Thursday, February 19, 2009

"A Necessary Evil"

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- The first day of live batting practice is always the worst day of live BP for the hitters. This early in camp, the hitters are way behind the pitchers, in terms of sharpness, making a 94 mph fastball seem like 114.

Even the manager, Terry Francona, concedes that the title, live batting practice, is quite misleading. If anything, Thursday was target practice for the relief pitchers, with the hitters rarely, if ever, taking a swing. Jacoby Ellsbury hit one ball of the wall on Field 4 against Manny Delcarmen, but that was the extent of the hitting show for the gathered crowds at the spring training complex.

"It's all for the pitchers," Francona said. "It's kind of a necessary evil for the hitters. But we need to get the pitchers out there seeing hitters in the box. It's tough. I know the first day, guys get in there, everyone seems like they're throwing 100, and some were, but that's just part of what you have to do. It's not a lot of fun for the hitters."

J.D. Drew quietly let all the pitches he saw Thursday -- many from newly-acquired reliever Ramon Ramirez, sail right past. It was a practice he learned from Mark McGwire, back when they were teammates with the Cardinals. Manny Ramirez took the same approach with the Red Sox, never once swinging at a pitch on the first day of live BP.

“[McGwire] said, ‘I just track, pick up the seam, pick up rotation,’” Drew said after Thursday’s workouts. “I’ve used that over the past few years. I can go in there and take swings, but it’s going to look ugly. Those guys look like their throwing hard, their sliders are nasty. When they tell you a fastball is coming inside, you don’t want to step into one. It’s a matter of them getting work on location and letting us see balls coming off the mound.”

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