CLEARWATER, Fla. - There is no truth to the rumor that Ruben Amaro Jr. spotted Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington in the middle of yesterday's split-squad game against the Red Sox and used his fingers to pantomime a phone while mouthing the words, "Call me." But the thought had to have crossed his mind as he watched two of Boston's projected starters combine to walk five batters while allowing 10 runs and striking out only two in 7 1/3 innings against a Phillies offense that has been the worst in the majors this spring.
Justin Masterson allowed six of those runs, including home runs to nonroster invitees Jordan Danks and Cord Phelps. Masterson is probably the biggest question mark in a Sox rotation that is essentially a collection of No. 2 and No. 3 starters. The 30-year-old righty has shown flashes of being the top-of-the-rotation workhorse the Red Sox currently lack. In 2011, he started 33 games and logged 216 innings while posting a 3.21 ERA with decent strikeout and walk numbers for the Indians. His best season might have been 2013, when he averaged 9.1/9, 3.5 BB/9 and 0.6 HR/9 while posting a 3.45 ERA in 193 innings. But he was one of the worst starters in the majors last season, finishing the year with a 5.88 ERA, thanks in large part to a spike in his walk rate.
Wade Miley's track record suggests little reason to be concerned about his appearance yesterday, when he allowed four runs in four innings, including a solo home run to Ryan Howard. Miley has logged at least 194 innings in each of the last three seasons and he carries career rate averages of 7.0 K/9, 2.8 BB/9 and 0.9 HR/9 to go with his 3.79 ERA. The 28-year-old lefty has given no reason to think he won't continue to be a solid No. 3 starter. But the Red Sox were already chasing Cole Hamels before the spring, and yesterday's performances certainly offered little reason to stop chasing him. It remains to be seen how a season-ending injury to Rangers' ace Yu Darvish will impact the demand for Hamels' services. Texas is believed to have at least kicked the tires on Hamels, and it has the type of blue-chip prospects that Amaro covets.
Ryan Howard homered for the second time in three games and added a double as the Phillies' offense exploded in an 11-4 victory against the Red Sox.
Odubel Herrera went 3-for-5 with an RBI and a run. He is hitting .345 on the spring. But it is Howard who has inspired the most hope.
"I think 'Howie' looks really good in the box right now," manager Ryne Sandberg said. "He's gaining some momentum on some games and some swings and some at-bats. I think he's really settling into a comfort zone with some work. It took a little time and I think the results are showing. It's allowing him to pull some pitches, too, which I think is a fine thing for him. It really opens up the whole field for him."
Lefthander Elvis Araujo continues to impress. He struck out two of the four batters he faced yesterday in his fourth scoreless inning of the spring . . . Righthander Adam Morgan missed much of the last two seasons with a shoulder injury. He pitched two scoreless innings yesterday, striking out three without walking a batter. He drew a positive review from Ryne Sandberg . . . Rule 5 lefthander Andy Oliver struck out the side in an inning.