Tagged: Tim Wakefield

Hot Stove Predictions – Red Sox

Posted by Chris Cue
8:00 am Sat, 11/21/09

    Hello again! Having recently crawled out from underneath the rock I’ve been hiding, I thought it might be a good time to start talking Hot Stove Baseball. Now that all the free agents are allowed to discuss their future with teams other than the one they played for last season, getting some predictions in now before things start to happen seems like a good way to make a fool of yourself….sooo, being the glutton for punishment that I am, here you go.

    Let’s start off with the Red Sox. I’ll be happy to tick off some of my evil empire friends later with some Yankees predictions, but for now I’ll tackle the hometown team.

    I should mention that I’ll be impressed with myself (from a prediction standpoint) if
even one of these predictions comes to pass….(I don’t have a great track record in this dept. 🙂 With
that in mind, here’s what I think has a good chance of going down.

Red Sox

1).
I think the ground work to resign Bay is already in place. The caveat
to the current situation is nobody is yet sure what else may be out
there for him. As long as years or dollars don’t get too stupid (the
Sox won’t go 5/85
), I think he’ll be back in Boston. I have no
predictions regarding what may go down if that doesn’t happen except to
say I don’t think the Sox will be players to sign Holliday. He has the wrong agent, there is too much
money required, too many years and too many questions about what he may or may
not bring that will keep the Sox out of that race IMO.

2). Even if the
Sox do land Bay, I believe the FO thinks we still need another bat
(thus their pursuit of Tex last year). Therefore, I’m pretty sure that
they will go hard after Gonzalez if Hoyer indeed makes him available.
However, I DON’T think that they will be successful there. I think
there are too many obstacles in the way for that deal to go down. (I could
give a lengthy list but won’t unless asked
) Because there appears to be a lack of
premium players with bats on the trade/FA market coupled with the fact
that the Sox currently have limited spots to put a player like that in,
I think the Sox will turn to another area that could be addressed to
strengthen the team and that’s Pitching.

3). While the Sox
starting rotation appears to be set, we have several issues going
forward that could be addressed now if they choose to do so. Becketts a
FA next year, There are uncertainties with Dice-K and Wakefield’s health
issues are all questions the Sox have to think about now and with an eye on
the future as well. No matter what, the Sox will be signing one or two
insurance pitchers that they hope will have bounce back years (Sheets,
Harden, etc…types
), but I’ll go on record now saying that after their
interest in Gonzalez is shot down, they will go just as hard after Doc
Halladay. Lot’s of moving pieces to that kind of deal too, but in this
case I think the Sox may have a better shot at landing him as opposed
to landing Gonzalez. It may never happen, but I really think the
interest is there and that the Sox will be motivated. The big obstacle
with that one? LOL take a guess……The New York Yankees. I don’t think Cashman
will just roll over and let the Sox get Doc without making them pay big
time. In fact, I think the Yanks may have an even better chance to land
Doc if they should decide to go that route themselves. This could very well be the
big Sox-Yanks battle of the off season…..it at least appears to have
all of that kind of framework in place. We’ll have to see.

4).
Once again (i’m sorry to say), I don’t see the Sox going long term to
fill the SS position. I think there may have been some interest in JJ
Hardy, but since he is now signed I think we’re looking at another stop
gap player. I’d like to think that Gonzo would be back, but from what
Ive read a sticking point may be that he’d like more than just a one year deal. I also think the Sox
would consider Marco Scutaro, but not for the length of time he’s
looking for either. There could be a trade out there that Theo is
looking at, but short of that I think Gonzo will be a Sox player in
2010. I say that only because the SS market doesn’t look like it’s
going to give him a 2 or 3 year contract so he may very well settle for
a 4MM one year deal in Boston….which is something I think they’d
offer.

