The Red Sox lost 8-6 to the Toronto Blue Jays Tuesday night in their first of two exhibition games at Fenway Park before Friday’s season opener against the Baltimore Orioles. Here are some key takeaways from the night:
— The offense continued to look good, and J.D. Martinez might have a new spot in the lineup: The Red Sox’ clear strength is on offense, and if they’re going to make any noise in 2020, it’ll have to produce. They’ve been on fire at the plate during intrasquad games in summer camp, and that carried over Tuesday against a real opponent.
Mitch Moreland put a bow on an explosive first inning, taking the first pitch he saw and crushing it into the bullpen for a three-run homer that gave the Red Sox a 4-0 lead. Blue Jays starter Nate Pearson, the organization’s top prospect, wasn’t able to finish the first due to a pitch count limit. J.D. Martinez later belted a two-run opposite-field homer in the fifth to give the Sox a 6-2 lead.
Martinez had a new spot in the batting order. Normally the Red Sox’ cleanup hitter, Martinez batted second Tuesday behind Andrew Benintendi — a spot he’s only hit from 33 times in his career. It’s something he and manager Ron Roenicke discussed to break up the monotony of left-handed hitters at the top of the lineup, and Martinez was on board.
“We may do it in the future,” Roenicke said. “I wanted to see what he thought about it. I guess they tried it a little bit when he was in Detroit and he didn’t like it a whole lot. He said, ‘Fine let’s do it, let’s see what it looks like.’ Swung the bat great. And the reason being simply because we have Benintendi followed by (Rafael) Devers and we know that gives the opponent the opportunity to bring in a left-hander against them and this breaks it up and makes it tough now.
“If you want to bring in a lefty to face Benny you have to get through J.D. before you get to Devers. It makes sense, it’s just if everybody is comfortable with it because I know comfort has a lot to do with how these guys hit and changes their confidence. It’s a good look. If you put that lineup up like that and an opposing team looks at it, it’s hard to pitch to.”
— Brandon Workman regained some confidence: The Red Sox’ closer had struggled throughout summer camp, but he got some mojo back on Tuesday night. Roenicke gave Workman the eighth inning with a 6-5 lead and he pieced together a much-needed 1-2-3 inning.
Roenicke has never lost confidence in Workman, and the closer rewarded his faith.
“His stuff was good and it’s been good but the command was really good today,” Roenicke said. “Put the fastballs where he wanted it, sllder when he needed to throw a strike. He actually tightened up the curveball to throw a strike when he was behind in the count and then was able to put away people like he usually does with that really good curveball in the dirt. He was happy when he came out and that’s a good way for him to go into the season.”
— Ryan Brasier had a night to forget: The reliever, who’s looking for a bounce-back season after a disappointing 2019 in which he at one point was optioned back to Pawtucket, came on in the ninth with a one-run lead and melted down. The righty gave up a leadoff double to Rowdy Tellez, a single to Teoscar Hernandez, and a balk that scored a run before surrendering the go-ahead two-run homer to Derek Fisher — all in just 11 pitches.
Roenicke acknowledged the poor results but still came away encouraged.
“The bad thing obviously is the outcome,” Roenicke said. “The good thing for me is I thought his stuff was good. his velocity was up. Better than it’s been and it’s where it usually is when he’s pitching really well. So if he can keep that velocity and then command the ball better, we’re going to have the same guy we’re very confident in.”