Under the gloomy skies of Valentine's Day, the Boston Red Sox held their first full squad workout in Fort Myers on Thursday, Feb. 14. With loyal fans on hand to greet their heroes, and WEEI radio's popular Dennis and Callahan show broadcasting live from the ballpark, practice kicked off at 9:30 a.m. at JetBlue Park.
The $77 million stadium, which opened to Major League Baseball just a year ago, features six plush fields surrounding the main spring training stadium. While newly-arrived hitters received annual physicals, invited Red Sox hurlers headed outside to commence their workouts, as the group has done since the initial arrival of pitchers and catchers on Monday.
Under watchful eyes of the team's coaches, pitchers completed little more than a short meeting, stretching, and a light toss before the day's expected wet weather returned. By 10:30 a.m., the grey skies of Southwest Florida thoroughly opened up and steady rain forced the club to head for the cover of JetBlue Park's spacious pitching cages.
Several pitchers completed a bullpen session, including new closer Joel Hanrahan, who was acquired in an off-season trade with the Pittsburgh Pirates. Sporting a healthy beard during his first spring in Fort Myers, the 31 year-old recorded has recorded 76 saves in the past two seasons. Boston hopes the six year veteran can provide stability to a bullpen that proved a stinging liability in last year's disastrous 69-93 campaign.
New Red Sox manager John Farrell remained in the cages and supervised the efforts his staff, as well as expected Red Sox catchers Jarrod Saltalamacchia and David Ross. Meanwhile, with bats in hand, hitters gradually emerged from the locker room and headed for covered hitting cages. Surrounded by copious local and New England-based media, players such as Jacoby Ellsbury began pre-season preparations for the coming season.
With hitters reporting to camp only 3 days after the arrival of pitchers and catchers, this year's World Baseball Classic has certainly accelerated the pace of spring training. Indeed, exhibition games commence next week, when the Red Sox will host a pair of split-squad scrimmages on Thursday against the hometown teams of Northeastern University and Boston College.
However, all-important daily workouts continue for the next week, as new players like Shane Victorino make first impressions on a passionate fan base, including many that have planned vacations to usually sunny Florida for this magical time. Weather permitting, the Red Sox are expected back on the diamonds of the pristine facility tomorrow morning.
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