By Chris Cue
April 1. 2009
This isn’t an “April Fools Day” joke, nor should it be considered one. Both Nick Green and Chris Carter were announced as “probable”opening day members of the Red Sox yesterday. Green would be the temporary fill in for Julio Lugo on the bench and Chris Carter will fill Mark Kotsay’s spot as the 4th OF-1B. Lugo is expected to be back and ready to play within a few weeks of the season opener. At that time, Green will be optioned back to Pawtucket and Chris Carter will likely follow sometime in mid- May when Kotsay returns.
As presently constructed, here is the opening day bench for the Red Sox:
(L) David Ortiz DH
(R) Rocco Baldelli OF-DH
(L) George Kottaras C
(R) Nick Green IF-OF
(L) Chris Carter 1B-OF
Most of the concern this season surrounds Third baseman Mike Lowell and his ability to play after recovering from hip surgery. The Red Sox are well covered there without the need for a bench player to fill a backup role for him. Both Kevin Youkilis and Jed Lowrie are fine defensive Third baseman. Therefore, the only need on the roster is for the bench to provide backup for their positions at 1B and SS. With yesterday’s announcement, it’s clear that Carter will backup Youkilis at 1B in case he needs to move across the diamond and Green will provide depth at SS/2B should Lowrie be needed at Third.
While all of this is certainly exciting for both players, it comes with one caveat. Both Green and Carter were told they would be going North with the team to play the Mets at Citi-Field, but were cautioned that a last minute trade or waiver claim could still have them starting their season in Pawtucket. There have been no rumblings of a pending deal by the Sox, but that’s not unusual considering how the organization keeps news like that from leaking out. So, there still remains the possibility that neither will actually make the team, however at this late date, it seems likely that they will.
The only other position on the Red Sox 25 man roster that is still being talked about is the 5th Starting Pitchers slot. The Red Sox have said all along that position belongs to Brad Penny, however there are indications that Penny may not be ready in time for his April 12th start. Buchholz who had been stellar until yesterday’s outing against the Rays, is still the leading candidate to fill that position if Penny is indeed thought to need more time. So, for now, Buchholz remains in limbo awaiting a decision by Pitching Coach Jim Farrell and Head Coach Terry Francona on his opening day role. Most signs are pointing in the direction that Penny will be given more time and that Buchholz will be needed, but that is far from a certainty at this point. Brad Penny is scheduled to pitch today against the Pittsburgh Pirates. There is no doubt how he fares today, could be the deciding factor in Buchholz’s fate. Will he be the 5th starter for the Boston Red Sox or a starting pitcher for the AAA Paw Sox? He should know which it is going to be shortly after today’s game.
By Chris Cue
February 16, 2009
If you have been following the Red Sox plan for 2009 (the one they settled on), then you are aware of the depth this club currently has. To put it plainly and without being too much of a homer, I can honestly say it’s remarkable. A conversation was started recently on a “chat” board regarding that depth and it got me thinking about what we are hoping for.
By the way, “thinking” too much can sometimes not be a good thing. That may be the case here. Before I get into the concerns I have, I want to point out that I’m probably qualified to be the poster child for people that views things as a “glass half full”. What follows (I hope) is an simply an objective look at the health of the Red Sox
Here’s the deal. When the Red Sox decided upon signing Brad Penny & John Smoltz to our Starting Pitching rotation, I wasn’t thrilled with Penny, but in both cases I thought they were good moves. Afterall, we have some depth in the pitching department. Beckett, Lester, Matsuzaka, Wakefield, Buchholz, Masterson and Bowden are all capable of being effective in the starting role. So, Penny & Smoltz looked like low risk, high reward possibilities. Essentially, that means if they can perform, great. If not, then no harm no foul. Much like Bartolo Colon from last season, both of these quality gentleman have the potential to help in enormous ways if they can rebound to the form they have shown in the past. No issues there. Good move by the Sox front office in my opinion. You can never have too much pitching and we look solid for 2009 when it comes to depth in that department.
When looking at the team as a whole, even the most “pollyanna” of fans would have to admit that there are a lot of question marks with this 2009 squad. So much so that it may not give you that “warm fuzzy feeling” as a fan when thinking about the 162 games that lay ahead. Let’s take a look at that list of questionable players we currently have. Let’s see if the odds are with us or not. Let’s see if any of these players are unable to help, what options we have and if they will be good enough. I won’t make any predictions or determinations on this. I’ll leave that up to you, but let’s each look at what we have and what our options might be.
As a side note, I’d like to acknowledge that some of these players are less questionable then others, but if there is any doubt surrounding their health, I thought they should be listed.
Player / Concern / Depth behind them / Replacement result
1). David Ortiz / Wrist injury in 2008 / Rocco Baldelli, Chris Carter, Jeff Bailey and Lars Anderson / It would be extremely optomistic to veiw that any of Papi’s backups could contribute in the same manner he could if healthy. Major concern here.
