BOSTON -- For Red Sox lefty reliever Bobby Poyner, Thursday was momentous as soon as he walked to the bullpen for the start of the home opener at Fenway Park.Poyner, who is ranked the club's No. 23 prospect by MLB Pipeline, had only been to games at Fenway Park as
BOSTON -- For Red Sox lefty reliever Bobby Poyner, Thursday was momentous as soon as he walked to the bullpen for the start of the home opener at Fenway Park.
Poyner, who is ranked the club's No. 23 prospect by MLB Pipeline, had only been to games at Fenway Park as a spectator. And now he was here as the 25-year-old rookie who made the team out of Spring Training after spending all of last season with Double-A Portland.
But the day just kept getting more special. Red Sox manager Alex Cora went to Poyner with the game tied heading into the 11th, and the reliever came up with six big outs, three of them on strikeouts.
Let the record show that Poyner was the winning pitcher in a game the Red Sox downed the Rays, 3-2, on Hanley Ramirez's walk-off single to deep right in the 12th inning.
"Today was awesome," said Poyner after his first career win. "Like I said, just building on each outing, keep improving, keep working on my pitches."
Cora became impressed by Poyner early in Spring Training, and he liked him even more once he saw how nothing rattled him.
Poyner has pitched in four of Boston's first seven games, giving up one run over 4 2/3 innings.
The fact that Poyner was the choice in those last two extra innings says something when the Red Sox still had a couple of experienced options available in Joe Kelly and Matt Barnes.
"He's a guy with the fastball throwing 89 [mph], 90 [mph], and he can get people out and the changeup," said Cora. "We've been talking to him about using the changeup against lefties, and he's been doing a better job. He's a good pitcher, tough to pick up the ball. In an era when we talk about pitching vertical, he does an outstanding job."
Poyner had experienced Fenway before, but Thursday's experience took it to another level.
"I mean, any time I think you're at Fenway Park, whether you're in the stands or whatever, I think it's a totally different intensity," Poyner said. "It was incredible. It was awesome."
Ian Browne** has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook.