Every spring, Major League Baseball clubs kick off their exhibition schedule against collegiate programs. The games mean nothing to the college season and even less to the big leaguers, but it's symbolic. For starters, it's a chance for collegiate athletes to step on the field and compete with a small taste of the professional life. For the pros, it's the first cuts in real game action.
For yet another season, the Boston College Eagles will take part in a three-way dance with the Boston Red Sox. Each year, BC and Northeastern take a spring trip to Florida that allows them to play multiple games against Sunshine State competition. In the middle of the week, they'll work out and practice in the facilities owned by the Red Sox. Then they'll play a game against the split squad Sox, the opening kickoff to the Major League Baseball season.
BC most likely will not face the bulk of the Red Sox lineup. The Sox divide up their squad into two groups, known as "split squad" designations. Both squads will be composed of major leaguers and minor league hopefuls. For the first couple of innings, the Eagles and Huskies will get a taste of major league pitching, hitters, and defense, but gradually, the majority of the guys will rotate out. By the fifth and sixth innings, they'll be facing mid-tier guys, long relievers, and minor leaguers. By the end of the game, the Red Sox will have guys wearing #82 or #68 in their lineup.
This year, it'll be particularly special with the Eagles donning maroon Boston College jerseys reminiscent of when Pete Frates patrolled the Boston College diamond. All of the maroon jerseys resemble the 2007 team that Frates was captain of, and all of the jerseys will feature his name and famous #3 on the back. I hope this becomes something of a trend, and this game can forever be known as the Pete Frates Classic (or something like that).
It's a great experience, and it's a pure form of baseball that allows BC to showcase their lineup against professional caliber athletes. It's also a fun way for us to truly feel like the winter is ending and everything's coming back to normal.
Around The Horn
Even though they're not facing all major leaguers all the time, the Boston College pitching staff will be challenged by some of the most elite hitters in the professional ranks. The Red Sox farm system is one of the deepest in terms of bats, and they're loaded from the top level on down. That means the BC pitchers, in their one or two innings of work, will be tested with guys who are capable of doing ungodly things at the dish.
They'll also be tested with a pitch clock and timing rules that are new to the MLB level for this year. The Red Sox are employing a clock to get ready for the regular season as per new rules handed down by the Commissioner's office. Teams will have 2 minutes, 25 seconds or 2 minutes, 45 seconds from the time the "commercial break" begins until the first official pitch is thrown. The next batter will need to be in the batter's box with no fewer than 20 seconds left on that timer.
These are new rules employed by MLB to speed up games and to get guys in from the bullpen in a more timely manner. That's also a foreign concept to the college ranks, where the athletes aren't tied by a clock. The timers are going to be on or near the scoreboard and on the facade behind home plate and will start as soon as the reliever touches the warning track coming out of the bullpen.
The times are dictated by the same regulations for a local broadcast (2:25) and a national broadcast (2:45).
As for the lineup BC will face, expect some of the major names but expect them out of the game early. They'll face a number of Double-AA and Triple-AAA hitters throughout the day before facing low level minor league guys before the day ends.
On The Bump
It was announced last week that the Red Sox will throw new acquisition Wade Miley for two innings, followed by Steven Wright, Craig Breslow, Brandon Workman, Edwin Escobar, Dalier Hinojosa, Keith Couch, and Noe Ramirez for one inning apiece.
The Red Sox will throw a pre-programmed set of pitchers over the course of the innings. Since it's Spring Training, we're not really looking for them to be overdominant of the BC hitters, and we're also not looking for them to throw a glorified BP session. This is more or less their chance to loosen up their arms and get their first live work in for the spring.
Baseball fans conceivably have heard of the first four guys, especially the journeyman Breslow, as well as Workman, the young gun for the bullpen. Miley came to Boston from Arizona, and he's expected to compete for one of the starting slots behind Rick Porcello. Hinojosa is a Cuban defect from the national team and the Indios de Guantanamo. He signed with the Red Sox in October of 2014 after defecting in February, so not much is really known about him.
Ramirez is a lanky 25-year old out of California who pitched for Cal State Fullerton. A fourth round pick in 2011 out of the Titans, he's worked his way up to AA over the past two seasons. Last year, he served as the closer for the Portland Sea Dogs, finishing 31 of his 42 appearances. He recorded 18 saves with a 2.15 ERA, and he's most likely going to start the year in Portland with the anticipation that he'll work his way up to Pawtucket by the middle of the season.
Expect the Eagles to get a good workload in against these guys at the dish. BC will be hitting with aluminum against the Red Sox, who, as professionals, work with wooden bats.
To be honest, nobody really cares. Florida State's at the end of the week, and they're playing USF today and tomorrow. Hopefully South Florida can soften up the lineup a little bit before BC gets sacrificed to the Seminoles at the end of the week.
That's right folks: Florida State's on the horizon. That went swimmingly for me during football season.
Music To Listen To That's Not "Sweet Caroline"
I preface this with a little note. I'm a Red Sox fan. I have been my whole life. I hate, with every fiber of my being and soul, that stupid Neil Diamond song. I don't stand up during the 8th inning at Fenway Park, don't yell "so good, so good, so good" during the song, and I've called my own wife, someone who religiously watches sports with the same passion I do, a pink hat for singing it. I hate the damn song, and I hate what it represents. That's my rant for the day. More coming this weekend.
When I went to a Sox game a few years ago, Josh Beckett was the ace of the staff and still one of the best arms in baseball. I remember him walking out to the mound to start the first to this fine jam by Jason Aldean, and I immediately was hooked. Back in 2008, to start the season, Beckett had the swagger of a true hard-nosed Texan pitcher, and as a Sox fan, I loved every second of it. He was the fire-breathing, flame-throwing bull on the mound, and watching him warm up to this one made it feel special.
Plus there's the words. You know what, let's get this thing started. It's baseball season!!!!!! My kinda party.
Fun Fact Of The Week
There's a thought process that this "free scouting" for the Red Sox, but they haven't drafted a Boston College Eagle active on the collegiate roster since 2001, when they took right-handed pitcher Gerald Rodgers. Taken in the 22nd round of that year's draft, he played one year in the New York-Penn League with the Lowell Spinners (Class-A baseball) before playing a year of independent league ball.
Over their long, storied history, the Red Sox have only drafted five active Boston College Eagles. In addition to Rodgers, they drafted re-draft candidate Jeff Waldron in 1999 (18th round), Curt Romboli in 1995 (21st round), Joe Hayward in 1993 (45th round), and Tim Smith in 1990 (24th round).
Tweet of the Week
The Red Sox host Boston College, Northeastern tomorrow. Since 2006 they've beaten those schools by a combined 194-15. http://t.co/JMIU6fHAbV— Brian Costa (@BrianCostaWSJ) March 2, 2015
Is that bad? I think that's bad.
We're not looking for the Eagles to go out and beat the Red Sox, and even if they did, I don't think anyone would really care. It's an exhibition game, one where the majority of athletes playing will be riding buses in the minors by April. This is a game that's designed to let the pro guys ease into spring training and give the college guys a shot at the mound.
The Red Sox are always a handful, though, and this game always provides some moments. Johnny Ayers led off the Daisuke Matsuzaka era in Boston with a single—the very first batter Dice-K faced in the Boston Red Sox organization. Pete Frates was notably wheeled to the mound for a first pitch by Sox farmhand and former Eagle Terry Doyle. And this year, the Eagles will wear those beautiful Frates-edition uniforms.