PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. — John Andreoli was born in Worcester, played at St. John’s High in Shrewsbury, and grew up rooting for the Red Sox. But none of that played into his decision to sign with them.
“It was more of the opportunity,” said Andreoli, who started in left field Monday in a split-squad game against the Tampa Bay Rays. “When you’re a free agent, you’re looking for the best chance.”
The Red Sox have Andrew Benintendi, Jackie Bradley Jr., Kevin Pillar, and Alex Verdugo in their outfield mix. But there’s not much depth in Triple A.
Rusney Castillo is a nonfactor because his addition to the roster would trigger a $10.04 million hit to the payroll as calculated for the competitive balance tax.
Jarren Duran and Marcus Wilson are solid prospects, but could return to Double A Portland to start the season.
So Andreoli, 29, could prove helpful if a need arises, especially given his 26 games of major league experience with the Mariners and Orioles in 2018. That led to the Sox signing him to a minor league contract in December.
“Once you get in professional baseball, being a fan goes away,” Andreoli said. “It’s a job and you look for a place with the right fit. It made sense for me when they called.
“When you’ve been in Triple A and been up and down, your goal is to be in the conversation when they need somebody.”
The Red Sox are Andreoli’s fifth organization since the Cubs drafted him out of the University of Connecticut in 2011. His teammates at UConn included now-established big leaguers Matt Barnes, Nick Ahmed, George Springer, and Scott Oberg.
“It’s been a treat seeing what those guys have done,” said Andreoli, who roomed with Ahmed in college. “We had some special teams. They did a good job of recruiting two-sport athletes who were really competitive.”
In Andreoli’s case, he was an option quarterback and safety in high school who led his team to two state titles while playing for his father.
John Andreoli Sr., a former Patriots player, has been St. John’s football coach since 2004. Andreoli helped coach the offense under his father for a few years as he pursued his baseball career.
True to his football roots, Andreoli has good speed and can play all three spots in the outfield. He also has 259 stolen bases over nine seasons in the minors.
Rodriguez is sharp
In Fort Myers, Eduardo Rodriguez looked fully healthy during two innings of live batting practice against teammates Rafael Devers and Xander Bogaerts.
Rodriguez’s scheduled Grapefruit League start Sunday was pushed back after he twisted his left knee last week.
His knee wasn’t an issue as Rodriguez showed his full mix — four-seam fastballs, sinkers, cutters, and changeups — during a reassuring session.
“I just know I was feeling really good,” Rodriguez said. “Everything was there; everything was great. All pitches, everything was right there.
“I surprised myself with the command. Body-wise, I was feeling good and was ready to go out there today. Body-wise, command, pitches, everything was there and I was feeling good.”
Bogaerts, who has been slowed by a sore left ankle, mostly just tracked pitches from his teammate. But Devers took several healthy hacks — and repeatedly swung and missed, leaving the third baseman alternately shaking his head, cursing, and laughing.
“It was fun for me,” Rodriguez said. “I don’t know if it was fun for him. He was mad at me a little bit.”
Rodriguez is lined up to start Saturday against the Yankees.
Manager Ron Roenicke said Devers would make his spring debut before Bogaerts.
“It’s nice to get [Bogaerts] out on the field, see him running around,” Roenicke said. “It’s weird when you get familiar with a team then all of a sudden you have a couple faces missing. It just doesn’t seem right. It will be nice to see those guys all together again.”
Andrew Benintendi was 5 for 42 (.119) with one extra-base hit leading off the first inning last season. He’s 2 for 2 in spring training, including a homer against the Twins Monday.
“That was just during a period where I wasn’t playing well,” said Benintendi, who led off for two months before Mookie Betts was switched back. “At that point, I don’t think it mattered where I hit. I just wasn’t going well.
“I can see why it’s being talked about if I hit leadoff, but I think that was more of a fluke than anything.”
Roenicke has said he wants to get a good look at Benintendi leading off.
The Sox met with Chris Sale and decided his next step would be another bullpen session rather than facing hitters . . . Minnesota lefthander Rich Hill, who is recovering from elbow surgery, spent some time on the radio with Joe Castiglione during the Sox-Twins game in Fort Myers . . . Austin Meadows was in the Tampa Bay lineup to play left field. But he and teammate Brandon Lowe left the park in a hurry before the game when a brush fire threatened the neighborhood where they are renting a home. The players and their wives had to evacuate the area before the fire was put out . . . The Red Sox will have their annual meeting with Players Association executive director Tony Clark and other union representatives Tuesday before playing the Orioles at home.