I was lucky enough to be in Florida over spring break to see some Major League Baseball spring training. I went to five baseball games featuring seven teams.

While the games themselves don’t have any significance, some of what happened in them might. Here are my notes from the trip.

Cardinals 6, Braves 2

Albie Lopez had his first bad start of the spring for Atlanta. Lopez started alright, but Edgar Renteria snuck a home run around the left field foul pole in the second inning to give St. Louis a 2-0 lead.

Things got really bad for Lopez in the third. J.D. Drew singled and Albert Pujols cranked a triple to the wall in center. Jim Edmonds followed with a homer to right to make it 5-0.

Tino Martinez kept things going with a double and Mike Matheny singled back through the box to make it 6-0.

Lopez may not be the fifth starter Atlanta is looking for, especially considering he lost 19 games last year.

Matt Morris, on the other hand, was excellent for St. Louis. He allowed 0 runs on 5 hits ? none of them particularly impressive ? in 4 1/3 innings.

Wes Helms and Travis Wilson helped the Braves score two runs in the ninth. The Braves are counting on Helms to give them at least 400 productive at-bats between first and third base.

Wilson, who used to play softball in Australia, could make the team as a utility player. With Wilson, Rafael Furcal, Marcus Giles and Wilson Betemit, the Braves are stocked with talented, young middle infielders.

Rangers 15, Twins 1

Kenny Rogers got hit hard in the first, but only gave up one hit ? a double to Jacque Jones ? and one run ? on a sacrifice fly by Doug Mientkiwicz.

After a good first inning, Eric Milton had some trouble in the second. A bloop single, a hit batter and a walk loaded the bases for Frank Catalanotto, who ripped a single through the hole at shortstop to give Texas a 2-1 lead.

Bill Haselman gave Texas a 5-1 lead with a three-run homer in the third. Milton has nasty stuff, but for some reason he seems to be pretty hittable. He allowed 5 runs on 6 hits in 3 innings.

Juan Gonzalez tagged the first pitch he saw in the fourth over the left field wall for a three-run home run. I think he’s happy to be back in Texas.

With Texas leading 8-1, nobody was really paying attention to the game. Then the Public Address announcer said, “For the Texas Rangers, now pitching ? John Rocker.”

All of a sudden, everybody turned back to the game and started cheering or jeering Rocker, who pitched two scoreless innings.

Mike Jackson allowed six runs in the sixth to hurt his chances of being Minnesota’s closer this year. Eddie Guardado should get most of the save opportunities instead.

Twins 10, Red Sox 7

The story of this game was Nomar Garciaparra. Every fan in attendance wanted to see what kind of progress his wrist was making and he gave them the answer they wanted.

Nomar hit three line drives in three at-bats, finishing with a double and a home run. He is the driving force on this team and he finally looks healthy.

Michael Cuddyer lined a single to center in the fourth and scored after two bloop singles to give the Twins a 1-0 lead. Keep an eye on Cuddyer. He will be a star within five years.

John Burkett looked good for the Red Sox. He gave up 1 run on 5 hits in 4 innings, but only two balls were hit hard.

Shea Hillenbrand tied the game with a triple in the fourth and hit a double in the eighth. If he can be an average offensive boost, it would make Boston’s offense even more impressive.

Tim Wakefield came in to pitch for Boston in the sixth. After giving up a first pitch homer and hitting a batter, he kept serving up line drives until the Red Sox trailed 9-1.

Wakefield is one of the scariest sights ever for a Boston fan. The frustrating thing is that he’s just as likely to strike out the side in order as he is to implode, but you never know what he’s going to do and he doesn’t seem to like the middle ground.

Red Sox fans actually booed ? in spring training ? when he wasn’t yanked on the pitching coach’s first trip to the mound, and they cheered when he was taken out a few batters later.

Fan-favorite Lou Merloni and hefty slugger Juan Diaz drove in three runs in the seventh for Boston. Neither will be a regular, but both could help the team as spare parts or injury substitutes.

Red Sox 9, Marlins 5

Home runs by Johnny Damon and Manny Ramirez gave the Red Sox a 3-0 lead in the first.

If everybody’s healthy and happy, Damon, Trot Nixon, Nomar, Ramirez, Tony Clark and Jason Varitek give the Red Sox the best offense I can remember them having.

Derek Lowe gave up two runs on a few bloopers in the second. Those were the only runs he allowed in four innings of work and I feel good about his transition back to the rotation.

Rickey Henderson doubled and scored on a single by Nixon in the third to give Boston a 4-2 lead. Henderson looks like he can still produce and it appears he may lead off as many as 100 games for the Red Sox this year.

Jose Offerman walked in the fourth and then did something I hadn’t seen him do in a year and a half ? he stole a base. He scored on a sacrifice fly and if his legs are healthy, he could give the offense a big boost.

Damon’s standup triple to lead off the fifth sparked a three-run inning to give Boston an 8-2 lead. Damon and Henderson give the Red Sox an ability ? and willingness ? to steal bases I don’t think they’ve ever had. Don’t be surprised if Boston sets a team record for steals.

Rolando Arrojo pitched three innings in relief of Lowe for the Red Sox and allowed one unearned run on one hit. He is often the forgotten man on Boston’s staff, but he could be a key part as a spot starter/long reliever.

Expos 5, Braves 1

Albie Lopez wasn’t as bad in this game as in his previous start, but the opposing lineup wasn’t as good either. Aside from Jose Canseco, Montreal didn’t start anybody who could be confused with a quality major leaguer.

Canseco lined a two-run homer to left in the first and a couple of singles gave the Expos another run in the seconds.

For those of you keeping track at home, I saw Lopez work seven innings this spring and he gave up nine runs. John Smoltz relieved Lopez and allowed one hit in two scoreless innings.

I saw Smoltz pitch in spring training two years ago and he didn’t throw a ball again that year. Hopefully for Atlanta, he’ll stay healthy this year and post the 30-40 saves he’s capable of.

Marcus Giles doubled and scored Atlanta’s only run in the eighth. I’m expecting big things from Giles, who was a minor league MVP twice and hit nine homers in 68 games last year.

A player or team’s performance in spring training isn’t always a good predictor of performance in the regular season, but it can be informative. From what I saw, the Red Sox look to be in good shape for a return to the playoffs and the Braves may have more trouble with the Mets and Phillies than people think.

Jacobs can be reached at bjacobs@campustimes.org.



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