FORT MYERS — Behind free-agent signee Mike Napoli’s three-run homer, the Boston Red Sox defeated the Minnesota Twins 12-5 on Thursday at Hammond Stadium.
Napoli, who agreed to a one-year, $5-million contract with Boston in January, keyed a five-run fourth inning for the Red Sox. Second baseman Dustin Pedroia stroked a two-run double earlier in the inning and scored on Napoli’s bomb off Minnesota’s Caleb Thielbar.
Boston also received a sharp performance from starter Clay Buchholz. The 28-year-old righty threw three scoreless innings, striking out four with two hits and no walks in his second preseason start.
“Buck’s almost a veteran,” said Boston catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia of Buchholz. “It seems like he’s been pitching forever. He’s still young but he knows how to pitch.
“Buchholz pitches real well in pressure situations, which is something you have to have in Boston. If he’s healthy, he should have a great season.”
That’s the way the 27-year-old Saltalamacchia feels about all of the Red Sox starters.
“As I say about all my starters, I expect them all to make the all-star team and help us win the World Series,” he said.
After reaching a one-year, $4.5-million agreement with the team in January, the West Palm Beach native is entering his third season with Boston.
Though he hit 25 home runs last season, improved defensively and is tight with the Red Sox pitching staff, Saltalamacchia’s role with Boston is still not certain with the opening day about three weeks away.
As he did on Thursday, Saltalamacchia, or “Salty,” is slated to be Boston’s starter behind the plate this season. However, he also is involved in a three-way competition for playing time with veteran David Ross and Ryan Lavarnway.
That the Red Sox have options on Lavarnway also clouds Saltalamacchia’s situation with the team, perhaps making the switch-hitter, who is out of options, trade bait.
“Salty would be our lead catcher right now,” Sox manager John Farrell said earlier in the spring. “But we know that we have a very capable No. 2 guy (in Ross), and I think the one thing we’ve always viewed the catching position as a two-man situation, knowing that there’s a lead guy, and that would be Salty.
“We’re fortunate to have the flexibility in the addition of Ross but I can’t see a drastic reduction in the number of at-bats from Salty.”
Regardless of his situation, Saltalamacchia, who went hitless in two at-bats on Thursday, was talking all baseball at the team’s JetBlue Park spring training site before the heading west on Daniels Parkway to the game.
That Farrell, who was Boston’s pitching coach before managing the Toronto Blue Jays last season, is now back in the fold, Saltalamacchia sees Boston’s staff performing better this season.
“John’s got some experience now after a year in Toronto,” he said. “He knows our pitchers, and that helps. John being around has helped out guys like (starter Jon) Lester and (Buchholz) — get them back to where they were a few years ago.”
One pitcher Saltalamacchia is expecting big things from is left-hander Felix Doubront, who led Boston with 11 wins and 167 strikeouts last year.
“Doobie’s got some of the best stuff of any lefty out there,” he said. “He’s just got so many weapons he can go to. He’s young and so he’s still learning himself, which is kind of scary as good as he is now.
“He’s going to be a big part of this team if we’re going to be successful.”