Red Sox notebook

Cook’s prospects should rise as his pitches sink

By Nick Cafardo and Peter Abraham
Globe Staff / March 18, 2012
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SARASOTA, Fla. - Aaron Cook may not make the Red Sox’ Opening Day roster, but the 33-year-old sinkerballer is making a strong bid to join the rotation at some point.

Cook threw 3 1/3 scoreless innings against the Orioles in a split-squad game Saturday, allowing one hit. The game finished 3-3 after 10 innings.

In two starts, both against Baltimore, Cook has thrown 5 1/3 innings without giving up a run. Of the 16 outs, eight have come on ground balls.

“That’s me,’’ he said. “I’m pitching to contact. I’m trying to get guys out of the box as quickly as possible and get our offense back on the field.

“I like to work quick and pitch to contact so I accomplished everything I wanted to accomplish.’’

Cook did not make his first start until March 11, as the trainers were concerned with the health of his shoulder. He threw 39 pitches Saturday and may not have the time to build up the endurance to open the season as a starter.

“I’m going have to see how it plays out,’’ said Cook, who feels better physically now than he did at any time last season and most of 2010. “We have 2 1/2 weeks, and that’s a long time. A lot can happen.

“I’m just going to keep taking the ball and see what happens.’’

Cook can opt out of his minor league contract May 1, which could prompt the Sox to give him a chance early in the season.

Sensible shift

When the Red Sox shifted their infield defense Friday night against the Twins, Kevin Youkilis moved from third base to where the second baseman would normally be.

Most teams have the infielders simply shift over one spot, putting the third baseman at what amounts to shortstop and having the shortstop closer to second base.

“In our case in particular, if Youk’s on the dirt, it’s a very similar ground ball that he caught at first base,’’ said manager Bobby Valentine. “He’s not around second base to turn a double play. My shortstop’s in a position that he covers the most ground on pop-ups. The DP combination is the DP combination that works together all year.

“Just for all the reasons. I don’t see any disadvantage to it.’’

So why do teams do it differently?

“You kind of saw the body language of Youk yesterday,’’ said Valentine. “That’s why you don’t do it. You’ve got to run all the way over there and all the way back. So some managers will say, ‘Jeez, I guess he doesn’t like to do that.’ ’’

Minor duty

Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Jose Iglesias did not play in either game. They stayed in Fort Myers to rest injuries and get at-bats in minor league games. Saltalamacchia was 2 for 5 with a double and a walk for Single A Salem and Greenville. Iglesias was 1 for 5 for Greenville. Saltalamacchia, who has bursitis in his left hip, is tentatively scheduled to start against the Rays in Port Charlotte Sunday. “I haven’t seen bursitis in a long time,’’ said Valentine. “I think my mom had it the last time I heard about it.’’ Said Saltalamacchia, “I could have been playing. But it was better to take care of it now. I’m fine.’’ Iglesias hasn’t played since March 10 because of a groin strain and will sit at least another day . . . Carl Crawford (left wrist) took 15 more swings at balls on a tee. The final five cuts were “aggressive,’’ according to Valentine.

Facing his hero

The Orioles started shortstop Manny Machado, the third overall pick of the 2010 draft, in the game in Fort Myers. A Miami native, Machado rooted for the Marlins as an 11-year-old in 2003 when Josh Beckett led them to the World Series. “I’m pretty excited for that,’’ Machado said before the game. “I have seen him since I was a little kid.’’ Machado faced Beckett once and grounded to shortstop.

Bats are working

The Red Sox had 10 hits against the Orioles in a 7-2 victory at JetBlue Park. Lars Anderson, 9 for 21 this spring, had a two-run double and Cody Ross a solo homer . . . Ryan Lavarnway was 3 for 3 in the game at Sarasota and is 8 for 17. Nate Spears had a three-run homer. The Sox took a 3-2 lead into the ninth before Doug Mathis allowed a run . . . The Red Sox rented out the Bass Pro Shop in Fort Myers for a team outing after today’s game against the Rays in Port Charlotte. There will be a team dinner followed by competition in such events as crossbow shooting, fishing, air rifle, and kayak racing . . . Daniel Bard and Alfredo Aceves have been split up in the rotation. Aceves will start a minor league game Monday and Bard will start Tuesday against the Blue Jays . . . Righthander Carlos Silva, who didn’t get beyond a few bullpen sessions before experiencing shoulder pain, was released. He was in camp on a minor league contract.

Peter Abraham can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @peteabe.

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