Red Sox Notebook: Leaping Ahead

The Red Sox made their Grapefruit League debut one an impressive one Friday by beating the Twins, 8-3, at Hammond Stadium in Ft. Myers. George Kottaras had a double and a two-run homer for the Sox while Kevin Youkilis and Jason Varitek hit back-to-back homers in the fourth inning.

Coco Crisp and non-roster invitee Joe Thurston had two hits each for the Sox. Crisp also swiped two bases.

Daisuke Matsuzaka started for the Sox and allowed two hits over two scoreless innings. Hideki Okajima relieved Matsuzaka and earned the win by tossing a scoreless inning. Mike Timlin, David Aardsma and Dan Kolb all threw a shutout inning apiece.

The Sox and Twins face each other in the second game of a three-game weekend series Saturday at Hammond Stadium. Left-hander Jon Lester is scheduled to start for the Sox.

Making the leap: The Sox didn't just make their Grapefruit League debut Friday. They also played on Feb. 29 for the first time in franchise history. The Sox didn't even play a spring training game in February until 1997.

In addition, the win over the Twins Friday marked the first-ever February win for the Sox in Grapefruit League play. The Sox are now 1-4-1 in February Grapefruit League action.

Not Joshing around: Why has Josh Beckett emerged as one of the best pitchers in baseball? Because he approaches every game the same—whether it's the Rockies in the World Series or Boston College in a seemingly meaningless exhibition game in Ft. Myers.

"When you're out there trying to execute pitches, it doesn't matter who you're facing," Beckett told reporters after he tossed two perfect innings against Boston College in the Sox' 24-0 win Thursday. "It doesn't matter if you're playing in a media game or a college team or facing big league hitters...It doesn't matter. I'm out there trying to do my job. My job right now is to get in shape for the season."

Not so fast: Bartolo Colon told reporters Wednesday he hoped to pitch for the Sox—either against minor leaguers in Ft. Myers or against the Dodgers in Vero Beach—Mar. 9. But Sox pitching coach John Farrell told reporters Friday the Sox don't expect Colon to make his game debut until Mar. 15.

"March 15 is kind of a template that we work by," Farrell said. "There's a progression leading up to that. Tuesday will be his first bullpen day. Those will always provide us opportunities to evaluate his arm strength, how he recovers. And he'll go through a similar every-other-day bullpen routine as every other pitcher went through at the start of camp here."

Planning for Japan: Terry Francona told reporters Friday that the Sox will be allowed to take 30 players to Japan for the season-opening series against the Athletics Mar. 25-26. While the Sox and Athletics can only field 25 players per game, the extra five will be on hand in case of injury. Francona said the Sox will definitely bring along a third catcher to provide insurance behind starter Jason Varitek and backup Doug Mirabelli.

Diehard managing editor Jerry Beach can be reached at To receive a free issue of Diehard, call 888-501-5752.

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