FORT MYERS, Fla. – Marco Scutaro’s first play in a spring training game with the Boston Red Sox showed why they signed him.

Their new shortstop made an outstanding pickup, starting a double play that bailed Josh Beckett out of the first inning.

In the fourth, Scutaro fielded another tough grounder to retire the leadoff hitter, which became more important when the next two batters walked and singled but were stranded in Thursday night’s 2-1 victory against the Minnesota Twins.

“As people watch him, they’ll come quickly to realize why we wanted him,” Boston Manager Terry Francona said Friday. “Those are really good plays.”

Scutaro and second baseman Dustin Pedroia remained in the Red Sox camp Friday to work on defense together while other players were at the Twins’ spring training home, also in Fort Myers.

“I knew since Day One we were going to be on the same page. He knows how to play the game and communicate,” Scutaro said. “I don’t think there’s going to be any problem.”

Adjusting to new double-play partners isn’t new to Pedroia.

He played last year with six shortstops — Alex Gonzalez, Julio Lugo, Nick Green, Jed Lowrie, Gil Velazquez and Chris Woodward. Gonzalez finished the season and is considered a better fielder than Scutaro. But they were tied for fourth among major league shortstops with a .984 fielding percentage.

And Scutaro is a more complete player. He hit .282 with 12 homers, 100 runs, 162 hits, 35 doubles and 90 walks, all career highs, with Toronto.

He signed with Boston as a free agent on Dec. 4.

“We’ve seen what he’s done the last couple of years. He’s great out there. It’s going to be fun playing with him,” Pedroia said. “He takes pride in what he does. He takes his ground balls at game speed in warm-ups.”

On Thursday night, Beckett allowed a single to the game’s first hitter, Denard Span, who took second on a groundout and scored on a single by Jason Kubel. Then Michael Cuddyer hit a grounder to Scutaro, who fielded the ball and started the inning-ending double play.

Scutaro played the last six seasons in the American League, four with Oakland and two with Toronto, and is familiar with hitters’ tendencies. So when the right-handed Cuddyer came up, Scutaro took a few steps toward the third-base line.

“Cuddyer’s a pull hitter so I kind of play a little more to the hole and I was expecting the ball,” said Scutaro. “I’m always expecting a ground ball and trying to make a play.”

Had Cuddyer’s ball eluded Scutaro, a big inning could have resulted and hastened Beckett’s exit. Instead, he lasted the two innings Francona had planned.

“We need to make the routine plays for the pitchers so that way they can stay longer in the game,” Scutaro said. “We can’t give teams extra outs.”

He made his next big play in the fourth on a leadoff grounder by Alexi Casilla before Kubel walked and took second on Cuddyer’s single. But Hideki Okajima got out of the jam by retiring Jacque Jones on a fly to left and Brendan Harris on a foul pop to the catcher.

 

JUSTIN MORNEAU and Tim Wakefield made encouraging returns after a long offseason dealing with back injuries.

Morneau marked his return to Minnesota with a two-run double and Wakefield tossed two scoreless innings for Boston in his first post-surgery appearance in a 5-0 victory by the Twins on Friday.

Morneau, who was shut down in mid-September because of a broken vertebrae in his lower back, went 1 for 2 with the double to right off Red Sox starter Jon Lester in the first inning.

“I had a lot of adrenaline,” Morneau said of his first plate appearance, with the bases loaded in the first.

“I found myself thinking it’s way too early for this kind of at-bat,” said Morneau, who hit .274 with 30 homers and 100 RBI last season. “It worked out well, actually. I saw a few pitches. I saw what I liked, got lucky and found a hole.”

Wakefield, who is eyeing the fifth starter spot in Boston’s deep rotation, had surgery to repair a herniated disk in his back last October. He worked the third and fourth innings, tossing 16 of his 21 pitches for strikes, with one hit and no walks.

“I felt really good,” Wakefield said. “I felt like my timing was there. I was able to throw a lot of strikes. Physically I felt fine. I was just happy to get the first one out of the way and get ready for the season.”

Francona liked what he saw.

“He’s on the regular rotation,” Francona said. “If he says he needs an extra day, we can always build that in. I don’t anticipate that happening.”

Lester wasn’t as sharp. He gave up four runs on three hits and two walks in one inning.

“I’ll make some adjustments,” Lester said. “I made a couple of good pitches. I’ll build on those. It’s the first one.”