It is that time of year again! Spring training is here and the Boys of Summer are in Florida or Arizona, gearing up for another 162 game season. Every spring training brings the same stories: the young ballplayer trying to make an impact and earn a spot on the big league squad, the minor league veteran desperate to hang on for one more year, and the key player trying to work his way back from an injury.
The Boston Red Sox pitchers and catchers have reported for another camp in Ft. Myers, FL. Here are some answers and thoughts to five questions the team faces this spring training:
1.) Can Jason Varitek catch Tim Wakefield’s knuckeball?
Who cares? Why is so much stock put into two older ballplayers who rank as approximately the 23rd and 24th best players on the 25 man roster? Why worry about a 37 year old catcher and a 43 year old pitcher? If they can’t cut it, release them.
2.) What kind of shape will David Ortiz be in?
Last year, Papi came into camp coming off knee surgery. This year, the big question is what kind of shape will he be in and how healthy is his wrist? With the departure of Manny Ramirez last July, more pressure is on Ortiz to produce than ever before. Ortiz is listed as 33 years old, but is that for real, or is he actually 3 or 4 years older? The Red Sox need him to be in the best shape of his career and for that midsection of his to be a little less flabby.
3.) What will happen when Mike Lowell tries to run?
I heard Lou Merloni on Comcast Sports Net say that Lowell hasn’t even tried to run, after having surgery on his hip a few months back. Lowell is a key offensive contributor and his absence for the ALCS last season really hurt. Lowell is a quality and classy ballplayer, whom every Sox fan loves and is rooting for him to come back and be the 2007player who was the World Series MVP.
4.) How will Clay Buchholz react with the fresh start of a new season?
Last year was an unequivocal disaster for the highly talented young pitcher. The team made a mistake in tinkering with his delivery and he looked lost all year. He had no confidence on the mound. Despite being terrible last spring training, he was given a spot in the rotation, instead of having to earn it. This year, he’ll likely start in Pawtucket and will have to earn his way back to The Show.
5.) What is the strength of the team?
Easy one – it is the bullpen. GM Theo Epstein spent the offseason stockpiling quality arms, such as Saito and Ramirez, to augment the setup crew of Delcarmen, Okajima, and Masterson. Jonathan Papelbon is one of the top five closers in baseball. If the Red Sox can shorten the game by carrying leads into the 6th inning, it will be lights out for opponents, the vast majority of the time.