|Bartolo Colon excels in debut for Red Sox; Carlos Beltran struggles in center field for Mets|
|Written by Admin|
|Thursday, 13 March 2008 16:01|
And Ichiro Suzuki wasn't sure he'd ever get another hit.
Colon pitched two solid innings Thursday in his first time on the mound for the Boston Red Sox, a 3-3 tie against the Tampa Bay Rays at Fort Myers, Fla.
At Peoria, Ariz., Suzuki broke an 0-for-21 skid with his first hit of the spring, an infield single in the Seattle Mariners' 3-3 tie with the San Francisco Giants.
And at Jupiter, Fla., Beltran played in center field for the first time since having offseason arthroscopic surgery on both knees, and felt like he was learning how to play the position again.
``The first fly ball, I felt like I didn't know what to do,'' the Mets' cleanup hitter said after a 6-5, 10-inning loss to the St. Louis Cardinals. ``It's been a lot of work for me.''
Beltran played his first spring game at DH on Monday. The Cardinals game didn't offer that option, so he told manager Willie Randolph he'd give the outfield a try.
``I wanted to test it,'' Beltran said. ``Right now, nine innings, I'm not ready to play nine innings. Today's game will give me more confidence for next time.''
He went 1-for-2 with an RBI single and a walk and was lifted after batting in the fifth. Beltran said that was a good time to call it a day; he's not ready to play a full game yet.
``I'm not going to try to be a hero here,'' Beltran said. ``I'm just going to try to be healthy for the season and be in the lineup as much as I can.''
Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein was excited to watch Colon hit 94 mph with his fastball, after pitching just 29 games the past two years because of elbow and shoulder injuries.
``He had more arm strength than we expected,'' Epstein said. ``For his first time out, we were really impressed.''
So was the 2005 AL Cy Young award winner.
``The past few years have been tough,'' Colon said through a translator. ``It's that much more gratifying to see the results finally start panning out.''
The burly right-hander who once could throw 100 mph allowed a solo homer to Jon Weber, the next to last batter he faced in his two-inning stint against the Rays, who got 4 2-3 scoreless innings from Matt Garza.
Colon escaped a bases-loaded, no-out jam in the first and allowed two hits and a walk with one strikeout.
``I feel very good and my control was good, kind of what I was looking for,'' Colon said. ``I felt really strong out there.''
He loaded the bases on a single, an error and a walk, and then struck out B.J. Upton on his 16th pitch. He threw just 10 more pitches - one of them a fastball that Weber hit over the fence - to the last six batters.
``More than anything, it's great to be able to go out on the mound, even if it's for a brief stint, have some success,'' Colon said. ``So that's very rewarding. It shows that the hard work is paying off.''
The perennial All-Star Suzuki got a gift in the first inning, when Giants reserve first baseman Justin Leone inexplicably ranged too far away from the bag to try for a grounder to second. By the time starting pitcher Kevin Correia realized he had to cover first base, the speedy Suzuki was already at first for his first hit of the spring.
``We can all sleep tonight,'' Mariners manager John McLaren said, chuckling.
Suzuki's 0-for-21, one short of his career-long slump in the regular season from 1995, had become an international curiosity. The pack of Japanese media who chronicle Suzuki's every move had been breathless over the drought. McLaren made daily jokes about it. And Suzuki said it was ``fun'' because it gave him an unusual early season challenge.
``I'm not sure what my next challenge is,'' he said through his interpreter after his breakthrough. ``I'm sad to say goodbye.''
Mariners head trainer Rick Griffin stood at the top step of the dugout, motioning for Correia to throw out the ball - part of Seattle's joke to Suzuki to commemorate the initial hit. Correia and plate umpire Mike Everitt both looked at Griffin like he was nuts.
``He told me to get him the ball,'' Griffin said of Suzuki. ``The umpire didn't think I was serious.''
Suzuki jokingly said he was planning to keep the ball ``and send it to Cooperstown. But we couldn't get the ball back.''
In other spring training games:
Cubs 3, Padres (ss) 2
At Mesa, Ariz., San Diego starter Greg Maddux took a line drive off his thigh and had to leave the game after two innings. He said he has a bruise and should be fine for his next start.
Pirates 5, Yankees 3
At Tampa, Fla., Mike Mussina threw five perfect innings, but got overshadowed by Billy Crystal, who struck out in his lone at bat for New York.
Tigers 6, Braves 6, tie, 10 innings
At Lakeland, Fla., Todd Jones pitched a perfect inning against a major league club for the first time this spring, lowering his ERA from 24.55 to 19.29.
Indians 9, Blue Jays 5
At Winter Haven, Fla., Travis Hafner hit his first home run of the spring and Fausto Carmona and Aaron Laffey each pitched four innings for the Indians.
Brewers 8, Diamondbacks 6
At Tucson, Ariz., Milwaukee's Jeff Suppan was hit by a line drive in the fourth inning, ending a rough day in which he gave up six runs and seven hits in three-plus innings. Suppan said the injury wasn't serious.
Orioles 3, Twins 1
At Fort Lauderdale, Fla., Jay Payton hit an RBI double and scored a run for Baltimore while Delmon Young hit an eighth-inning double for Minnesota, ending an 0-for-13 skid.
Astros 7, Dodgers (ss) 6
At Kissimmee, Fla., Houston's Shawn Chacon was roughed up for five hits and five runs in three innings while Dodgers starter Hiroki Kuroda allowed six hits and five runs in three innings.
Royals 6, Angels 5
At Surprise, Ariz., Joe Saunders threw four shutout innings in his third start for Los Angeles, and Damon Hollins went 2-for-3 with a two-run homer for the Royals.
Rockies 6, Rangers 6, tie
At Tucson, Ariz., Todd Helton hit a two-run homer for his first home run of the spring. The Rangers' Josh Hamilton went 3-for-3 with a walk, a run scored and an RBI. He raised his spring average to .577 and has a team-best 13 RBIs.