5). Billy Wagner. I don’t think he’ll be back in a setup role.
I believe all the “I may accept arbitration” talk was only a rouse that
attempted to make the Sox gun shy in offing him that. Can’t say as I
blame Wagner or his agent for floating that one. Wagner is a lot more attractive to other teams if draft picks aren’t
involved, but I think the Sox will stick to their guns and offer him
Arb. At that point, he’ll turn it down and wind up closing for someone
at less than he would have made via arbitration…..It’ll be “Varitek
Part 2” if you know what I mean. I think the Sox will be content having
Bard and Oki for setup to Paps. The middle relief guys is where the
action might be. Tough to call who and what goes on there because some
of what we currently have may end up being trading pieces (DelCarmen
& maybe Ramirez
). I’m fairly comfortable saying the back end of the
Sox BP will be Oki, Bard, Papelbon. Absent a trade, DelCarmen &
Ramirez will most likely be back so it’s guys like Wagner and Saito
that will be the possible holes to fill. That’s going to be a challenge
if our BP is once again going to be considered a strength. The glaring
hole I see is absent Masterson, the Sox don’t have a long man. We’re
going to need one.

I have more, but this is already enough hot air. For discussion purposes only, I’ll put my 2 cents in regarding The Yankees later. For now, let the criticisms begin 🙂

Cheers & Go Baseball!

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Fickle Fans

By Chris Cue
April 13, 2009

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     Judging by comments made on articles and chat sites I’ve
read, it appears there is a vocal minority out there that don’t check their
calendars very often. I’m not talking about just Red Sox fans either. Six games
into the season, the panic members of several teams fan bases have begun their
“Sky is Falling” predictions.

 

     We’ve had these “It’s Early” conversations before haven’t
we? We are 6 games into the season. Let me repeat that. WE ARE 6 GAMES INTO THE
SEASON. Having major concerns at this point is jumping the gun a bit don’t ya
think? It shouldn’t surprise anyone that some players have started the season
Hot or Cold. It happens every year. I’m sure fans all over would like to see
their teams “plans” come together and be firing on all cylinders from
day one, but that rarely (if ever) happens.

     
So, yes I’m sure Red Sox fans would feel really great right now if Papi was
hitting long ball after long ball, if Ellsbury had an OBP near .500, If Dice,
Lester and Wake had shut out the teams they faced, if Jed Lowrie was 12 for 24
at the plate, if Mike Lowell suddenly found some blazing speed and if the Sox
were 6-0…..but that kind of stuff doesn’t happen right away with some players
or teams. In some cases, it never will all year, but you have to find out what
you have don’t you? You have to stay the course and allow some of these guys to
play up to their norm or potential.

     
Every team has a game plan going into the season, however that exact plan is
rarely still being executed once July rolls around. Teams and players are
streaky. A few get hot and stay that way and some only show flashes of what
they should be. But 6 games into the season…on April 13th….. is not when
Management or coaches should step back and analyze results to either make
changes or not. Can you imagine what the Red Sox lineup would be tomorrow if
they did that? With his current OBP Bay would be our lead off hitter, Youkilis
would be the DH, JD Drew would be batting 8th or 9th and Nick Green would be the everyday SS.

     
I’m not saying that team management should wait 3 months before deciding what
is going to work and what’s not, but after 6 games? It might be different if we
were talking about elite players that are injured and out for the season, but
that’s not the case here. I mean c’mon, it really is a little early to be
overly concerned about much isn’t it? What do you say some of you sit back and
see how things begin to progress to the norm before you start calling for key
players to be benched or replaced? This isn’t your first Major League season is
it? Or is it?

 

Relax.

What If?

By Chris Cue
March 26, 2009

     Let’s pretend for a second. Let’s take some of what we know as “given” and apply that to a situation most would love to have. That said, the following could be a problem. Granted, it’s a good problem, but a problem never the less.

     We know the Red Sox goal for John Smoltz is to be ready to pitch by June 1st. We also know that Brad Penny is slated to be the Red Sox #5 starter. At the beginning of the Red Sox season, this is what’s expected to be the starting rotation:
Josh Beckett
Daisuke Matsuzaka
Jon Lester
Tim Wakefield
Brad Penny (although Masterson may have to make a start or two until the Sox feel Penny is ready)

     We also know that Clay Buchholz has been very impressive this Spring and Masterson is making a serious bid to be a starting pitcher as well. So, add to the above list Buchholz, Smoltz & Masterson as potential starting pitchers when June 1st rolls around. That’s 8 options the Red Sox have at starting pitching, 6 of which can not be sent down to the minor leagues to make room for the players with major league contracts. All 5 and John Smoltz are signed to Major League contracts.

