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Sox tip their caps to Mets hopeful Tebow

The Providence Journal, R.I.

March 08. 2017 8:23PM
Red Sox starting pitcher Rick Porcello struck out Tim Tebow on four pitches during the New York Mets' 8-7 Grapefruit League win over Boston on Wednesday. (USA TODAY Sports)

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — The line of Red Sox along the top step of the visiting dugout at First Data Field, out 20 minutes early for stretch, revealed this was more than a media curiosity.

Those Sox were out to watch Tim Tebow, erstwhile quarterback turned baseball novelty, take batting practice.

Tebow made his first Grapefruit League start for the Mets on Wednesday, serving as the designated hitter against Rick Porcello and Boston. Tebow struck out looking in his first at-bat against Porcello, grounded into a double play off Noe Ramirez, was hit by a Brian Johnson pitch and struck out looking again against Brandon Workman.

“I don’t know anything about him, so I do what I do against all guys I’ve never faced before: attack with my fastball until they show they can hit it,” said Porcello. “He’s here for a reason, obviously. He’s here because good at baseball and can play. It’s not embarrassing (if he gets a hit off me). I fully expect him to come up there and put good swings on the ball. I’m competing, he’s competing. There’s no difference there.”

Before that at-bat, Tebow had made his way to the Red Sox on-deck circle to get a better read on Porcello from the left side.

“I didn’t know who that was. I thought it was a ballboy,” Porcello said. “It didn’t bother me.”

At all turns, the player wearing a nameless No. 97 jersey was the center of the crowd’s attention. His at-bats were greeted with the loudest ovations, and the fans yearned merely for contact. A ground ball foul elicited some yips from the crowd, and that sharp double-play ball earned a standing ovation.

“That’s a little different than what I’m used to,” Ramirez said of the ovation after a double play. “He got the job done, I guess.”

Ramirez said his teammates were impressed with Tebow’s performance in BP, at least.

“Guys were pretty astonished,” he said. “He’s got some pretty good pop. The ball comes off his bat pretty well, so obviously it was a show.”

Asked if he was a fan of Tebow as a quarterback, Porcello said he was more of an NFL fan than a college one.

Speaking before the game, Boston manager John Farrell respected Tebow’s ambition.

“It says he’s not afraid of failure, and I think that’s great for any athlete,” he said.

Is it good that Major League Baseball was aggressively marketing Tebow’s presence to draw eyes to a spring training game.

“I’m sure it can’t hurt,” he said. “There’s been so much talk about our game and what needs to improve; we have a really good game. We have a great game. Granted there have been some tweaks that have been talked about or a situation like this that brings some attention, I think what needs to be continued to be talked about is how great of a game it is. These situations like Tim Tebow being part of it, I think it’s a positive.”

“Anything that can bring attention to the game is a good thing,” said Porcello.

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