Red Sox notebook

Lackey just a little lacking

Rays touch him for two homers

Red Sox DH David Ortiz is embraced before last night’s game by ex-teammate Manny Ramirez, now a member of the Rays. Red Sox DH David Ortiz is embraced before last night’s game by ex-teammate Manny Ramirez, now a member of the Rays. (Charles Krupa/Associated Press)
By Nick Cafardo
Globe Staff / March 23, 2011

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FORT MYERS, Fla. — John Lackey, in his final extended outing of spring training, gave up two home runs to put the Red Sox in a quick 3-0 bind against the Rays last night, and Tampa prevailed, 7-4, to drop the Sox to 12-15 on the spring.

Lackey, who will have one more short outing before he pitches Game 2 of the season in Texas, gave up homers to Dan Johnson and Jose Lobaton in his fifth start of the spring.

“I felt good physically, I’m happy with the way my arm felt,’’ Lackey said. “Stuffwise, I feel like I’m ready to go. I would have liked to have gotten up and down seven times. Seven times would have been nice, but it didn’t quite get there.’’

Lackey had gone 2-1 with a 1.72 ERA in his first four outings. But the righthander did not look as solid last night, lasting 5 1/3 innings and allowing five runs and six hits.

Lackey, who threw 96 pitches (57 strikes), had said his early success was due to feeling completely healthy in spring training for the first time in three years.

He retired the first three hitters he faced but walked Manny Ramirez to lead off the second inning and paid for it when Johnson launched his fourth homer of the spring over the right-field bleachers.

In the third, Lobaton crushed a fastball well over the bleachers in right, on another pitch Lackey left over the plate.

“The first one, he got enough to get it out of here,’’ Lackey said. “Second one was a young kid who was looking for a fastball. It was different because it was the first night game I’ve pitched. A different feel. More like a regular game.’’

Lackey also allowed a run in the fifth. He surrendered a leadoff single to Reid Brignac, who advanced to second on a bunt by Sean Rodriguez. After Lobaton was hit by a pitch, Ben Zobrist smacked a ground-rule double to center.

Lackey is scheduled to pitch again Monday.

“I’d like to execute pitches and feel good,’’ he said. “I’m happy where my changeup is right now. Don’t think it’s ever been this good this early.’’

Rays ace David Price dominated the Sox. Price struck out Adrian Gonzalez in the sixth after getting him to ground out. Other lefties against the nasty Price: David Ortiz 0 for 3, Carl Crawford 0 for 2 with a strikeout and a walk, and Jacoby Ellsbury 0 for 3.

Spot check Terry Francona, pitching coach Curt Young, and general manager Theo Epstein were due to meet after last night’s game to plan out innings for relievers over the next few days. Asked whether he was any closer to deciding about the final two bullpen spots, Francona said, “No.’’ Lefthander Dennys Reyes seems to be a front-runner and he has a Friday out in his contract. “He has late sink, good sink, late breaking ball,’’ said Francona. “He’s pitched four or five times. Those are decisions that are hard to make. He does have a good track record.’’ The lefty spot appears to be between Reyes, Hideki Okajima (who has options), and possibly Rich Hill, who has performed well with his new sidearm delivery. The righty spot could come down to Matt Albers (out of options) and Alfredo Aceves, who can be sent down. There’s been much speculation about the status of Tim Wakefield, but it would be surprising to see any move with him . . . Francona said Darnell McDonald, who jammed a thumb in Monday’s game, was fine but was held out a day.

See you later Ramirez, who started in left field last night, wouldn’t talk to reporters about coming back to Fort Myers. After taping an ad for a Dominican company, he saw the approaching Boston media and made sure to do his avoidance act before heading out to the field . . . Tampa Bay senior adviser Don Zimmer was in uniform for the Rays before the game. When asked about Crawford, Zimmer said, “Nobody plays left field better than Crawford. Nobody. Nobody.’’ . . . Rays players were joking around with Dan Wheeler before the game about how much weight he’s lost. Wheeler hasn’t said how much, but Rays officials estimate he’s lost 20-25 pounds. The Rhode Island native wanted to make a good impression with his new team and so far he’s been a big hit . . . Former Rays and Sox outfielder Rocco Baldelli, now a special assistant to the general manager with the Rays, has been evaluating Tampa Bay’s young talent.

New Ventures New England Sports Ventures has changed its name to Fenway Sports Group. Its portfolio of companies includes the Red Sox, Liverpool FC, Fenway Sports Management, 80 percent of NESN, 50 percent of Roush Fenway Racing, Boston College Athletics, and the Deutsche Bank Championship . . . Jason Varitek made a very good throw to second base to nail Matt Joyce, who was trying to steal with Ramirez at the plate. Varitek has commented on how limber he feels and how well he’s been throwing . . . J.D. Drew has been sick for a few days and left the game in the fifth inning . . . While Gonzalez plays in a minor league game today, the rest of the team will enjoy a day off . . . Bobby Jenks threw back-to-back for the first time and worked a solid inning. “His stuff has been sharp all spring,’’ Francona said.

Nick Cafardo can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @nickcafardo.

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