Jonathan Papelbon looked mean tonight, and I liked it.

I was able to actually sit down and watch my first Spring Training game tonight, the Red Sox’ 2-1 win over the Yankees in Fort Myers, Fla. I don’t know if I had any groundbreaking revelations, but my head was still swimming with baseball thoughts.

The baseball crazies have been running through me lately. Settling down with a game was a necessary release. And some quick things that stuck with me:

  • He struck out in his first at-bat, but I was surprised by how exciting the sight of Carl Crawford in a Red Sox jersey was. Crawford spent quite a few years terrorizing the Sox on the basepaths, and there he was, 13 on his back, trying to get on base for the good guys. The next seven years should be fun.
  • Alfredo Aceves looked good in his start, and he’ll be a nice pitcher to stash in Pawtucket until a reliever/spot starter is needed. He’s done well in the American League East the past two seasons, and he never seemed to get rattled in his time with the Yankees.
  • Jonathan Papelbon burned through his inning. I’ve read a bit on how he’s focused on this season, looking to put a disappointing 2010 behind him, but it’s hard to parse out what’s genuine and what’s just the same start-of-the-year-blahs everyone says. He looked focused and mean. I want to see him that mean in 2011.
  • Count me in on the Rich Hill bandwagon. This was the first time I’d seen his new sidearm delivery, and he was clicking. Granted, by this point he was facing the future roster of the Trenton Thunder and not the Yankees, but he worked two innings with only a single, I believe (it’s spring training — if I’m wrong, I’m wrong).
  • Dennys Reyes is a large man.
  • On the Yankees side, I hope Eric Chavez can hang on. I’ve always liked him, and I don’t like to see a good guy get derailed by injuries like he has. He’s trying to earn a place across the diamond as a backup first baseman, and I hope he finds one.

Finally, my favorite moment of the night:

Ryan Kalish was on second base and was caught in a rundown. After a ball was chopped back to the mound, Kalish took off for third base, but the runner ahead of him (I think it was Marco Scutaro) stayed put, as he should have. Kalish was stuck in the middle of an embarrassing moment, and was quickly forced out by Chavez, running over with the ball from first.

Kalish walked back to the dugout not screaming, but obviously upset with himself. He’s likely ticketed for Pawtucket, but probably trying to make the best case possible to stick with the big club. And he definitely goofed. But as he sat on the bench, wanting to bury his head in his hands, David Ortiz and Mike Cameron started giving him the business.

Howling hysterically, jabbing and poking him, buckling with laughter, they got on the kid hard over his mistake. Finally, Kalish took his head out of his hands and started to smile, while Cameron and Ortiz kept laughing. If this were a game in September, no one would be laughing. But it wasn’t, it was a meaningless game in March.

And that’s what makes spring baseball so much fun. Spring Training reinforces the notion that this is a kids’ game, and a pretty fun one at that. It’s good to remember that, before this team drives me crazy this summer and fall.

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