     Here’s the scenario: It’s now June 1st. Beckett, Matsuzaka, Lester, Wakefield & Penny are all holding their own. They are all healthy and are productive. Where do you put John Smoltz? Do you DFA Penny or Wakefield? Do you opt for a 6 man rotation? Do you make creative use of the DL to give the other guys a break, or does one of the 6 go to the bullpen? This is a great problem to have no doubt, but would be a very hard decision to make. The issue given this scenario is that the Red Sox hold no options with 6 of their potential starting pitchers. They can’t demote someone to AAA Pawtucket. Somebody is going to have to go to the bullpen, get released or they will have to go to a 6 man rotation. Let me stop right here and say that I think a creative use of the DL is probably the first option the club has, but it only prolongs the problem. Using the DL would allow time for somebody to develop the injuries we have to expect, but timing on this is the issue. You can’t automatically tell someone to get hurt before June 1st and neither do you want to. At the same time, you expect injuries, but expecting them to happen at or by a certain time is incredibly optimistic to ensure your game plan works out.

     This scenario is the “Best case” situation. It may never be a problem or ever become an issue, but I wonder what the Red Sox front office has planned…..just in case they get lucky and this plays out to reality. If and that’s a big IF, everyone remains healthy and productive, this is a situation that would be very interesting to watch.

Wakefield Has Issues

By Chris Cue
March 8, 2009

     Back in December it was speculated here that Tim Wakefield may not be coming back to the Red Sox rotation this season. The link to that article is HERE. At the time, it was believed he might be considering retirement do to some sort of injury to his pitching shoulder. While it’s obvious that Wakefield will pitch for the Red Sox again this year, those concerns about his shoulder turn out to be well founded and explain a lot.

     It was revealed in a Boston Globe article by Adam Kilgore yesterday that Wakefield has pitched the last 2 seasons with a small tear in the labrum of his right shoulder. Knuckleball pitchers like Wake are certainly a different breed, which may be why he has been able to continue the way he has. Still, it was explained that the problem with his shoulder is what has caused him to wear down late in the year.

     Wakefield said: “It doesn’t really bother me until the innings count gets high, in the 160- to 180-inning range.” Using the lower end of that innings count (160), that means he feels he can be fine for a little more then 22 starts if he pitches an average of 7 innings per start. After that, he’ll begin to run into a fatigue problem. The same problem he’s had for the last 2 years. Clearly, the additions to the Red Sox starting rotation of Brad Penny and John Smoltz should give Terry Francona ample opportunities to rest Wakefield during the course of the season. Clay Buchholz is also in reserve if either Penny or Smoltz stumble, so it’s quite possible that Wakefield, while limited to a certain amount of innings, could still be very effective this season. It’s going to be up to the health of the other starting pitchers and Francona to insure that Wakefield is given the time off needed if the Red Sox hope to have him available for late September and the post-season.

          It’s pretty obvious that this isn’t “new” news to the Red Sox front office. It explains why the Sox are currently so deep with starting pitching options. Right now, if you count Justin Masterson as a possible starter, the Red Sox have 8 potential starting pitchers. They are: Beckett, Lester, Matsuzaka, Penny, Wakefield, Smoltz, Buchholz and Masterson with the possibility of a 9th starter in Michael Bowden if necessary. That kind of depth didn’t just happen. Theo Epstein has obviously made provisions for a starter needing rest or being injured. Now, perhaps we know at least one reason why the depth of the starting rotation was so important this off season.

