Taking advantage of a little down time, the wife and I recently hopped on a southbound Jet Blue Airbus and made a quick pilgrimage to Jet Blue Park, in Fort Myers, Florida. Recognizable to most as the Spring Training home of the World Champion Boston Red Sox, the journey was intended to provide the opportunity to not only bask in the warmth of the weather, but also the continued glow of their World Series victory. I also thought that maybe I’d see enough of their 2014 edition to give me some insight into how they will fair this season has they attempt to defend their title. Well, I’m back to report the weather was great, the park experience incredible, and that the team needs some work.
I realize that it’s a little early and that, at this point in the Spring, the emphasis is on seeing how rookies and free agents perform; but what I saw on my trip, plus what has gone on since then, makes me a little skeptical as to their odds of repeating. I’m already on record as saying that I thought the magic that they caught last year by translating the whole “Boston Strong” movement into a sense of destiny could not be recaptured. So, for now, I’ll enjoy the glow as I take a closer look at the 2014 Boston Red Sox.
Both starting and relieving should be a relative strength for them. They have returning starters Jon Lester (15 wins), Clay Buchholz, John Lackey and Jake Peavy (assuming he stops hurting himself- he’s such a cut up..) and lefthander Felix Doubront. This maybe the year Doubront emerges as a real star as he actually arrived at camp strong and in good physical condition. He has not done that in the past, and it has lead to injury and ineffectiveness. I would expect one of the youngsters to emerge as a contributor, possibly Matt Barnes, Brandon Workman, or the 6’7″ Henry Owens. Expect Workman to be a major contributor this year, in long relief if not in the starting rotation. Speaking of relief. the Sox will have Junichi Tazawi (68 innings, 71 K’s) back in a set up role with the Koji Uehara (1.09 era, 21/24 saves) back as the closer. I belief that Koji could, despite his age (soon to be 39) be effective for a few years because his effectiveness is related to the movement of his ball, as opposed to its speed. They will also benefit from the return of the 6’7″ Andrew Miller (L) as well as the merely 6’1″ Craig Breslow (L) who was very effective for John Farrell almost all year long in 2013.
The right side should continue to be a strength for Boston, with Mike Napoli at first and a healthy (thumb surgery) Dustin Pedroia at second. The left side on the other hand, I worry about. Xander Bogaerts seems destined to be a star, but more likely for his hitting rather than his fielding. I can’t shake the feeling that Sox may be better served with him at third, and perhaps bringing back Stephen Drew for his glove at short. (Although they should hurry up and do it before the Yanks snap him up to play second base.) There was encouragement regarding Will Middlebrooks when he reported to camp having put on 12 pounds of muscle, but that’s yet to make a difference and there are still doubts surrounding his long term value.
I would say that they are looking pretty solid in this area once again. You should expect to see Jonny Gomes, Mike Carp, and/or Daniel Nava in left, Jackie Bradley or Grady Sizemore in center and Shane Victorino in right. If Bradley and Sizemore don’t pan out, it’s likely they will move Victorino back to center and Nava would be the regular right fielder. How much the Sox will miss Ellsbury in the field obviously remains to be seen. His speed has always been an asset, but opponents have never been afraid to run on his arm. Replacing him at the top of the lineup is a different matter, as there is no clear candidate to immediately step in. It is generally felt that Bogaerts’ patience at the plate will eventually land him there, but there is hesitation to put that pressure on him at the beginning of the season.
AJ Pierzynski and David Ross will be holding down the fort this year, and should do so adequately. They are probably just place holders as it’s generally felt that prospect Christian Vazquez (5’9″, 195) is the catcher of the future, especially now that Yale educated Ryan Lavarnway‘s power has disappeared.
David Ortiz. I have to agree with those who say that as long as he stays healthy, he’ll hit. That also assumes that Mike Napoli stays healthy, because Papi will still need someone following in the order that makes opponents pitch to him. As for now, I think you have to believe that this remains a strength.
The AL East should be a very competitive place to be. We all know what the Yankees did this past offseason. Toronto should be better just by being healthy and Baltimore has signed pitching, and recently Nelson Cruz to bolster their lineup. Tampa Bay, for their part, still has a very strong pitching staff led by lefty David Price. However, although I’ve said I doubt the Sox will repeat, I’m not totally counting them out; and they should be in the hunt, and at the very least, they should be an entertaining team to watch. All I can say for now is…stay tuned!
Featured image courtesy of: Jerry Cabana/Jobu’s Rum
- The “Roger That” Edition - February 28, 2017
- The “Nice Ring To It” Edition - February 3, 2017
- The “Shaken, Not Stirred” Edition - January 17, 2017
- The “Malcolms in the Middle” Edition - January 11, 2017
- A “Catching Up, Following Up, and Weighing In” Edition - December 31, 2016
- The “Cannon and Flowers” Edition - December 21, 2016
- The “Farm, for Sale” Edition - December 10, 2016
- The “Tebucky Jones Tribute” Edition - November 13, 2016
- The “World, Serious” Edition - November 1, 2016
- The “Easy Come, Easy Go” Edition - October 18, 2016