FORT MYERS-- Sunny skies and warm temperatures greeted the players, coaching staff and fans of the Boston Red Sox as Sunday marked the official start of Spring Training with pitchers and catchers taking the field.
The gates of brand new JetBlue Park opened for the first time to the public at 9:00 a.m. this morning, with several fans of all ages anxious to see their ball club in action.
Starting pitchers Jon Lester, Josh Beckett, Clay Buchholz and Daniel Bard all participated in a game of catch with others before heading over to the bullpen to get in a session. Lester even took some time to sign some autographs with fans after his day of work.
Out of the three, I was the most impressed with Beckett. He seems to have worked on his mechanics some and it looks as if he's lost some weight since last September.
Newcomers Andrew Bailey and Mark Melancon worked close together on the far field, but both spent most of their time at the large sized bullpen. Based on what I saw, both are very excited to be working together and to be pitching again.
As for the catchers, I believe that second year Red Sox catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia is in store for a better year offensively and defensively. He seems to have worked a lot on his throws, and was a lot less erratic on his pitch outs to second base.
Bobby Valentine was nowhere to be found on the grounds of JetBlue, as he addressed the media earlier in the morning. Hitting coach Dave Magadan fed the early arrivals/minor leaguers batting practice while pitching coach Bob McClure spent all of his time in the bullpen area.
After an injury plagued year with the Dodgers, Vicente Padilla was in Red Sox camp this morning doing a lot of sprints after throwing his bullpen session.... Junichi Tazawa is back after Tommy John surgery took his 2011 season away from him... Matt Albers seems to look slimmer and was throwing the ball like he was before the start of the All Star break last year.... Catchers Kelly Shoppach, the defense ace and Ryan Lavarnway, the offensive force both look in shape and ready to battle for a roster spot.