Spring Trainings First Games

By Chris Cue
February 26, 2009

     The first of the Spring Training games got underway yesterday in Lee County Florida. The Red Sox in game one against Boston College wasn’t televised, but the night game vs the Twins was on both NESN and the MLB Network. For what it’s worth, although thankful that some portion of the BC game was able to be followed through Adam Kilgore’s posts on Boston.com, it left a lot to be desired. No offense intended to Kilgore, but that was not the up to the level of MLB’s Gameday version of following a game. What was particularly annoying about it was weeding through all the posts Kilgore put up by fans ALREADY complaining about certain players efforts during that game.

For crying out loud people, it’s the first game of Spring Training.

     What did they expect? July form from a team in February? Some members of the Red Sox fan base truly make you want to shake your head in amazement that they can call themselves fans of the game. Otherwise, Kilgore’s posts were better then getting no information regarding what was taking place on the field, so thank-you BDC for that much. In case you missed it and are curious to read first hand how the players in that game performed, you can read the entire BC – Red Sox blog session from Kilgore HERE.

     The Second game, which was telecast vs the Twins was pretty much what you might have expected with a few notable (but not major) occurrences.  Every player was showing a certain amount of rust…that was expected. The pitchers seemed to fair better then the batters for the most part….that also was expected. If anything, it showed that some guys looked to be a little further along then others, but again, it was one game. That’s an extremely small sample to make any worthwhile judgments on. Still, you may have noticed that Wakefield suffered from a certain amount of rust himself and that the guys behind him didn’t help out his cause in the game by showing similar rust issues in the field. Overall, the teams pitching looked good. Masterson, DelCarmen, Rameriz, Lopez all looked relatively sharp. Traber has some work to do as he was tagged pretty well by the Twins.

     Jeff Bailey continues to swing a pretty nice bat. When it comes to who will fill in for Kotsay opening day, Bailey may give Wilkerson a run for his money for that spot. You may have also noticed that Bard suffered a few passed balls (without runners on) and that he failed to catch a number of Wakefield’s pitches cleanly. It’s not worth getting concerned about yet. Certainly he and Wakefield will have much more time available in the coming days to get their work in with each other.

     It was the first day of the Grapefruit League. Let’s not rush to judgment just yet on anyone. Try to be thankful that Baseball can once again be viewed on TV and save the criticism of players for when the games matter. Right now, they don’t. If nothing else, it’s fun to watch some of the Red Sox prospects play in games that don’t mean anything to the standings. It’s nice to see players like Reddick, Anderson, Brown and others try to impress. For some, these games allow a first glimpse at the prospects we have all heard so much about, so watch them for what they’re worth. Afterall, this is February not October

     The team will be at it again today when the Sox take on the Pirates at 1:05ET. Boston.com’s Adam Kilgore will be doing live updates from the game.
Enjoy!

Quality With Concerns

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

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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.

Varitek Happy-Backup Job Now the Question

By Chris Cue
February 15, 2009

     Red Sox captain Jason Varitek met with the press yesterday to answer questions on the ordeal of the off season and his thoughts on what transpired. The Boston Globe’s web site (Boston.com) has the entire video of that interview HERE.

     Varitek looked to be in great shape and had mostly positive things to say regarding his role with the organization. He noted that it was his goal during the off season to persue a multi-year deal with the Red Sox first, then look elsewhere if he had to. He added that he instructed his agent Scott Boras to exhaust every opportunity with the Red Sox before he offered Varitek’s services to other teams. Boras never had the opportunity to peruse those other teams because it was Varitek’s intention to hold out (as we know) for as long as he could to get something done with the only team he has ever played for. He wanted more then anything else to get those years and to eventually retire with the team. Money matters aside, both Varitek and the organization got what they wanted and both are apparently very happy with the final outcome.

     With Varitek’s and the teams goals regarding him completed, the attention now turns to who will replace Kevin Cash as the Backup Catcher for the 2009 season. The Red Sox currently have 4 candidates in house to compete for that spot and they are: Josh Bard, George Kottaras, Dusty Brown and Mark Wagner. It is widely believed by most that Bard is the front runner, but just as the Sox plan to give each a fair look, so should we.

