MONTREAL – Steven Wright pitched 5⅔ innings, allowing just two runs in yet another strong spring training outing against the Toronto Blue Jays at Olympic Stadium on Friday night. The Red Sox pulled out a 4-2 win on Ryan LaMarrer’s two-run double to deep center in the 10th.
Wright, who struck out eight, will be the Red Sox’ No. 5 starter and is expected to face the Blue Jays in Toronto next weekend, though manager John Farrell would not confirm the decision.
Both of the runs Wright allowed came on solo homers. Kevin Pillar led off the game with one and Michael Saunders hit his fourth of the spring in the second inning.
“It was a knuckleball that stayed up,” said Wright of Pillar’s blast. “He crushed it. I started to focus on establishing the knuckleball. Got some mishits. Threw a couple of curves, which is another pitch I can utilize to get back into the count. It’s not a strikeout pitch but I can pick and choose when I throw it.”
Wright, who has allowed six earned runs in his last five outings, thought it was great to practice throwing in front of a big crowd.
“It’s great because it’s exciting to be in front of the cameras and lights and crowds,” said Wright, who will be available out of the bullpen prior to his first start.
Farrell said this weekend’s two games would be “the next step” in getting ready for the season, playing in front of 52,688 fans, five times more than the normal spring training game.
Red Sox rightfielder Mookie Betts led the Sox attack with three hits and an RBI out of the leadoff spot. Travis Shaw, whose father, Jeff, played for the 1995 Expos, continued his offensive struggles (0 for 4 with a walk), while Pablo Sandoval struck out in his one plate appearance.
The Red Sox had some defensive “saves” in the late innings. In the seventh, lefty Robbie Ross struck out Darwin Barney with runners at second and third to escape a jam and keep the score 2-2. Sox catcher Sandy Leon erased two base runners trying to steal in the ninth (one at second and one at third) to send the game into extra innings.
Pedro pitches city
Pedro Martinez made a passionate plea on Friday to give Montreal a second chance as a major league franchise. “It’s a baseball city,” said the Hall of Fame pitcher.
Martinez was traded from the Dodgers to the Expos for Delino DeShields on Nov. 19, 1993, and then dealt to the Red Sox on Nov. 18, 1997.
Both deals were orchestrated by Dan Duquette, who was general manager of the Expos and then GM of the Red Sox.
“I wanted to point out that Montreal is a great baseball city,” Martinez said.
“When I was introduced to Montreal this was the kind of atmosphere [more than 50,000 fans] that I was introduced to . . . And they robbed their team. I’m very excited to see this. I know what it’s all about. I know Montreal and I know Montreal is a baseball city,” Martinez said.
Martinez was part of the pregame festivities that included former teammate Vladimir Guerrero and Hall of Fame candidate Tim Raines.
He heard the cheers of more than 50,000 fans. “It was the moment I was waiting for since 1997,” he said.
“I was the only Cy Young winner in Expos history and not being able to share it with fans and team and people here, was sad for me. But this time around, when everything is over and I’m in the Hall of Fame, this is paying back the fans for what they did. Montreal is a team that built me and made me what I was.”
Martinez added, “The way I feel about Montreal is special and very unique. Montreal was the team that built me to become what I was. Every building you build you have support from the bottom right? When I was weak I felt stronger when I had Montreal behind me.”
He said he would love to be involved in some way in making a new team happen.
“I would love to . . . anything and any way I can help. I’d do whatever. I don’t know how much I can do but whatever I can I will do it,” Martinez said.
It was also a homecoming for Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski, who spent four seasons (1988-91) as the general manager of the Montreal Expos. Over the past couple of weeks, Gary Hughes has documented that during his six-year tenure as scouting director, the Expos developed 65 players that made it to the big leagues.
Dombrowski repeated that Friday afternoon.
He spoke fondly about the 1989 Expos, who had a one-game lead on Aug. 4 at 63-46, but finished fourth (81-81).
It was bittersweet for Dombrowski, who counted 1989 as his biggest disappointment. Yet he was told by friend Jim Leyland, who was at the helm of the Pirates that season, that the ’89 Expos were the best team in the league that year.
That was a small consolation to Dombrowski, who had traded for lefthander Mark Langston before the season started. That was a big deal because Montreal was used to losing talent and here comes Dombrowski acquiring a proven major league pitcher. But it didn’t work out.
Dombrowski said he went for a run around the area he used to live in. And he spoke about how he became a Montreal Canadiens fan while he was here.
“I really remember the good players and a good organization,” Dombrowski said. “The toughest part is when we folded in ’89 because I thought we had the best team.”