With Opening day just over two weeks away the Red Sox team continues to take shape. Here's an update on the Spring training story lines.
1. According to John Farrell Big Papi has responded well to rest and medication and is hopeful to start taking batting practice possibly as early as Monday. It's too early to tell if he's on his way back, but at least the news is positive so far. At this point Papi is going to start the year on the DL.
2. Jackie Bradley Jr. continues to produce and impress, but his momentum for making the team seems to have cooled off. The only question remaining is will he start the year at AA or AAA. Selfishly I hope he starts at AA so I can take in an early Sea Dogs game and watch him play, but AAA is more likely after the spring he's had. JBJr's most impressive play of this week came from the defensive side of the ball while playing CF. He caught a fly ball with the bases loaded and the runner from 3rd faked like he was going to tag and go, so JBJr threw behind him to 3B and almost got him for a double play. The play showed off two of his best attributes his strong arm and his natural instincts.
3. Alfredo Aceves will start today vs. the Rays in Port Charlotte. John Lackey is going to pitch in a minor league game in order to avoid pitching against an AL east rival and also to avoid the bus trip. So Aceves gets the start. The start today comes on the heals of a Nick Cafardo report that the Rangers are interested in Aceves. The report says that the Red Sox are not interested in trading any of their bullpen depth with injuries to Craig Breslow and Franklin Morales.
4. Stephen Drew- In my roster predictions in the comments section of the last spring training update I assumed that Drew would be healthy and the Opening Day starting SS. Shame on me for not recognizing the DREW factor. It should have been clear right away that this injury is going to affect him 6 months longer than any other baseball player, including little leaguers. I'm not trying to be insensitive to concussions and head injuries, but this guy is going to be on the DL to start the season and this will be a recurring theme all year long. We've been Drewed again...thank goodness he's on a one year deal not a five year deal.
5. Rubby De La Rosa and Allen Webster were outrighted to AAA Pawtucket this week. They along with the knuckleballer Steven Wright will make up what should be a good starting rotation. De La Rosa showed flashes of brilliance early in Spring Training but it was Webster who was more consistent and more dominant. Both guys will make an impact in one way or another this season for the big club.
6. Since Tuesday the Sox have shown a little more pop with the bat. Jarrod Saltalammachia continues to hit the ball hard this spring. He's hitting over .400 and he hit a two run homer last night. Will Middlebrooks has been hitting the ball with authority this week including a bases clearing double with the bases loaded. With Shane Victorino coming back from the WBC (Puerto Rico elimintaed the US) the Red Sox will start to employ a more regular lineup as we get near the end of spring training. I think we'll see Pedroia hitting 3rd more often. Mike Napoli who has had a very good spring will probably hit clean up. This team will score enough runs to compete. The key question will be the...
7...Starting Pitching- This has been the most encouraging part of the spring so far, but remember spring training can sometimes be deceiving. Here's what I think is real and what may be a spring training facade when it comes to the rotation. The Jon Lester turnaround is real, period. Will that produce a 20 win season? Maybe. That will depend on things out of his control like run support and bullpen help, but he will pitch must better under Farrell/Nieves. His other problem will be going against other teams aces. It's no secret that the Red Sox offense has raked against poor pitching and struggled against the top starters. If he doesn't get run support he won't be good enough to win 1-0 or 2-1 every time out. Clay Buchholz will have a season reflective of a #2 starter. Ryan Dempster will become a 6 inning pitcher when the games start for real. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but I think his spring training success has some people's expectations too high. Same with John Lackey. I'm not saying he's not going to be good, but there will be growing pains early in the season, but he'll get better as the year goes on. Felix Doubront is rounding in to form and I think he will repeat his success of last year.
8. The Yankees continue to be desperate for corner infielders, but they did sign Brennan Boesch this week after he was released by the Tigers. He should be able to help them...well a left handed hitting monkey could hit a few homeruns to right in the new Yankee Stadium.
Opening Day is 16 days away. I for one can't wait for the games to start for real.
Update: Thanks to the Deacon for mentioning Bryce Brentz and his "comeback" from a shotgun wound. I meant to include that as a new story line but I ran out of time. Here is a nice read from Pete Abraham about Brentz and his game yesterday. The thing that stuck out to me is that he already talks like a big leaguer.