When it comes to this Red Sox team, damned if I know. I can’t remember a team that had me scratching my head flip-flopping back and forth wondering where they will finish in the standings – first, third, maybe dead last? A $154 million dollar payroll should have some degree of certainty to it, don’t you think? But here we are on the eve of another marathon with questions that it seems $154 million can’t answer.
There are All Stars littered across Fenway – DH- first- second- third-left and right field. The problem is some are out of position, some are on the down side, and some just don’t seem to care enough about baseball to truly give a damn. The Staff is a piecemeal of former castoffs, walk year trade acquisitions and can’t miss prospects that woke up one day and were 30. The pen is shallow and beaten up by age and innings. Yet there is still this thing, this Boston thing that pulls at me, that thing that just won’t let me write off the old town team. Not on the Eve of Opening Day. So lets run down the order of the Old Town team 2015.
Mookie Betts, CF: With just 52 games under his belt Cherington is betting Betts is ready to lead off. The Sox were without a true leadoff man last season and Cherington saw enough of Mookie to hand the top spot to the man no one was talking about last opening day. After a great spring of .487 with 11 extra base hits, he might be right. The Glove is there, and with experience it will only get better.
.310/11/48 with 21 SB
Dustin Pedroia, 2B: Pedroia was literally hurt from the get go last year and it showed. His numbers were down across the board. Now healed up and with this 2014 chip on his shoulder, Pedroia is set to show the world he can still get it done at an MVP level.
Pablo Sandoval, 3B: Would I bat the Panda here? NO, but Farrell will. Sandoval is, without a doubt, an upgrade from Will Middlebrooks. It’s with his glove that he will make his biggest impact. But Sandoval should see an up-tic in his numbers playing at Fenway.
David Ortiz, DH: 18 years – 12 in a Sox uniform – that’s a long time. I can’t remember when someone didn’t ask is this the year Big Popi falls off. Well I’m not asking not this year.
Hanley Ramirez, LF: Not a Fan – never have been. Now that we have that out of the way…a lot of this seasons success hinges on Mr. I don’t gave a damn. If Ortiz and Sandoval can keep Ramirez in the lineup this ballpark should play to his strengths – and for once, I don’t mean begging out of the lineup.
Mike Napoli, 1B: 2014 was a car wreck of a season for Mike Napoli. Nagging injuries and sleep apnea never allowed the man to truly hit the way this town knows he can. After surgery to correct the sleep disorder, Napoli looks like his old self, even if he looks like a new man. Batting him down this far in this lineup is one of the things that gives me hope.
Xander Bogaerts, SS: Why is Bogaerts batting here? GREAT question – you guys always ask great questions – I don’t know. I’d have Bogaerts batting in the three hole were he could get some serious protection. Even so, I am predicting a nice bounce back season for Xander.
Ryan Hanigan, C: I’m going to Miss Christian Vazquez, but Hanigan will fit in nicely. He’s a pro who calls a good game and has an arm that isn’t a liability.
Shane Victorino, RF: Ninth Murph? But, but – don’t but me – yes ninth. Again, this probably won’t happen but I like the turn of Victorino ninth and Betts back at the top. I lobbied hard enough for Shane to keep his job; he’ll bat where I put him.
The Bench: You have to like the depth of the Red Sox bench – not only on the forty man, but what’s waiting in the wings at Pawtucket. Brock Holt can be slotted into any position on the field and you wouldn’t break a sweat. Allen Craig can play both corner OF spots and fist base and you know how I feel about Daniel Nava, Jackie Bradley Jr. and Rusney Castillo, who are a phone call away if anything should go wrong in the OF and should be at AAA getting play not sitting on this bench.
The Starting Rotation: God Help Us. John Farrell made his bones as a pitching coach and he will be tested this season in helping Juan Nieves get the most out of this staff.
Clay Buchholz: I wrote in December that if Clay Buchholtz was the opening day starter this team was in trouble – well, here we are. Most of the issues Buchholtz had last year involved getting out lefties. If he can’t figure this out, it’s going to be another long season for the arm of Clay. Buchholtz did finish the spring with an ERA under 3.00 – I don’t put much stock into spring numbers but lets grasp at straws shall we.
Rick Porcello: Porcello is the #2 starter in name only. Opening day to Clay was a gift. Porcello has the best stuff on this staff and he’s going to have to keep growing as a hurler in what might be his only season in Boston.
Justin Masterson: The prodigal son returns. If you thought Clay Buchholtz had a bad 2014, take a peek at Mastersons’ numbers. Career highs in all the wrong places. And his fastball was non-existent. He should have been moved to the pen.
Wade Miley: yeah right it’s late and yeah Wade Miley
Steven Wright: Wright is here because Joe Kelly can’t be. But lets talk Kelly anyway. Hey it’s my column I can do what I want. Kelly has been dealing with a bicep strain and will start the year on the DL. But I for one am eager to see what the Irishman can do. Kelly had a very good rookie season and an even better one in his second go round with the Cardinals Big League club. Last year was a bit more of a hard time for Kelly but I like his makeup and I think he’s going to do just fine. After Porcello I’m highest on Mr. Kelly.
The Pen: I wrote last week that Edward Mujica would take over the closers spot while Koji Uehara was on the DL. No surprise that Junichi Tazawa is back to set up and is joined by Anthony Vararo and hard tossing Alexi Ogando. Craig Breslow and Tommy Lane will be the lefties coming out of the pen. I’m shocked Matt Barnes was sent down to be stretched back out as a starter, shocked. This pen may be more shaky then the rotation. Even with a healthy Koji, it’s not a pen that sends shivers down opposing hitter’s spines.
That’s it sports fans. I could have dragged this out for weeks or pages and had you clicking links to my bosses content, but hey I like you guys. There is a lot to be concerned about with this Red Sox incarnation, but there is hope. I can tell you this – 2014 is not going to be boring.. You want a prediction? What do I look like a palm reader? Like I said at the beginning – damned if I know.
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