Quick hits: Mets 4, Red Sox 2

March, 17, 2010
3/17/10
6:56
PM ET
The outcome: After winning six in a row and tying one in their annual St. Patrick's Day game, the Red Sox have now lost three of their last four while wearing the green, falling to the Mets 4-2 on Wednesday in City of Palms Park. The Sox, shut out on both ends of a split-squad doubleheader on Tuesday, have scored just six runs in their last four games, and only the Cardinals (six) have hit fewer home runs in Florida than the Sox (seven). The Sox led 1-0 until the eighth, when the Mets scored four runs off Ramon Ramirez.

The notable: On a day he said he "wore the green" for the first time, John Lackey says he has no idea what his nationality is. “I’m Texan,’’ he said. “I really don’t know anything about where my family came from.’’

A Google search would suggest that Lackey has Scottish roots, but no matter: He may not know his origins, but he knows the strike zone. In three spring starts totaling nine innings, Lackey has yet to walk a batter, and it’s hard to imagine that he could be any more efficient than he was Wednesday, when he worked four scoreless innings, allowing two first-inning singles, and retired the last six batters he faced on ground balls. His total yield: 39 pitches, 28 for strikes. Extrapolated over nine innings, he would have thrown an 87-pitch complete game.
[+] EnlargeDustin Pedroia
AP Photo/Steven SenneDustin Pedroia heads to first on his RBI single off the Mets' Mike Pelfrey in the third inning.

“I definitely wouldn’t have been able to make it nine today, for sure,’’ he said. “I feel pretty good. I feel like my delivery is on time, my location is pretty good, arm strength isn’t quite there, but it’s getting there.’’

Lackey has yet to allow a run this spring. Asked if he could imagine having a better spring in his first go-round with the Red Sox, Lackey said, “Honestly, I’d probably like to give up a couple of runs here. Don’t want to bring them all north with me.’’

Asked if it was at all unusual that he hadn’t walked a batter yet, Lackey had a blunt reply. “I don’t walk too many people, honestly,’’ he said. “I expect that of myself. Especially in spring training, when I get to three balls, most of the time I just throw it in there.’’

With the start of the regular season less than three weeks away, Lackey said he’d like to build up arm strength and tighten up his breaking ball. Left unsaid is that he’d also like to avoid the injuries that caused him to miss six weeks at the start of each of the last two seasons. Last season, he went on the disabled list with a strained right forearm and didn’t make his first start until May 16. In 2008, he had a strained right triceps and didn’t pitch until May 14.

“First-pitch strikes, that was fun to watch,’’ manager Terry Francona said. “Let them put it in play, threw his breaking ball for strikes, threw everything for strikes. Down in the zone, let our defense work, fun to watch.

“Works quick. There’s not much not to like. Like he says, win or lose, I’m going to get it done quickly and get it over with. The idea is, everything you talk about. Get it, throw it, throw strikes, keep it down, let 'em hit it. Things work better that way.’’

Prospect update: Josh Reddick lined a single and lined out in two plate appearances, his average at .429, but his most impressive act Wednesday was to avoid being tagged out during a rundown after he committed a base-running gaffe between second and third. Reddick dived into second just ahead of third baseman Fernando Tatis, who mistakenly decided he could tag Reddick before he dived into the bag. For his trouble, Reddick took a knee in his right shoulder as Tatis tumbled over him and was wearing an ice pack after the game, but he said he was OK.

Progress report: Ramon Ramirez had another appearance to forget, with control once again the issue. Ramirez, who walked four batters in an inning Sunday and gave up a two-run homer to Baltimore’s Brandon Snyder the next day, walked the first two batters he faced in the eighth Wednesday, then gave up a three-run homer to highly touted Mets prospect Fernando Martinez. After a single and another walk, he was out of the game without having retired any of the five batters he faced.

Ramirez, who came to the Sox in the Coco Crisp trade after the ’08 season, avoided arbitration by coming to terms on a $1.15 million deal this winter, and the assumption is that he has a spot locked up in the bullpen, but even before this spring, there were a few red flags. He did not have a good second half last season, batters combining for an OPS 200 percentage points higher in the second half (.814) than the first (.614), and he struggled in Fenway, with batters having an .840 OPS in the Fens, .585 on the road. Given the volatility of middle relief from year to year, he bears watching the rest of the spring.

Up next: A scheduled day off for most, except Clay Buchholz, who is scheduled to throw in minor league camp Thursday. Fabio Castro and Ramon A. Ramirez also are scheduled for duty against the minor leaguers. Josh Beckett, meanwhile, threw a bullpen and is on track to make his start Friday in Bradenton against the Pirates.

Short hops: Mike Lowell will serve as DH for five or six innings in a minor league game Friday, work out Saturday and play third base Sunday -- at least that’s the plan, according to Francona.

Gordon Edes

Red Sox reporter, ESPNBoston.com

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