Originally written on NESN.com  |  Last updated 3/11/13
8 a.m. ET: In this elongated spring season surrounding the World Baseball Classic, we’re at the point where players begin to push themselves a bit more physically to gear their bodies up for the grind of a 162-game season. For the Boston Red Sox (8-8 in Grapefruit League play), that means Mike Napoli is slated to play the first of back-to-back games on Monday for the first time this spring. Although Napoli has said he’s never in his life experienced symptoms from the degenerative hip injury that caused to much trouble in contract negotiations this offseason, playing two days in a row will nonetheless be a good test of how he’s holding up physically, and another opportunity for repetitions at first base. The Sox are slated to hand the ball to Jon Lester (2-0, 1.00) for his fourth start of the spring. His last time on the hill the 29-year-old left-hander threw 52 pitches, so he’ll likely be looking for something more like 60-65 on Monday afternoon as he continues his preparation for a bounce-back season. For the Miami Marlins (6-7), at this point we all know the story of their offseason and the lowly roster the team is stuck with. Moreover, much-maligned owner Jeffrey Loria’s one and only star, right fielder Giancarlo Stanton, is still on duty with Team USA in the WBC, so he won’t be featured for the Marlins on Monday. Basically, when losing catcher Jeff Mathis — statistically one of the worst hitters in the history of the game — puts a major kink in your preseason preparation, it’s a sign the team is in for a long, long season. Nonetheless, the Marlins will counter with 28-year-old right-hander Kevin Slowey (0-0, 0.00 in 6 1/3 innings pitched), who’s trying to bounce back in the majors after a forgettable 2012 campaign. After pitching reasonably well for the Twins as a back-of-the-rotation guy from 2008 through 2010, Slowey was forced out of the rotation picture in 2011 and traded to Cleveland (via Colorado) after the season. But in 2012 he only made eight starts with Triple-A Columbus before succumbing to a stress fracture in his ribcage. He pitched in the Dominican winter league this offseason and drew a surprising amount of interest as a free agent, eventually signing a minor league deal with Miami. And, oh yeah, he also once climbed Mount Kilimanjaro with R.A. Dickey. First pitch is scheduled for 1:05 p.m. ET, and Will Middlebrooks, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Jose Iglesias and Rubby De La Rosa are among the players making the 140-mile bus ride across the Florida panhandle from Fort Myers to Jupiter. We’ll have the starting lineups and, as Vin Scully would say, “all the stats and stories” leading up to the game, so stay tuned. And, if you’re so inclined, you can follow this live blogger on Twitter at @ZachStoloff for Red Sox and MLB analysis, as well as the occasional limerick.
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