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A week ago at this time our boys had just one win through seven spring training games, and quiet mumblings of “what’s going on here?” could be heard throughout Red Sox Nation. We wrote to lay off the panic button, and we did. Sure enough, Boston has started to even things out, winning five of their last eight, improving to 6-8. While the numbers still aren’t staggering, the team is starting to show signs that give fans some positive momentum heading into the remainder of Spring Training.
Manager John Farrell gave us a taste of the regular season on Thursday against Minnesota, starting a lineup that will most closely resemble the Opening Day roster. All of the starters got meaningful at-bats against starter Phil Hughes and we’re able to edge out a 4-3 victory. Jake Peavy, nursing a nearly amputated index finger via fishing knife (is it me, or do baseball players suffer the most ridiculous injuries?), threw three solid innings, giving up a pair of hits and a run.
While the loss of veterans Jacoby Ellsbury and Stephen Drew have certainly affected the team, a core group of key players returns from last year’s championship team. Now, the addition of fresh, young talent who got a solid taste of the big leagues last season should prove to be a spark that could fare very well during the long, grueling summer.
John Farrell and the front office have done a tremendous job adding versatile depth to this roster. Plenty of major league teams falter throughout the season when key players get injured or need rest to combat travel and lack of days off. Those games, while many deem them to be unimportant because they’re mid-season, can be pivotal when the pennant race heats up come fall. The successful teams are those who can plug in players for a game or series to give others rest, or ride the waves of inevitable injuries, and seemingly not miss a beat.
Returning veterans like David Ross, Mike Carp, and Jonny Gomes will all play key roles in filling in for regular starters to keep the team healthy and rested. As we know, these guys all played key roles in the playoff run last year, despite their horrendous facial hair. Expect Ross to catch on days where Lester gets the start, as the two seemed to develop a very effective relationship last season.
To go along with the veterans, there is a solid group of young talent that has impressed during spring training, and have a legitimate shot to get a few call ups to the Sox during the season. Shortstop Deven Marrero, an eye-popping defensive talent, and Bryce Brentz, a power outfielder hitting .409 with 3 HR this spring, are two that we should be keeping our eye on.
The wild card in this mix seems to be the addition of Grady Sizemore. The once young phenom outfielder has had a serious fall from grace over the past few seasons, due in most part to recurring injuries that have kept him off the field. So far this preseason Sizemore has looked good, almost to the point where he could challenge Jackie Bradley Jr. for the starting center field role. Bradley Jr. is major league ready, and it doesn’t appear as though Farrell will be easily convinced to keep him down in Pawtucket for the season, but if Sizemore continues the production he’s had up until this point, there could be a serious competition brewing. A three-time All-Star by the age of 25, there is no doubt Sizemore has talent. The question is whether or not he can A) stay healthy, and B) sustain his numbers through a 162 game season. He is a low-risk, high-reward addition to this roster, and it seems at worst he is a viable fill-in option throughout the season that can be solid both in the outfield and at the plate.
The Yankees and Red Sox have a reputation of playing not only some of the most intense games in baseball, but also some of the longest. Friday night, (and into Sunday morning), certainly did nothing to help that reputation.