2). Mike Lowell / Hip surgery to remove cartilidge / Kevin Youkilis and Jed Lowrie / Youkilis showed that he can be as good at 3B as he is at 1B when Lowell went down last year. However, if that move is needed, then someone will need to take Kevin’s place at first. Jed Lowrie should do a respectable job there defensively, although his offensive production may not match that of a healthy Lowell. Major concern here as well.
3). Rocco Baldelli / Diagnosed with a type of Mitocondrial disorder that may limit consistent playing time / Mark Kotsay, Jonathon Van Every and Jeff Bailey / Kotsay would be fine (if healthy) in either LF or RF however, CF for him isn’t an option. Both Van Every and Bailey would be callups and neither currently has the potential to match Baldelli’s bat, but both would be adequate
in the field if needed. (Van Every in any OF spot, Bailey only at the corners)
4). Mark Kotsay / surgery for a displaced disc fragment / Rocco Baldelli (OF), Jonathon Van Every (OF), Jeff Bailey (OF, 1B) and Chris Carter (1B). / Bailey is the only one capable of really filling in for Kotsay. While Baldelli would be a great offensive sub, neither he, Van Every or Carter offer quality protection at 1B should Youkilis need to move to third.
5). JD Drew / Recently admitted to contiued back stiffness / Baldelli, Kotsay, Van Every and Bailey / Baldelli is the only one that has the potential to replace Drew’s bat. As noted, the question is: Can he do it full time? The others, while defensively fine as a sub do not have the ability to be the complete package Drew is when healthy.
(without going into great detail, the following are players that have questions that need to be answered, but may have suitable replacements or their injuries may be deminshed compared to others.)
Player / injury / concern
6). John Smoltz / shoulder surgery / not expected to contribute until June. At age 41 you have to wonder what the future HOFer has left.
7). Brad Penny / tendonitis and inflamation in shoulder / Penny has been injury plagued though out his career. Last season’s bout with a balky shoulder is the latest. That contributed to his 5.88era with the Dogers last season. If healthy, how does he perform in the AL East?
8). Tim Wakefield / Back stiffness and shoulder pain / Wakefield was shut down and not able to pitch in the 2007 post season because of these issues. He also had many of the same pains last season. Spring Training is 2 days young and already Terry Francona is reporting that he is currently struggling with back stiffness once again. Age may be catching up.
9). Josh Beckett / Oblique injury / Beckett in a press conference yesterday said that he was not anywhere near 100% during the post season of 08. While not a major injury, his weight and possibly conditioning was an alarm in 2008 heading into the season. Getting out of Spring Training this year without those concerns is something to watch.
10). Jed Lowrie / broken left wrist / Lowrie is a switch hitter and that injury (not fully known until the off season) is somewhat of a question because the Sox would like to know if that is what affected his performance from the left side of the plate last season. Easily healed, this wrist injury should not be a major concern when it comes to his ability to play. As a rookie, his consistent performance will be more of a question mark.
11.) Takashi Saito / partially torn elbow ligament / Saito was lights out with the Dogers prior to this set back. Rather then opt for a surgical repair, Saito opted for treatment instead. That’s understandable considering his age (39), but there are huge questions regarding his ability to set-up Jonathon Papelbon throughout an entire season without that elbow being a problem again.
12). Julio Lugo / strained quadricep / Like Lowrie, this is not a major injury. Lugo could rebound physically, but the questions that surround the name “Lugo” for the Red Sox go far beyond injury recovery. His concerns remain consistency both at the plate and in the field.
There you have it. 12 names. Add or subtract as you wish, but you have
to wonder if 12 is too many to hope for. I think the Red Sox will need a miracle to have everyone of them
return to their potential or former self. But is that a problem? There is a lot of depth to this team. There is also a lot of quality in that depth, but with that quality, there remains reason for concern as well.
Let’s hope Terry Francona has been practicing his juggling act. Keeping this team up to par while working around players unable to perform could be his toughest challenge yet.
By Chris Cue
February 4, 2009
Terry Francona sat down for a little question and answer session with MLB.com’s Ian Browne recently. If you haven’t had the opportunity to read it, you’ll find the complete interview HERE.
There are a few answers that Tito gave that I’d like to put my 2 cents in on. The first is his response to the Short Stop position heading into Spring Training.
Francona: Well, I would say right now it’s pretty wide open. I’ve never really been in that situation here. It’s kind of a unique situation. You’ve got a guy who you give a four-year deal to for a lot of money and he gets hurt. A guy comes in and plays really well for a while and then he kind of tails off — but again, he handled himself really well and I think his future is really bright. He was also injured, to boot. Saying that, I don’t know if I believe in competing in Spring Training. What we’ll do is we’ll sit down with both of them the first day, we’ll explain to them how we feel. And we’ll try to put the best team out on the field. I’m also a firm believer that things take care of themselves. We’re not going to look at their batting average every day and things like that. We’re just going to try to put our ballclub in the best position to win. However that ends up, it will be my responsibility.
