Nine thoughts from afar, as I finally begin packing for spring training.
CATCHING DEPTH has never been better for the Red Sox, and they may need it this year.
Major league catchers A.J. Pierzynski, 37, and David Ross (who turns 37 in 10 days) have been limited by injuries this spring – Pierzynski with a sore ankle, Ross a sore foot. Teams are overly cautious with players in the spring, but Boston’s veteran duo is no sure bet to play a complete 162-game season together.
Enter Ryan Lavarnway, Christian Vazquez and maybe even Dan Butler.
MEANWHILE, SEA DOGS fans will get to watch Blake Swihart, another prime catching prospect making his way to Hadlock Field (following Vazquez, Lavarnway, Butler and Tim Federowicz (now the Dodgers’ backup catcher).
MIGUEL CELESTINO pitched for the Sea Dogs last year and recorded a 6.13 ERA. Still, the Red Sox did not want to lose Celestino, who was a minor league free agent after the season. A 24-year-old pitcher who fires a fastball in the high 90s always has potential. Celestino re-signed with Boston with an invite to major league camp. He’s pitched two innings (two hits, one unearned run, one strikeout, one walk). He will likely be working on his command at Hadlock Field again.
SPEAKING OF COMMAND, it was encouraging to see Allen Webster tweak his delivery and pitch effectively Thursday (three innings, one hit, one strikeout, no walks). The tweak – pitching more downward toward the plate – came at the suggestion of John Lackey, Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz. Their mentoring was initiated by pitching coach Juan Nieves. Smart coaching, bringing in the veterans to make sure Webster got the message.
JOSE IGLESIAS IS a marvelous shortstop, but there have been concerns about his durability (maybe one reason Boston traded him to the Tigers).
Iglesias did play 142 games total last year, but he had missed time the previous three seasons, including 2010 when he played only 57 games for Portland.
Iglesias has missed more than a week with the Tigers this spring training with shin splints.
ANOTHER REASON THAT Iglesias was traded was Boston has depth at shortstop, including Xavier Bogaerts, who will start this season. Behind him the Red Sox have another defensive whiz, Deven Marrero, who is due back in Portland this season. Marrero made several acrobatic plays for Boston in Thursday’s exhibition game against the Marlins. “You’d be hard-pressed to find a shortstop that’s going to make better plays than that,” Red Sox Manager John Farrell told reporters after the game.
IT WOULD HAVE BEEN nice to watch Marrero and third baseman Garin Cecchini handle one side of the infield in Portland. But I get the feeling that Cecchini is playing his way out of Double-A. Cecchini, 22, hit .296 in a half-season with the Sea Dogs last year (.420 on-base percentage), and is impressing with both his bat and glove in the spring. He was batting .273 (.385 OBP) in five games.
ELSEWHERE, THE YANKEES continue to hope their rebuilt rotation holds up. We’ve mentioned Michael Pineda before, how the young power arm is coming back after two years on the shelf.
Pineda looked good in his spring debut, throwing two shutout innings (one hit, four strikeouts). His fastball reportedly was around 92-94 mph and his slider sharp.
THE ANNUAL SEA DOGS Welcome Back Dinner will be held at 5:30 p.m. April 1 at the Portland Expo. Tickets are $20 for adults and $14 for children (up to age 14) and benefit Opportunity Alliance, which provides children, family and mental health services. For tickets, go to www.opportunityalliance.org or call 874-1175.
Kevin Thomas can be reached at 791-6411 or at: