Five Things to Watch in Red Sox Spring Training

With the start of Spring Training, expect all kinds of feel good stories coming out of Ft. Myers.

Like John Lackey really is a good guy.

As much as I look forward to Spring Training, I am not a big believer the games tell one much of anything meaningful.

For instance, the Red Sox biggest question – and most important factor in their success or failure – is the starting pitching.

And how Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, Lackey and the other starters do in Florida will have practically no bearing on how they fare during the season.

So here is what this blog will be watching in Spring Training.

Medical Report

Have to admit it’s a little disheartening that David Ortiz is still not at full speed – and will take things slowly.

And who knows what to expect from Mike Napoli playing the beast of Drop 3 bat – despite the pronouncements from manager John Farrell that Napoli is ready to go.

Watch for whether Ortiz and Napoli are both ready to go without restrictions when the bell rings on Opening Day.

Leftfield

Newcomer Jonny Gomes says he wants to be more than a platoon player who only plays against lefty pitchers.

Watch if the Red Sox give Gomes at-bats against lefties as an indication of what they may do during the regular season.

Also watch for who emerges as the platoon partner – Daniel Nava or Ryan Sweeney.

Catcher

Red Sox GM Ben Cherington says he expects Jarrod Saltalamacchia and David Ross to be the team’s catching combination. With Ryan Lavarnway headed back to Pawtucket.

There are still a bunch of teams that may be looking for a catcher – like the Cubs and White Sox.

It’s unlikely the Sox would deal Lavarnway because Saltalamacchia is a free agent at the end of the coming season.

So if Salty jumps ship and Lavarnway is gone, they would be thin at hitter, swinging his Demarini Voodoo in a good manner.

Watch if some team jumps forward with an attractive offer – for instance, something involving Saltalamacchia and Cubs starter and also free agent to be Matt Garza (if he looks healthy) may be of interest.

Bullpen

Boston has ten pitchers competing for seven bullpen slots.

The Red Sox had a pretty good bullpen last season.

If Joel Hanrahan delivers like he can, they will have a great bullpen. And depth matters because stuff happens during the season.

You can never have too much pitching – especially if the starting staff pitches like it did last year.

Watch for how the bullpen shapes up – and if the Red Sox decide to trade the surplus or stash it in Pawtucket.

Bogaerts

Looking forward to seeing uber-prospect Xander Bogaerts play against the big boys – in Spring Training and the World Baseball Classic.

While he is still a work in process, watch to see if Bogaerts holds his own against major leaguers.

That may provide some insight on whether we might expect to see Bogaerts in Fenway Park some time in 2013.

What are you watching for this Spring Training?

Red Sox Spring Training Round-up With Awesome Bats

I love the first week of Spring Training – everything is great (except Felix Doubront is out of shape and had to be spoken to about it).

Hope springs eternal.

The players love new manager John Farrell (although Farrell probably did not have a high bar to climb after the Bobby Valentine fiasco).

Jon Lester says last year was a fluke. Daniel Bard could hit the strike zone with his new BBCOR bat. Mike Napoli can play in the field. David Ortiz can run but not yet in base-running drills.

Three Interesting Things to Note

  • Daniel Nava, a fan of Easton is working out at first base. The Red Sox have a riverboat gamble going on at first. You have Napoli coming off a sub-par offensive season being asked to play a position he is less than stellar at with a big hip injury risk. Boston needs production from first base – if for no other reason than to provide some lineup protection for Ortiz. Positioning Nava as a first baseman, something he has not done in the minors or majors, is another risk. Lyle Overbay is there too – but old, not much at the plate and pretty much a first baseman-only (Sox want some first/outfield versatility on the bench). Watch this spot – Boston will be looking for other options.
  • Bringing Rubby De La Rosa who is in favour of Demarini Voodoo along. I like the Red Sox plan for De La Rosa season. With him still building his arm up after Tommy John surgery, the plan is to limit his innings in the first half of the season (in a bullpen role). This is the approach the Braves took with Kris Medlen last year – with great success. If Boston really feels in their head and heart that they are a contender, better to have De La Rosa available for any role as a late in the season pick me up. Rather than having De La Rosa hit his 2013 innings limit before the stretch run.
  • The Red Sox blueprint. Alex Speier’s piece “THE BLUEPRINT: DEFINING THE PATH TO THE ‘NEXT GREAT RED SOX TEAM’” is a terrific, must-read article. (Note: Speier is a hugely underrated Red Sox journalist – always presents well-thought-out stories.) I am “just” a fan – but give kudos to the Red Sox for their self-evaluation after last year – and the blueprint they are following. I believe this year will be better, but still short of playoff contention. And well short of the ultimate World Series goal. The season revolves around Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz, and I am not ready – yet (I will tell you May 15) – to say they are the #1 and #2 starters Boston needs to go to the Promised Land.

What are you watching for in the coming weeks of Spring Training?

Red Sox: Sunday Quick Hitscopy

Some Spring Training stories worth noting:

  • It’s interesting that Nick Cafardo writes some MLB executives are expecting “dramatic changes” in player performance with the improved PED testing that is taking place. What Cafardo left unsaid with the expectation of lower power numbers is that baseball executives believe there is a significant level of “cheating” (by using PEDs) still in the game. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised, but I am.
  • It continues to be a bumpy road for Tigers rookie closer Bruce Rondon. Like the idea of Boston targeting a starter like Rick Porcello (can never have enough quality, young arms) in a deal involving Andrew Bailey, if Detroit looks for other bullpen options.
  • Keep an eye on Tyler Colvin of the Rockies – as a potential David Ortiz (short-term, hopefully) replacement with Big Papi’s injury woes continuing. Colvin is a lefty hitter best suited for a platoon situation. Also, he can play first base and outfield. The Rockies are going nowhere this season so would be looking for young talent in return. And looks like we can cross Manny Ramirez off the potential replacement list – he is headed to Taiwan to play.
  • Red Sox backup catcher David Ross walked through the best pitches he has caught. There are a couple of Eric Gagne references (fastball, change-up) – showing clearly Ross was a Gagne teammate in Los Angeles and not part of Gagne’s disastrous Red Sox career.

What has caught your eye this week in Spring Training?