Red Sox notebook

Nothing floats past Bard

Catcher handles rusty Wakefield

Josh Bard keeps this Tim Wakefield knuckleball in front of him in the Sox' 5-2 loss to the Twins. Josh Bard keeps this Tim Wakefield knuckleball in front of him in the Sox' 5-2 loss to the Twins. (Jim Davis/Globe Staff)
By Amalie Benjamin
Globe Staff / February 26, 2009
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FORT MYERS, Fla. - It might have been his first tryout, at least in this incarnation, but Josh Bard showed off his knuckleball-catching skills last night.

He didn't allow a passed ball in two innings working with Tim Wakefield, who threw 42 pitches.

Although that part of a split-squad game against the Twins went well, Wakefield didn't match the perfection with his pitches.

No matter. It was only the first start of a spring training game. And Wakefield, 15 spring trainings into his career, knows what he needs to do in these early outings.

"I'd like to have better results, but I felt fine," he said. "The shoulder felt fine. Just need to work the rust off a little bit. It was the first time facing hitters. Just need to work on a few things."

Wakefield said he had no problems out of the windup, though he felt "a little rusty" out of the stretch, and got fatigued in the second inning. He certainly got work out of the stretch, allowing five hits and two walks, resulting in three runs (two earned) in a 5-2 loss to the Twins. He will pitch again Sunday against the Twins, following Josh Beckett for two more innings.

"I threw good knuckleballs," Wakefield said. "It's just my mechanics are a little off. They're not in the strike zone. Out of the windup they were fine. My timing's a little off. So it's just a matter of more repetition and getting in game situations again."

And as for that new partner behind the plate, Wakefield simply said, "I thought he did a great job."

Matsuzaka watch
With Daisuke Matsuzaka trying to get ready for the regular season and the World Baseball Classic in Japan, the Red Sox are keeping a close watch on their prized arm. There have been phone calls and e-mails, especially after Matsuzaka's recent outing in an exhibition game against Australia.

Matsuzaka threw 1 2/3 innings, giving up two runs on five hits with no walks and three strikeouts in Japan's victory. He threw 38 pitches, just below the ceiling the Sox imposed. He is scheduled to throw again Saturday.

"It is [strange]," manager Terry Francona said of having a starter spend spring training in Japan. "But when you think about it, it makes sense. You'd certainly rather have your team here, not there. But I don't know if that made a lot of sense, to ask him to [not participate]. We've been getting good updates. We're OK. The mound is the same distance away there as it is here."

Lopez in WBC
Lefthanded reliever Javier Lopez will join the Puerto Rico team for the WBC, becoming the second Sox pitcher on a WBC roster. The Sox aren't keen on having their pitchers participate based on the potential for arm trouble after getting game-ready too quickly (as happened with Mike Timlin in the inaugural WBC in 2006). Francona made sure to call Puerto Rico manager Jose Oquendo, "just to plead for leniency," he said. "Because he's a specialty [pitcher], he's a guy that a manager would want to get up [a lot]. Early in the season, he's not ready to do that - back-to-back days, things like that. But Jose was so good. About 10 seconds into the phone call, I was just asking him how he was doing because it was very obvious he had a respect for what's going on." Lopez said former Sox utility infielder Alex Cora, who played in the last WBC, had a lot to do with his participation. "You always need pitching at this point in the season, especially when these tournaments come about," Lopez said. "The more arms you can get, the better. [Cora] just thought it would be a good time, a good experience to do it. So I'm going to try it out." . . . Outfielder Rocco Baldelli got the start in left field yesterday against Boston College and played five innings. "The understanding I have with Rocco is that short-burst, sprinting, those types of things he is more than adequate," Francona said. "His body can handle that. The long-term things - he wouldn't be a very good marathoner. As his muscles fatigue, they're going to shut down, obviously he's not going to be as potent. But in those short bursts, he's actually built for that." Baldelli is scheduled to be the designated hitter tomorrow against his former team, the Rays . . . Rule 5 pick Miguel Gonzalez had an arthrogram on his elbow Monday and is being evaluated by doctors.

Bag job
Reliever Wes Littleton hasn't quite made the switch to the Red Sox. He had a blue Texas Rangers bag in his locker yesterday . . . Francona said he expected every pitcher in camp, with the exceptions of Brad Penny and Jonathan Papelbon, will have pitched in a game by the conclusion of Saturday's doubleheader . . . Jed Lowrie had an RBI triple in the sixth inning against the Twins . . . Junichi Tazawa retired BC on four pitches in his one inning of work . . . The highlight - or lowlight - of the BC game came in the fifth inning, when the Sox inserted major league staff member Ino Guerrero as a pinch hitter for David Ortiz. Guerrero came to the Sox as a "Friend of Manny" and has stayed on in the post-Manny era. In form true to Manny Ramírez, he flipped his bat after working a walk. "I liked the way he got the walk and acted like he hit a home run to clinch the World Series," Francona said jokingly. "He may get another chance against Northeastern."

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