Jerry Ballgame presents his long-awaited 2013 Red Sox preview.
AKA- THE RETURN OF BIG, BAD JOHN
Although the 2013 edition of the Boston Red Sox is a significantly improved, much more likeable bunch then their ‘012 brethren, they are still going to require some major good fortune to go their way if they are to escape the AL East cellar. In my opinion; the classic half-full scenario! Let’s take a closer look at why I’m being a bit of an optimist.
For starters, and perhaps most significantly, John Farrell (AKA- the “Bad Cop’, AKA- “Big, Bad John”) rode back into town during the winter to hopefully provide them with some much needed leadership. Tito ceased to be effective after Farrell left, and Bobby V’s tenure seemed doomed from the start, so Farrell’s return, combined with Josh Beckett‘s departure, is most welcomed. Especially if he can find Jon Lester‘s on button, and get him to be the horse (see C.C.) the Sox need him to be. Combine a rejuvenated Lester with the returns of healthy and normal John Lackey and Clay Buchholz (I always want to call him Horst, and see if anyone catches the “Magnificent Seven” reference.) and you have at least the beginnings of a potentially strong rotation. Granted, no one expects Lackey to be the pitcher of his early Angels days, but early reports are promising in regards to his physical and mental health, so maybe we can hope for 12 to 14 wins, or at least 6 innings at a time.
Here’s where my optimism starts to wane though, as the Sox are going to need contributions from starters Felix Doubront, Franklin Morales, and Ryan Dempster if they are to be a threat. Of course, Doubront showed up for Spring training slightly out of shape (the second time in three years) and hurt his shoulder, Dempster had trouble beating anyone that wasn’t Boston last year when he came over to the AL, and Morales ran out of gas towards the end of the season. There is always the mercurial Alfredo Aceves to act as a spot starter, but as attractive as his versatility is, the saner move maybe trading him. (Unless Pedro Martinez can work his magic on him….) There are some young arms and new faces on the roster this Spring that may prove to make things interesting. Included in that mix are the two prospects they got from the Dodgers in last season’s trade; Rubby De La Rosa, who had a nice outing against the Yanks, and Allen Webster, who hit triple figures on the radar gun against Toronto. Steve Wright, the knuckballer not the comedian, may help as well.
What the Sox starters have going for them, however, is a very solid bullpen that will keep expectation on them to no more than six innings, if not five. They have a new closer in Joel Hanrahan, last year’s closer (who never actually closed because of a thumb injury) Andrew Bailey, veteran newcomer Koji Uehara, the very effective Junichi Tazawa and Clayton Mortensen, all throwing from the right side. From the port side, they have Andrew Miller and Craig Breslow, and possibly Morales, should the need arise to return him to the bullpen. Of course, the biggest “addition” to the pen would clearly be a return to form of Daniel Bard. They seem to be taking it pretty easy with him, but so far reports have been encouraging. I would have to believe that a return to form of Bard would make someone like Bailey or Aceves available for a major early season trade. But first, he has to prove he truly is back.
Who will all this promising pitching talent be throwing to? This position seems to be in a bit more flux than one might have thought, oh say, last year. It appears that Jarrod Saltalamacchia will once again be he primary receiver, but expectations are for former Braves backstop, David Ross to see a great of playing time, because of his defensive skills. But don’t be surprised if by the end of the year the youngster, Christian Vazquez, is getting a serious look at on the big club. The Sox brass are very encouraged by the progress that the 5’9″ 195 pound, 22 year old is making.
The Sox infield will consist of Mike Napoli, Dustin Pedroia, Steven Drew and Will Middlebrooks. Of course, this is at least somewhat dependent on Napoli’s hip holding up. Also, don’t get too attached to Drew, he’s playing the role formerly held by Adrian Beltre, and Cody Ross. He’s here to rebuild his career and then hope for a big contract somewhere else. This could finally mark the end of the parade of players who have played shortstop for the Sox though, as prospects Xander Bogaerts, Jose Iglesias and Deven Marrero are all being looked at as the long term solution to the “Curse of Nomar.” I’m guessing that the beefed up Iglesias will end up at short, Bogaerts at third, Middlebrooks will move to first, and Marrero will end up in left. I’m also guessing that we won’t have to wait much more than a year or so to see if I’m right.
As for the outfield, expect to see Shane Victorino in right, Jacoby Ellsbury in center and either Johnny Gomes or Daniel Nava in left; for now. There is no question in my mind that this is Ellsbury’s last year in Boston. The only question is, when will he leave? This may depend on how quickly Jackie Bradley develops, but he seems to be considered by everyone to be the real deal, so expect relatively soon.
Where will they finish? Tied for third with two other teams to be named later. The AL East is a very strange place, but the Sox are going to need help from the “Baseball Gods” (plus a healthy David Ortiz) if they are to finish higher than third. They’ll need for the Yankees to finally get old, the Blue Jays to be the 2011 Red Sox (a collection of players, without chemistry or leadership), the Rays to again be all pitching and no hitting and to have the Orioles’ luck at one run and extra inning games to disappear. Possible? Yes. Likely? Not so Much. But if their pitching holds up, and the youngsters come through, they could be an interesting team to watch, and one that others won’t want to see late in the season. So….
Featured image courtesy of: The Associated Press
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