February 13, 2011

On Baseball: Optimistic Sox have concerns

By Kevin Thomas kthomas@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

Jonathan Papelbon
click image to enlarge

Jonathan Paplebon might be the most-watched member of the Red Sox pitching staff because his numbers have been steadily declining.

The Associated Press

There are several candidates for the final two spots. Among the right-handers are Scott Atchison, Matt Albers, Alfredo Aceves and Michael Bowden.

The lefties: Hideki Okajima, Rich Hill, Andrew Miller, Dennys Reyes and Felix Doubront.

Manager Terry Francona could go with pitchers he's gone to before -- Atchison and Okajima, although Albers may be kept because he has no minor league options. 

7. DAVID ORTIZ. After another slow start, Ortiz rebounded to hit .270 with 32 home runs and 102 RBI. But he fades against left-handers.

In 2010, Ortiz hit .222 with two home runs against left-handers. Ortiz, 35, is not the huge threat he once was, but he still has a place in the lineup.

Look for signs that Ortiz might get off to another slumbering start. And if he doesn't get a hit against a left-hander, Francona has some decisions to make. 

8. JOHN LACKEY. Maybe Lackey is not as critical as Beckett, and he did serve a purpose last year. His 14 wins matched the second highest of his career and he ate up 215 innings.

But if Lackey, 32, improves on last year's 4.40 ERA and 1.419 WHIP, Boston could be better than its already-high expectations. Lackey should now be settled in as a member of the Red Sox. If he regains his command, he's the best No. 4 starter in the game. 

9. KEVIN YOUKILIS. Not only is Youkilis coming back from a torn muscle in his thumb that ended his 2010 season, but he is returning to his original position, third base -- a place he has not manned full time since the minors (including 93 games in Portland in 2003).

Youkilis will work on it being a seamless transition. 

10. SHORTSTOP. Marco Scutaro is the returning starter and Francona has said that he will keep the job. Still, if Jed Lowrie is healthy, he may be an intriguing alternative.

But Lowrie's role as a utility player may be a key. He can spell Pedroia, depending on Pedroia's recovery from the broken foot. And Lowrie can play first or third.

Lowrie, 26, is a switch-hitter who is much better against lefties (.324) than right-handers (.216).
In Fort Myers, watch for Scutaro. Unless he’s horrible, it is his job to keep. Lowrie may have to wait to be a starter … but then Jose Iglesias will also be in camp - maybe auditioning for a role later in the season.

Soon, all the players will be in camp. 

KEY DATES: Today (pitchers and catcher report), Tuesday (first workout), Thursday (position players report), Saturday (first full-team workout), Feb. 26 (spring training games begin).

Staff Writer Kevin Thomas can be reached at 791-6411 or at:



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