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Red Sox suffer pair of losses on one afternoon

March 7, 2019
By CJ HADDAD ( , Cape Coral Daily Breeze

While the Boston Red Sox bats stayed silent for most of Wednesday afternoon's game against the Pittsburgh Pirates, a booming gasp emerged via Major League Baseball's announcement to suspend pitcher Steven Wright 80 games for testing positive for a performance-enhancing substance.

The announcement came in the final inning of Boston's 6-1 loss at Jet Blue Park.

"It's unfortunate. I never thought it would ever come down to this," Wright told the media following the game. "I respected the (MLB Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program) and unfortunately we couldn't figure out how this particular substance got into my system and at the end of the day it falls on me to try to prevent that and unfortunately somewhere it got into my body and I don't know how. But it is what it is and I just got to try and move on from it."

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Red Sox DH/first baseman Mitch Moreland takes a cut during Boston's spring training loss to the Pirates on Wednesday. 

The knuckleballer said he had found out about the positive test in the off season and was given the news his appeal was denied Tuesday night.

He was fervent about the fact that he was fully responsible for the test, despite not knowing what could have caused the illegal growth-hormone to turn up that will not only have him miss just about half of the regular season, but make him playoff ineligible.

"I've been in this game 12, 13 years, and I've never -- I mean even when I did all the drug tests this off season there's not one time in my mind where I ever think this would be possible," he said.

Sox manager Alex Cora was surprised by the news, though was poised about the team's outlook despite the loss of Wright, who had yet to make a spring appearance due to the rehab of his November knee surgery.

"Obviously disappointed," Cora said. "We'll give the player the support that he needs. He's still a part of the organization. Obviously it's something that we didn't expect, but we'll adjust."

The Red Sox had plans to use Wright out of the bullpen as the team is lacking depth in that area to a degree.

Cora, who had a friendly face in brother Joey coaching third for Pittsburgh that afternoon, said PED use by players can be part of the game and that the MLB is doing its part to keep the players clean.

"You always think about that," he said. "He's not the first one. He's not going to be the last one. I think MLB is doing an outstanding job trying to clean the game."

Cora got a good look at a mix of arms throughout the game, as most of the pitchers featured were potential relief candidates.

Josh Smith got the start and the loss, tossing two innings, surrendering two runs on four hits, walking one and striking out three.

Designated hitter Colin Moran reached base in all three of his at-bats for the Pirates, driving in a run on two hits, scoring twice.

Pittsburgh starter Nick Kingham looked in command over four scoreless innings of work, allowing just two hits and striking out three, earning the win.

Tyler Thornburg was first out of the bullpen for Boston and had a shaky outing, which has been commonplace for the righty as he gave up a run on two hits and two walks.

A fortunate double play due to a Pirate base-running error with the bases loaded and nobody out certainly saved Thornburg's line from more damage.

Thornburg has not yet lived up to his billing in his time in Boston, mostly due to a shoulder injury shortly after he was acquired.

His velocity has been there this spring, but the results haven't been what the pitcher has hoped for.

"It was, O.K.," he said of his outing. "Not happy. Not mad. Just happy to get another outing in and get further into spring."

Thornburg has been throwing 95 mph on the gun consistently, which is a higher velocity than he's used to seeing this early on, he said.

The Texas native mentioned that he can be a slow starter when it comes to spring ball, saying that he's just about where he usually is this time (despite the velocity) and that it takes him about six to seven starts to get locked in.

Overall, Cora was pleased with what he saw in the game despite the score.

"We saw some good signs today," he said. "Certain guys, their stuff was there. (Colton) Brewer threw the ball well. Thornburg, although the results weren't there, he maintained his velocity from his last (outing). So, somebody's going to step up, they're going to perform and they're going to help us out."

As for the rest of the roster, spots are open in the bullpen as far as Cora goes, and said he's looking forward to when line-ups get better towards the end of spring to really see what pitchers have.

"We're looking for people to get outs. Nothings going to change," he said.

Gold Glove center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. had some fun today as ESPN was in the booth for the broadcast and had Bradley Jr. mic'd up for a segment with analysts Matt Vasgersian, Jess Mendoza and Alex Rodriguez while playing center.

Right fielder Mookie Betts had the same experience last spring, comically saying, "I ain't getting this one, boys," as a ball was hit over his head and into the corner while conversing with the booth.

"It's definitely different," said Bradley Jr. of the experience. "A lot of people seem to enjoy it to be able to hear what I guess guys are thinking and saying at those particular moments. I think a lot of people really, I guess, want to hear that interaction, especially early on in the pre-season."

Bradley Jr. even made a catch in shallow center while A-Rod was in mid-question.

"You're thinking about multiple different things, and also trying to listen and talk back, give some insightful answers. You can have some fun with it. I can see how people can enjoy it," he said.

The newest Boston darling made his spring debut as World Series MVP Steve Pearce played first base and went hitless in two at-bats.

"I felt great. Exciting to get back going," he said. "It's nice to be able to start here and start working and get in the trenches with the guys and start preparing for the season."

The day wasn't without its butterflies, of course.

"I was kind of nervous and anxious all at the same time -- ready to go. Everything felt like I wanted it to. I was ready for it last night."

He said he enjoys the Red Sox faithful, which he has fully embraced.

"Yeah, you know I like it. I like hearing them up there and it gets me motivated."

What does he hear most from fans?

"Just MVP. It kind of sticks out. I like it," he said with a chuckle.

-Connect with this reporter on Twitter: @haddad_cj



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