Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Five Things I’ll be Watching During Spring Training

I’ll admit, it was tough to come up with five. That’s what happens when you have one of the best teams in the league. The questions are kept to a minimum. If everything goes as planned, I’m pretty sure I can fill out the opening Day line-up right now. I might not now the batting order, be I think we all know who will be in which positions. (OK. Starting pitcher is a guess…but it’s one of three guys, right?). Hopefully it’s a pretty stress-free couple few weeks as we wait for the season to start. So, what will I be keeping my eye on?

1. Health. Yeah, it’s probably an obvious one. But the only wrinkle in the whole team this year is the “as planned” portion that I mentioned above. If Dustin Pedroia isn’t the starting second baseman on Opening Day, there’s only one reason for it. So, I’ll be watching, nervously, to make sure that everyone stays healthy. That may be as simple as not playing them as often, which is a benefit of having the roster pretty set. No need to overplay guys since you know what you’ll have in them.

2. Pablo Sandoval. He’s one of the only real question marks on the team. But, not a question with any other answers. If he’s healthy enough to play, he’ll be at third base against the Pirates. But, how much will his health affect his play? That’s the question. If he’s back to the Panda the Sox thought they were signing, that will be a huge lift to the team. If he’s something less than that, then the Sox will need to look elsewhere to help replace David Ortiz’s lost production.

3. Blake Swihart. What are they going to do with him? Do the Sox see ham as a future catcher? Conventional wisdom is that the “plan” is for him to start in the minors. He’s the only catcher with options left. So if he’s a catcher, that’s where he’ll be. Or, do the Sox think he’s never going to fit in behind the plate? Do they have him play some in left field? At third base? Do they trade him? It will be interesting to see what the spring holds for him.

4. EdRo. Will Eduardo Rodriguez be able to make the back end of the rotation? Will his knee allow him to perform? If he can’t, then the Sox need to find someone else. If he can’t, and Steven Wright can’t, then that means the Sox need two replacements. Being able to see EdRo pitch from the mound in games…even if it’s not exactly a string of shutdown performances…would be huge.

5. The Bullpen. Much of this has to do with number four above. Who will be in the rotation? Who does that mean will be in the pen? Who will be the bridge to Kimbrel? Will they need much of a bridge with their rotation? By the end of camp, who will the Sox have that comfort level with moving forward? It’s easily the biggest question of the camp, and the one with the most answers.

So, that’s what I’ll be paying attention to.

What will draw your attention?

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