a sacrifice fly in his first appearance for the Red Sox.Jim Davis/Globe Staff

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Though it came against a college opponent in Northeastern, Masataka Yoshida experienced his first taste of game action as a member of the Red Sox.

“First of all, I was happy to stay healthy,” Yoshida said via interpreter Friday at JetBlue Park. “And then also I was really excited to play in that atmosphere.”

The atmosphere was different, of course, from Yoshida’s playing days in Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball.

“Everything was in English, including the announcements,” Yoshda said following the Sox’ 5-3 win, adding that most of his communication with his teammates in the field came through gestures. “So that’s a really good opportunity to get to know Major League Baseball.”


Yoshida provided examples of the power he’s displayed the last couple of weeks at Fenway South. Power that hitting coach Pete Fatse graded as 70-raw power on the 20-80 scale. He had a sacrifice fly to deep left field in his first at-bat and then flied out to deep center field in his second.

“He’s going to do that,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said. “He will hit lefties, too. He will stay on pitches and he will hit the ball in the air. So two at-bats against guys he didn’t know. I’m happy [the team] was able to play the way they did.”

Yoshida played clean ball in left field, too, and believes he can be a solid defender despite grading as below average, according to scouting reports.

“I think today’s game I played well,” Yoshida said. “I just want to keep doing the same thing.”

Yoshida showed up early to camp because of his commitment to Japan for the World Baseball Classic. The early arrival was not an obligation, but it was appreciated by Cora and his staff.

“I think he’s done an amazing job with [adjusting to the United States] and obviously he’s going to keep learning,” Cora said. “There are going to be situations that are different, traveling is somewhat different than Japan. We know that he’s a good player. He’s a guy that we can trust.”


WBC plans laid out

Yoshida will play in Grapefruit League matchups Sunday and Monday before departing for the World Baseball Classic. The remaining Sox players committed to the WBC will play Sunday to Tuesday, then will have an off day Wednesday followed by three games in a row before joining their respective countries.

Rio Gomez, who will pitch for Colombia in the World Baseball Classic, threw a scoreless sixth inning for the Red Sox against Northeastern. Matthew J Lee/Globe staff

Minor league lefthander Rio Gomez, the son of late baseball reporter Pedro Gomez who will represent Colombia at the WBC, pitched a scoreless inning for the Red Sox against Northeastern. Gomez pitched for Double A Portland in 2022.

“It was great to see him out there,” Cora said. “Me and his dad had a great relationship. He did a good job.”

Sale’s next step

Chris Sale will face hitters in a live batting practice for one inning Saturday. He will then progress to two innings in a live BP next Thursday. If all goes well, assuming the Red Sox have Sale on a five-day routine, the lefthander will pitch in a game March 7 against the Braves at North Port … Rob Refsnyder, Christian Arroyo, and Bobby Dalbec will play in Saturday’s away contest against the Braves … The Sox signed 31-year-old first baseman/outfielder Daniel Palka to a minor-league contract and added him to the camp roster. The lefthanded hitter played 154 games for the White Sox from 2018-19, hitting .218 with 29 home runs. He spent last season in Triple A with the Mets.


Julian McWilliams can be reached at Follow him @byJulianMack.