My take: I think I would rather have heard him say something along the lines of “It’s Lowrie’s position to lose”, but knowing Tito, he gave the politically correct answer as usual. I’m fairly sure that the job is indeed Jed’s to lose, however Tito wouldn’t have said “It’s wide open” if Lugo didn’t have a shot at winning his spot back. We’ll have to wait and see how this plays out. Either way, you can expect Lugo to get a fair amount of playing time. $9 million sitting on the bench isn’t easy to trade away. He’ll have to see action if the club intends to explore trade opportunities for Julio’s services.
Tito also had this to say regarding Jason Varitek’s possible reduced role in 2009:
Francona: I’ve heard all the talk but I’ve never had anyone ask me before. I think it’s unfair to say that before the season starts. Knowing Tek, he works so hard. Just for me to come right out before the season starts and say, yeah, we’re going to do this or do that … you know what? That’s not the case. The season will take care of itself.
If Tek needs rest, that’s my responsibility, to know that he needs rest. But again, that’s like saying you’re going to pinch-hit for a guy in February. I really don’t want to. That’s like saying a guy is going to have a tough year before the year starts. We’re talking about the captain of our team, and he means a lot. I just have to be a believer in him so we’ll let it play itself out. If he needs rest, we’ll give it to him. And again, you have to realize, he will be 37 years old. I understand that. I don’t want to run him into the ground because I’ve probably done that before because we rely on him so much. We’ll try to use good judgment.
My take: Again, I think we’re seeing the politically correct answers from Tito regarding Varitek. Reading between the lines here is what I think is important. Tito wouldn’t have brought up his age, pinch hitting for him or the fact that they have used him too much in the past if it wasn’t a concern. What is clear is that Tito is willing to let the season and Jason’s play dictate what he will and won’t do. If Varitek is batting .280 into July, I’m pretty sure Tito isn’t going to be thinking about pinch hitting for him. The converse of that is if he’s batting .220 at that time. If that’s the case, then I think the Captain will need to sit down during the late innngs of close games.
The entire Q&A is worth reading and I would encourage you to do so. Tito also covers other topic’s and players such as: John Smoltz, David Ortiz and Mike Lowell’s health concerns, Jacoby Ellsbury’s need for consistency, Clay Buccholz and Michael Bowden’s possible 2009 contributions, Daisuke’s involvement in the WBC, the addition of Rocco Baldelli to the club and he discusses his own health situation as well.
Just as a side note: Truck Day is this Friday and Jon Lester is already in Ft. Myers!
By Chris Cue
January 8, 2009
Numerous Boston area papers are reporting that the Red Sox are close to signing both Rocco Baldelli and John Smoltz.
Take your pick:
Boy, if you didn’t know any better you would think there was something to this huh?
Of course I’m kidding. Both players look to be close to signing with the Sox. I have a different take on each of these guys and what their potential value could actually end up being with the club. Until Smoltz seems a bit closer to signing, for now let’s focus on Rocco Baldelli who appears to be very close…..but not official yet.
Rocco is a native Rhode Islander. Nothing wrong with some real home grown New England talent right? Funny thing is he wasn’t a Sox fan as a kid. That’s a bit strange don’t you think? Not really. Speaking from first hand experience (I grew up in East Providence), there were not that many non-Red Sox kids that I grew up with, but there were some. I honestly think (looking back on it now) that those few kids who were around were influenced by their fathers. It’s not too strange considering the amount of people that moved in and out of that area at the time. However as a whole, those kids had to have a pretty thick skin to not to be a Sox fan around the crowd I grew up with. Rocco obviously is a pretty tough minded guy. Nothing wrong with that either now that he’s seen the light 🙂
The addition to the team Rocco brings is he’s a really good right handed bat off the bench and (when healthy) an above average Outfielder as well. The only concerns about Baldelli is his health. I doubt most of you need an update on that situation. So, without going into a great deal of medical terminology that would be lost on most of us, let’s just say that his original diagnosis was a bit off and now doctors believe that his condition is more easily treated. That still doesn’t mean he’s ready to take the field for 150 games as an everyday outfielder, but it is encouraging that he may not suffer as much from the fatigue that nearly ended his career. Tough not to cheer for a guy like that….no matter what team he’s on.
Rocco’s addition to the Sox bench does raise a few questions however. Considering how fraile JD Drew can be at times, if he needs an extended stay on the bench again this year, questions about Rocco’s durability to just step in and pick up the slack for that period of time will arise as well. It’s not a large issue, but it is one the Red Sox should plan for. As it stands right now, the Red Sox have yet to replace Sean Casey as a backup corner infielder. Considerations may need to be made regarding who they target to fill that role. Mark Kotsay would have been (and still may be) a great option to have around. A player like him that has a decent glove at Firstbase and can also fill an Outfield role would be a real asset should Baldelli be unable to play one or two days while Drew is out. The only other option the Sox presently have is to stick Youkilis out there. Not that Youk is a horrible Outfielder, he’s not, but you would have to think his glove is better served at First or Third base. It would be my guess that Casey’s replacement will end up being a Kotsay or Hinske type just to be added insurance.
No matter who or what role the Red Sox decide on for that spot, it isn’t going to be hard to cheer on Rocco Baldelli. Perhaps it’s a bit premature, but let me get a head start be saying:
“Welcome Rocco! We’re Glad To Have You!!