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Pearce's hometown return filled with home runs

E-Rod racks up 8 K's; updates on Martinez, Pedroia
@IanMBrowne
March 14, 2019

LAKELAND, Fla. -- Steve Pearce provided not one, but two blasts from the past in his return to his hometown on Thursday. The World Series MVP and proud 2001 graduate of Lakeland High School smashed two homers on a day the Red Sox tied the Tigers, 4-4. Last time Pearce

LAKELAND, Fla. -- Steve Pearce provided not one, but two blasts from the past in his return to his hometown on Thursday.

The World Series MVP and proud 2001 graduate of Lakeland High School smashed two homers on a day the Red Sox tied the Tigers, 4-4.

Last time Pearce homered in Lakeland?

“Probably high school,” said Pearce.

It just so happened that those two homers, both towering shots down the line in left, were Pearce’s first two hits of Spring Training after an 0-for-12 drought.

“I was getting a little worried there for a minute,” quipped Pearce. “It just feels good to finally get like a rhythm. For my first couple of games, timing wasn’t there. Mechanics weren’t there. Kind of just clueless at the plate. Now, the last couple of days, starting with BP, everything is starting to feel a lot better.”

Overall, it was a fun day to be Pearce, who had a Lakeland Dreadnaughts jersey (No. 5 on the back) sitting in his locker.

Where did it come from?

“That was my high school. A fan gave it to me today, that was my jersey. That’s actually pretty cool,” said Pearce.

That number must be retired, right? It turns out a World Series MVP doesn’t quite cut it for whomever is on the selection committee for retired numbers at Lakeland High School.

“Nope, not retired. Maybe one day in the future right next to [Chris] Sale,” said Pearce.

Sale, who didn’t make the trip, also went to Lakeland High School.

At the end of the day, Pearce headed back to Fort Myers but enjoyed his trip down memory lane.

“For sure. It’s where I grew up,” said Pearce. “I’ll look in the stands and I’ll see people I haven’t seen in 15 years. It’s pretty cool.”

E-Rod shakes off bumpy second

Other than a rough second inning, when he gave up three runs, Eduardo Rodriguez had a solid fourth start of Spring Training.

The lefty breezed for the majority of his five-inning outing, allowing three hits while walking two and striking out eight.

“Good, really good,” Rodriguez said. “Just in the second inning, I felt like I went out there and tried to throw ball and not pitch, but the rest was really good, working both sides with all of my pitches, slider and everything was working pretty good.”

Red Sox manager Alex Cora, who had been critical of Rodriguez’s pitch efficiency two starts ago against the Mets, was pleased with the lefty this time.

“Excellent,” said Cora. “One bad inning. He just went over one pitch. It was 75, he went 76. He only had 14 pitches going into the last inning. We challenged him to get three outs. He got three outs with 15.”

Hembree, Workman sharp

Heath Hembree's debut this spring was delayed for a paternity leave. But the righty didn’t show any rust when he finally got out there on Thursday, striking out all three batters he faced in the seventh inning. The Red Sox are counting on Hembree to be a big part of their bullpen following the departures of Joe Kelly and Craig Kimbrel.

“Yeah, [Hembree is] going to be good,” said Cora. “Good pitches, good fastball.”

Cora was also pleased to see an improvement from another important reliever in Brandon Workman, who had been scored on his last three outings. This time, Workman faced four batters and struck out two of them. Only Miguel Cabrera reached, and that was on an error by third baseman Bobby Dalbec.

“Workman was great today, good mix, didn’t get rattled, slowed the running game down,” said Cora.

Pedroia plan

Dustin Pedroia played three innings in a Minor League game on Thursday, going 0-for-2. When Pedroia plays in his next Grapefruit League game over the weekend, he could get up to five innings.

Cora also didn’t rule out Pedroia playing in back-to-back games by next week, which would mark another key step in his return from left knee woes.

J.D. back at it

The back tightness that held J.D. Martinez out of Wednesday’s game turned out to be a nonissue. Martinez resumed action on Thursday, going 0-for-3 with a walk in a Minor League game. The star slugger could be on the bus Friday morning for Tampa to play against the Yankees.

Up Next

The Red Sox face the Yankees for the second and final time during Spring Training on Friday in Tampa. Right-hander Hector Velázquez will make the start. Rafael Devers, Andrew Benintendi, Blake Swihart and Sandy Leon are all expected to be in the lineup for the Red Sox. First pitch is scheduled for 1:05 p.m. ET.

Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook.