Friday, December 6, 2013
Last year, when the Boston Red Sox began spring training, the word summing it all up was "curiosity."
2013 RED SOX AT A GLANCE
Today: Pitchers and catchers report
Feb. 12: First official workout for pitchers and catchers
Feb. 14: Rest of the team reports
Feb. 15: First full team workout
Feb. 21: First exhibition games
April 1: Season opener at N.Y. Yankees
PLAYERS REMAINING FROM LAST YEAR’S 40-MAN ROSTER
Pitchers: Alfredo Aceves, Andrew Bailey, Daniel Bard, Drake Britton, Clay Buchholz, Felix Doubront, John Lackey, Jon Lester, Andrew Miller, Franklin Morales, Clayton Mortensen, Junichi Tazawa
Catchers: Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Ryan Lavarnway
Infielders: Jose Iglesias, Will Middlebrooks, Dustin Pedroia
Outfielders: Jacoby Ellsbury, Ryan Kalish
Designated hitter: David Ortiz
NEW PLAYERS SINCE LAST SPRING
Pitchers: Craig Breslow, Rubby De La Rosa, Ryan Dempster, Joel Hanrahan, Koji Uehara, Allen Webster, Alex Wilson, Steven Wright
Catchers: Dan Butler, David Ross, Christian Vazquez
Infielders: Pedro Ciriaco, Stephen Drew, Mauro Gomez, Brock Holt, Mike Napoli
Outfielders: Jonny Gomes, Alex Hassan, Daniel Nava, Shane Victorino
Pitchers: Pedro Beato, Chris Carpenter, Anthony Carter, Jose De La Torre, Terry Doyle, Chris Hernandez, Oscar Villarreal
Infielders: Xander Bogaerts, Jonathan Diaz, Mark Hamilton, Justin Henry, Deven Marrero, Lyle Overbay, Drew Sutton
Outfielders: Jackie Bradley Jr., Jeremy Hazelbaker, Juan Carlos Linares, Mitch Maier, Ryan Sweeney
OFFSEASON TRADES (key principals)
Oct. 21: Sox acquire rights to manager John Farrell from Toronto (for Mike Aviles)
Dec. 26: Sox get Joel Hanrahan and Brock Holt from Pittsburgh (for Mark Melancon and Stolmy Pimentel)
Pitchers: Ryan Dempster, Koji Uehara
Catcher: David Ross
Infielders: Mike Napoli, Stephen Drew, Lyle Overbay
Outfielders: Jonny Gomes, Shane Victorino, Ryan Sweeney
Victorino, three years, $39 million
Dempster, two years, $26.5 million
Ortiz, two years, $26 million
Drew, one year, $9.5 million
Gomes, two years, $10 million
Napoli, one year, $5 million
Uehara, one year, $4.25 million
Breslow, two years, $6.25 million
Ross, two years, $6.2 million
This year, we will use two words:
Pitchers and catchers report to Fort Myers, Fla., today as the Red Sox look to recapture the glory years of just a few seasons ago. To do so, Boston ended the one-year experiment known as Bobby Valentine and brought back former pitching coach John Farrell, now as manager.
And Boston has shunned the expensive long-term contract approach for big-name players and returned to its approach of developing young players while finding others to fill holes.
Besides there being a whole new coaching staff and several new players (half of the 40-man roster has changed since last February), many of Boston's concerns are similar.
Looking at this space last year, we identified nine issues heading into 2012 spring training:
2. Daniel Bard.
3. Jose Iglesias.
4. A fifth starter.
5. Right field
6. A bullpen makeover.
7. Battles for jobs.
Valentine, the man picked by ownership to replace Terry Francona, managed Boston to a 69-93 record and was abruptly relieved of command.
Bard was to become a starter last season. It proved disastrous (5.24 ERA) and now Bard is trying to return to his dominant relieving ways.
Iglesias, the gifted fielding shortstop who was rushed through the minor league system -- starting in Portland in 2010 -- competed with Mike Aviles for the starting job and lost out. When Aviles was sent to Toronto in the deal for Farrell this offseason, Iglesias looked like a starter in 2013. Then Boston signed free agent Stephen Drew, and Iglesias won't even be competing for the job.
The fifth starter turned out to be Felix Doubront, who moved up to No. 4 when Bard faltered. Doubront (11-10, 4.86) showed positive signs. He is a more solid No. 5 this year, behind Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, free agent Ryan Dempster and rehabbed John Lackey.
Right field became Cody Ross' position. While he was a bright spot last year (22 home runs), Boston was not ready to commit a big contract for him, and Ross got a three-year, $26-million deal with Arizona. But the Red Sox were willing to give a three-year, $39-million deal to Shane Victorino.
The bullpen makeover was flawed last year when newly acquired closer Andrew Bailey and set-up man Mark Melancon were, in order, injured and ineffective. Now Boston is trying again, with Melancon traded and Bailey demoted to set-up man behind newly acquired Joel Hanrahan.
The roster battles last year sorted themselves out, with relievers Michael Bowden and Matt Albers and outfielder Darnell McDonald eventually traded or released.
Among those returning from injury last year were Buchholz, third baseman Kevin Youkilis, outfielder Carl Crawford and reliever Bobby Jenks. Buchholz had an up-and-down season (11-8, 4.56). Youkilis was briefly hurt again, allowing for the arrival of Will Middlebrooks (and Youkilis' trade to Chicago). Crawford never really got healthy and was traded. Jenks was broken down from Day 1.
The catcher question last year concerned the first season without Jason Varitek. Jarrod Saltalamacchia hit 25 home runs but batted .222, and threw out only 18 percent of base stealers. Backup Kelly Shoppach was dealt and prospect Ryan Lavarnway struggled (.157).
1. Farrell takes over for Valentine. Farrell appears to command respect and is a solid communicator -- two factors missing last year in the manager's office.
2. The starting rotation is set with Jon Lester, Buchholz, Dempster, Lackey and Doubront. Looks good on paper, but Boston's starters ranked 12th in the American League in ERA (5.19) last year. Lester, the presumed ace, was 9-14 with a 4.82 ERA. No guarantees here.
(Continued on page 2)