Here is how the competition stacks up:

Josh Bard – Most will recall Bard’s failed attempt to serve in this role back in 2006. Unable at the time to handle Tim Wakefield’s knuckle ball, he was traded to the Padres for the return of Doug Mirabelli. Bard went on with the rest of that season batting .338 with 40 RBI’s and 9 Home Runs in 93 games for San Diego. In 2007, he posted a respectable .285/51/5 in 118 games, but he had an injury plagued year in 2008 that limited his playing time to just 57 games. Bard’s strength is clearly his potential offensive contributions. While he is not considered a poor receiver, his inability in the past to successfully catch Tim Wakefield, coupled with his poor Stolen base/Caught stealing numbers (288/67 lifetime) is certainly enough to give one pause before handing the job over to him. Runners like to run on Wakefield and Bard’s poor ability to throw them out could be a deciding factor.

George Kottaras – Has spent 6 years in the Minor Leagues, 2 of which were spent with the Red Sox AAA affiliate in Pawtucket RI. Kottaras has experience catching the Paw Sox knuckle ball pitcher Charlie Zink. Zink however, throws a much different type of pitch then Wakefield and is regarded as the easier one of the 2 to catch. Kottaras saw very limited time with the Red Sox in 2008. His 3 games last season represent his entire Major League career. The one factor which may play in his favor is that he is out of options. Simply put, that means if he doesn’t get the backup role, the Red Sox can not demote him back to AAA without first putting him on waivers. It would seem likely that with the shortage of quality catchers across MLB, some team would pick him up before the Red Sox had the opportunity to re-assign him. Kottaras is seen as a decent backstop, however many have questions regarding his ability to compete at the Major League level. He has some pop in his bat. Despite his .243 Batting Average, he hit 22 Home Runs with 65 RBI’s in 107 games last season with Pawtucket.

Dusty Brown –  Brown might just be the big surprise in this race. He’s a quality Catcher with a strong arm and an improving bat. Like Kottaras, Brown also has experience catching Charlie Zink, so he’s not unfamilar with catching a knuckle ball. At 26 years old, he may well be coming into his own. Last season when Theo Epstein stated that he didn’t think the future Catcher for the Red Sox was yet inside the organization, Brown took those remarks as a personal challenge and went on to improve his offensive numbers posting a .290 Batting Average along with 12 Home Runs and 55 RBI’s in 84 games for the Paw Sox last season. Of the 4 candidates, Brown may well be regarded as the most complete Catcher in the group. Watch this guy he may just surprise everyone.

Mark Wagner – Not many give Wagner a real shot at making the club this year. He’s young, only 24 years old and viewed as needing some more experience to reach his potential. Wagner spent last season with the Portland Sea Dogs, the Red Sox AA affiliate. While there, he showed that his biggest attribute was behind the plate. Wagner was not an offensive threat last season. He batted just .219 with 10 Home Runs and 48 RBI’s in 94 games for the Sea Dogs. Still young, his place in this years Spring Training camp is being looked at as a learning experience. An opportunity to observe and work with Jason Varitek is something that Wagner himself say’s is his goal while in camp.. “You can learn a lot by watching him. He’s not a bad guy to try to
follow in his footsteps and hopefully I can continue to open up more
eyes.”
The Red Sox, always eager to expose young talent to the Major League atmosphere, are giving him that opportunity this year.

     While Theo Epstein continues to say that a main goal for the organization is to find Varitek’s eventual replacement, those 4 players have a smaller, but still difficult goal to achieve first. Each is looking to just become this seasons backup to Varitek. Can one of them eventually step forward and become the player Epstein is looking for? Anything is possible, but the current goal for each of them is to be given an opportunity to show what they have and to learn from one of the best. Varitek has stated that he is eager to mentor whomever the Red Sox decide upon. Whether it is Josh Bard, George Kottaras, Dusty Brown, Mark Wagner or someone outside the organization, that individual will have to make it on the 25 man roster first. The competition for that spot is now underway. 4 players, one spot to fill. May the best man win.