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Spring things: Notes and observations

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Let's go around the horn with some notes and observations from the last few days of Red Sox spring training.

Will the real Matt Clement please stand up?
For the second straight outing yesterday, Matt Clement made B.H. Kim look like Roger Clemens for the first 20 or so pitches. In each start, Clement settled down nicely after stumbling out of the gate.

Against the Twins yesterday, Clement couldn't retire any of the first three batters of the game. After giving up a long 0-2 home run to light-hitting leadoff hitter Luis Rivas (he averages less than 10 dingers a season), Clement gave up a long foul ball to Armando Rios on the fourth pitch of the game and the fans started grumbling. Clement then allowed Rios and the next batter, Lew Ford, to reach base to get himself in a second-and-third jam with no one out. He quickly recovered, however, retiring the next three in order to escape with only a 1-0 deficit. Clement pitched two perfect innings after the rocky first to complete his day's work.

It was a similar story in Boston's first spring training outing last Thursday, also against the Twins. Clement had control problems in the first, and after giving up a hit one old-timer behind me remarked, "I'm not impressed with him yet," after the Twins jumped out to a 1-0 lead.

In fact, mark it down that Clement was the man responsible for the first boos directed at the Red Sox since they won the World Series. It came at 7:10 p.m., exactly five minutes into the champs' spring campaign. But Clement again settled down after a loud beginning, pitching a quiet second inning.

He may not make anyone forget Pedro Martinez, but he is making us remember Martinez' shaky first-inning outings that were commonplace in 2004. It's not Matt's makeup you have to worry about; the trick seems to be getting him ready for the first pitch of the game.

'Mr. Concrete Feet'
On opening night, Kevin Youkilis smashed an early base hit to the outfield with Kevin Millar on second, but Millar failed to score. The baserunning boo-boo prompted one fan to remark, "only one run came in because Millar was running -- Mr. Concrete Feet."

Yesterday, Millar failed reach third from first after a long single to the right-center gap by Youkilis. I'm all for Millar's added muscle and power, but at this rate our quintessential first base-DH-type is going to be the poster boy for station-to-station baseball in 2005.

Welcome, Matt
Matt Mantei threw nothing but gas yesterday in his one inning of work. All you could hear was the "pop, pop, pop" of the catcher's glove while he was on the mound. He gave up one hard hit, but his velocity was impressive, especially in striking out yesterday's hot Twin hitter, Juan Castro.   Continued...

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