April 20, 2011

On Baseball: Red Sox seem to have an edge, but East competition is tough

By Kevin Thomas kthomas@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

Josh Beckett
click image to enlarge

Josh Beckett could be the difference between a good rotation and a great one for the Boston Red Sox.

The Associated Press

Catcher

Boston: Jarrod Saltalamacchia/Jason Varitek

New York: Russell Martin/Jesus Montero

Tampa Bay: John Jaso/Kelly Shoppach

There is no greater question mark for the Red Sox and Yankees than catcher. In Boston's ideal situation, Saltalamacchia will emerge to fulfill his promise, under the guidance of Varitek. That, obviously, is no guarantee.

Martin saw his numbers go down every year in Los Angeles (.248, .679 OPS last season). Montero, a top prospect with no major league experience, might start the season in Triple-A.

Jaso is the rare leadoff-hitting catcher (.372 on-base percentage). But he does not hit lefties well. That's where Shoppach comes in.

Designated hitter

Boston: David Ortiz

New York: Jorge Posada

Tampa Bay: Manny Ramirez

Even with a slow start last year, Ortiz, now 35, batted .270 with an .899 OPS, hitting 32 home runs.

Posada is a clutch switch hitter who turns 40 in August.

While it is fun to have goofball Ramirez, 38, back in the AL East, can he improve on last year's numbers (nine home runs in 90 games)?

Conclusion

The Yankees and Red Sox look alike, with formidable lineups. Their rotations appear similar -- a left-handed ace (Sabathia and Lester), emerging young standout (Hughes and Buchholz) and questionable veteran (Burnett and Beckett) -- with Boston having a slight advantage.

The bullpens may decide the outcome, which might make Red Sox fans uneasy. Boston may be the favorite to win the division, but the Yankees will jump ahead should Papelbon continue to blow saves.

As for the Rays, they do not appear to match up on paper. But Tampa Bay has been underestimated before and won anyway.

And, just to make it interesting, the John Farrell-led Blue Jays and Buck Showalter-managed Orioles both look improved.

Can the Red Sox dominate in 2011? Boston will settle for reaching the playoffs and then see what happens.

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

kthomas@pressherald.com

 

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