Last season when the Boston Red Sox started the Grapefruit League season against the Minnesota Twins, there was a sense of guarded optimism coming out of the Sox clubhouse.
Despite coming off a disappointing season in which they finished last in the American League East, Boston was hopeful that the additions of high-priced free agents Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez on offense, and the acquisitions of pitchers Rick Porcello, Wade Miley and Joe Kelly would be enough to return them to the postseason.
It wasn’t. Not even close.
Wednesday, the Red Sox and Twins kicked off this year’s Grapefruit League season again a 7-4 win for Minnesota on a picture-perfect spring day at JetBlue Park. This spring there is a greater sense of urgency for the Red Sox, which may be why they are hitting the ground running this spring.
Wednesday’s exhibition opener looked a lot like Opening Day of the regular season for Boston. At least on the lineup card.
“I got thrown at a pretty good Red Sox lineup,” Twins starter Phil Hughes said after he tossed two scoreless innings, allowing just one hit.
With the notable omission of designated hitter David Ortiz, who is expected to make his debut on Thursday when the Red Sox play at the Twins at 7:05 p.m., the starting lineup featured all of its projected regular-season starters: RF Mookie Betts, 2B Dustin Pedroia, SS Xander Bogaerts, 1B Ramirez, 3B Sandoval, LF Chris Young (expected to form a platoon with Rusney Castillo), C Blake Swihart and CF Jackie Bradley Jr.
“It’s time to win again with all these young guys we have,” said Pedroia, who went 1-for-3 in his spring debut. “The mindset is in the right place and everyone’s going in the right direction.”
Boston also announced on Wednesday that all players on the 40-man roster have agreed upon contract terms for the upcoming season.
“I like where we are in terms of the depth of our roster, the complement that certain players can provide others and what our bench projects to look like,” Farrell said. “I like where we are at roster-wise.”
It was the pitchers on both sides who showed they had worked off more of the offseason rust on Wednesday.
Boston starter Henry Owens had five strikeouts despite working himself into a bases-loaded jam in the first and giving up a leadoff double to Jorge Polanco to start the second. Polanco also homered to finish the day 2-for-3 with two runs batted in.
Trevor May picked up the win for Minnesota in relief after throwing two scoreless innings.
Twins utility man Eduardo Nunez, who got the start at third, went 2-for-3 with a double. Bradley and Chris Dominguez both went 2-for-2 for Boston.
“Regardless of what time of year or who you’re playing against, the fact you’re back involved in the game is a really good feeling,” Farrell said.