Thursday March 7, 2013

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Jon Lester and Jeff Locke each pitched four solid innings. Steven Wright still has some fine-tuning ahead.

Lester, projected to start for the Red Sox on opening day, gave up one run Wednesday in Boston’s 9-3 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Lester allowed two hits and three walks while striking out three.

"Good four innings of work today," Boston manager John Farrell said. "I thought he used his curveball a little more today than he had in the previous two outings, part by design, part by some of the situations that arose. Might not have been as sharp as his last time out. But still, 52 pitches in four innings, a good day of work."

Locke faced the Red Sox for the second straight start. He permitted one run on three hits and two walks with three strikeouts.

"Today was kind of just like last week, but it went a lot better," the lefty said. "I was able to throw more pitches in the strike zone and keep the ball down a lot better. There were some pretty well-stroked balls, but that’s just a part of baseball.

"For me, personally, with it being spring training and you’re preparing yourself for the season, it was definitely a step in the right direction today. I mixed up my pitches and I was able to get quality work from the windup and the stretch," he said.

Manager Clint Hurdle was satisfied.

"The fact that he made pitches, he stayed away from the big inning, they scratched him for the one run, no more damage than that, he went out there four times, it was a good step forward for him," Hurdle said.

Red Sox knuckleballer Steven Wright permitted five runs on five hits and three walks in two innings. He was watched by former Boston knuckleballer Tim Wakefield, who started out as an infielder in the Pirates’ organization before becoming a pitcher.

Wright realized during his outing he was having a problem with his mechanics, something he was able to discuss with Wakefield as soon as he came out.

"Working with Wake has definitely helped," Wright said. "I was talking to him now about the mechanical issues I was having. It’s just trying to stay within and not trying got throw it hard and just trying to throw it right. Whatever the velocity is, it is what it is."

Andrew McCutchen drove in two runs for the Pirates.

NOTES: OF Ryan Westmoreland, a former top prospect with the Red Sox whose career was interrupted by twice undergoing brain surgery, announced his retirement at age 22. Westmoreland was diagnosed with a cavernous malformation of the brain during spring training in 2010. He was a fifth-round draft pick in 2008. In his only pro season, he hit .296 with seven homers, 35 RBIs and 19 steals in 60 games in Class A in 2009. ... Red Sox DH David Ortiz, making his way back from an Achilles strain that limited him to 90 games last season, had a scheduled off-day from running. There is no schedule yet for him to get into a game. ... Boston RHP Daniel Bard is scheduled to get into Thursday’s game against the Twins. He has not pitched in a game since Feb. 25, working on his mechanics. ... Boston CF Jacoby Ellsbury was out of camp with illness. ... Jensen Millar, brother of former Red Sox 1B Kevin Millar, handled the public address duties for the game. He is a finalist for the PA job at Fenway Park. ... The Pirates used a lineup that was fairly representative of what they will have opening day, with at least seven starters. "We think it’s time," Hurdle said. "Spring training is a little more complicated than when I played. Now we have night games, day games after night games, more split-squad games. But we’re definitely going to start getting our guys out there that we need to get more reps from."

Rangers 3, Cubs 2

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Hisanori Takahashi knows there are no guarantees for a player who walks into major league camp with a minor league contract. That’s why he’s happy to fill any role for the Chicago Cubs.

Bidding for a spot in the bullpen, Takahashi started Wednesday and pitched three shaky innings in a 3-2 loss to the Texas Rangers.

The 37-year-old left-hander gave up three runs and five hits, including Lance Berkman’s first home run. He walked two and struck out four in his fourth appearance of the spring.

"It’s been a while since I started, maybe two or three years," Takahashi said through a translator. "I’m happy about pitching those innings. There are areas I can fix, especially those two walks and the home run I allowed."

Uncertainty is nothing new for Takahashi, who went to his first major league camp with the New York Mets in 2010 after signing a minor league contract with the club.

"I’ve played baseball a long time and feel I had a successful career in Japan as well," he said. "I was in the same spot with the Mets, so experience will play a big part."

With the Mets, Takahashi appeared in 53 games, including 12 starts. But he’s been strictly a reliever since, pitching in 112 games the past two seasons for the Los Angeles Angels and Pittsburgh.

Cubs manager Dale Sveum said Takahashi, should he emerge from the six-player scrum for three bullpen spots, could fill needs ranging from a left-handed specialist to long relief.

"If he makes the team he could be that guy," Sveum said before Wednesday’s game. "He’s been very durable. If the game dictates, he can pitch one (inning) or get a left-hander out. If the game dictates the other way, he can go two or three innings."

Such a role would be just fine with Takahashi, who turns 38 next month.

"The goal I set for myself is to be that lefty out of the bullpen and being able to pitch multiple innings," he said.

Rangers left-hander Robbie Ross allowed a first-inning solo homer to Scott Hairston but then retired 13 of his final 15 batters, including the last nine in a row. He gave up one run and four hits in four innings.

"That home run, I wish I could have done without that," said Ross, competing for the last spot in the Texas rotation. "After that I settled down and just threw strikes. I guess it was just that feeling of, I didn’t want to do what I did in the first inning."

Ross was a non-roster invitee to camp a year ago and finished the season as the team’s top left-handed setup man. He went 6-0 with a 2.22 ERA in 65 innings over 58 appearances.

"I’d like to think I’ve been given an opportunity and have to work hard for it, Ross said. "But it’s a thing where I have to take it a day at a time and focus on what I have to do. It’s not something I let linger in my mind. It’s something where I’m just trying to make a job wherever it is, whether as a starter or a full-time guy."

Rangers right-hander Alexi Ogando, the team’s projected fourth starter, allowed a run and two hits in three innings. He struck out six and walked two.

Ogando got himself in trouble in the seventh with an errant pickoff throw, putting runners on second and third with nobody out and Texas leading 3-2. But he escaped without allowing the tying run to score.

"He made some pitches," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "He went upstairs with some fastballs, threw some sliders, then went to his changeup and it was pretty good."

NOTES: Rangers OF Mike Olt was a late scratch because of an impacted wisdom tooth. He was sent to a dentist and is day to day. ... Cubs 2B Darwin Barney originally was in the starting lineup even though he’d already been given the day off. "He asked and I put him in there anyway," Sveum said with a smile. Barney, who never made the trip to Surprise, was replaced by Edwin Maysonet. ... Sveum said SS Starlin Castro, sidelined with a sore left hamstring, could play Sunday or Monday. Utility man Brent Lillibridge (strained groin) could follow soon after. "Best way to put it is if it was the regular season, they’d be playing," Sveum said. ... Cubs RHP Jeff Samardzija went four innings in a "B" game, allowing five runs -- four earned -- on six hits with three strikeouts. Samardzjia, tabbed as the team’s opening-day starter this week, also allowed a home run.