Sunday, April 05, 2015

Now We Play For Real

The Spring Training schedule officially came to an end on Saturday. The Red Sox ended the spring at 17-12. (Not that that matters now, as everyone is 0-0 as I write this.)

The opener is Monday afternoon in Philadelphia. Clay Buchholz takes the mound in his first ever Opening Day start, and there is plenty of pressure on him. Few people think of him as an ace, and he sure hasn't pitched like on the last few seasons. He got off to that great start in 2013, going 10-1 before injuries curtailed his season. You have to figure that if injuries and /or ineffectiveness ruin another season, he'll be pitching somewhere else in 2016.

They will miss Christian Vazquez badly, as he had Tommy John surgery on Thursday and will miss the season. He is an adept handler of pitchers, and will be replaced by Ryan Hanigan. And we will see rookie Blake Swihart at some point this year. When is the big question.

Koji Uehara and Joe Kelly will begin the year on the DL. Sounds like neither will miss much time. John Farrell has said he may go by closer-by-committee, but Edward Muijica will get most of the opportunities.

The outfield will be Hanley Ramirez in left, Mookie Betts in center and Shane Victorino. Ramirez had a good spring, both at the plate and in the field, having made just one error. Betts was terrific in all phases of the game, and he looks like a superstar on the rise. Victorino is coming off back surgery, and the job is his. We'll see how long he lasts.

The infield is Mike Napoli at first, Dustin Pedroia at second, Xander Bogaerts at shortstop and Pablo Sandoval at third. Napoli was blasting away this spring, Bogaerts looked better at short, and Pedroia was again Pedroia after having surgery this past winter on his wrist. Sandoval should be an interesting case study this season. His weight will become an issue if he's not pulling his weight (forgive me, I couldn't resist) at the plate.

David Ortiz will be the DH, with Ryan Hanigan doing most of the catching with Sandy Leon backing him up.

The rotation has been much discussed, as the Sox rebuilt it over the winter with the trades for Wade Miley and Rick Porcello, and the signing of old friend Justin Masterson as a free agent. Both Porcello and Buchholz were the most consistent starters in the spring, and Porcello figures to be the number two man. They made no big trade for a "legitimate" ace, but that could still happen if the need arises during the season.

Where will the Sox finish in 2015? I think this is a playoff team, as the AL East is not a strong division. I'll leave the predictions to the so-called "experts."

Off we go with another baseball season tomorrow. I'll be at Fenway next Monday for the home opener with the BLOHARDS. Here's to a "worst-to-first-to-worst-to-first" season!

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