Thursday, February 14, 2008

Spring has Sprung

You wouldn’t know it by looking out my window, but spring is finally here. Pitchers and catchers officially report to Fort Myers today. We can expect the daily reports on how many strikes Dice-K threw in his 12-pitch warm-up any day now. Generally, Spring Training is severely overanalyzed. All those reporters sent down there for a month need something to write about. If there’s nothing important happening, they’ll make something important. But, this year, there are a few items that I’m anxious to see work themselves out.
Who’s playing in the outfield? Naturally, barring injury, your Opening Day leftfielder is Manny Ramirez, and your rightfielder is J.D. Drew. It’s the man in the middle that makes it interesting. The smart money is on Jacoby Ellsbury to take the job. That would leave Coco Crisp as either a fourth outfielder, or trade bait to get anything we can for him. A couple interesting snags with that though. Coco, apparently, doesn’t want to be a fourth outfielder. Frankly, I can’t blame him. He’s good enough to be a starter almost anywhere else. He’s in the prime of his career, and this is his chance to make a name (and money) for himself. I wouldn’t want to ride the pine either. The Red Sox also haven’t traded him yet. It’s possible they’re waiting for the desperate team with a mid-spring injury to make an offer they can’t turn down. Or, the Sox think he’ll settle for the fourth outfielder gig after all. The Sox also have Bobby Kielty, though. That would make it appear that they have too many fourth outfielders. I wonder if the Sox aren’t thinking about starting Ellsbury in Triple-A. Once they get by the public outcry, that might not be a bad idea. Ellsbury’s only 24, so pushing him into a full season isn’t urgent. They have a suitable guy under contract to play in center, and a qualified fourth outfielder. So, give Coco a few months until the deadline to prove he can still play. His trade value can’t be very high since his last appearances on the field involved stinking up the batters box, and jamming his knee into a wall. By the deadline, he will have a chance to either improve his value, or crush it. If it improves, the Sox can trade him to fill a need. If it drops, they can trade him for the bag of balls they’re currently looking at. And then, in August, they can bring Ellsbury back up to finish the season strong. As a fan, I’d rather see Ellsbury run wild for as long as I can. As a GM, though, waiting might be the correct move.
The other issue is the starting rotation. With the recent loss of Schilling, it will be interesting to see how that comes together. The obvious 1-2 are Beckett and Dice-K, and they were 1-2 before Schilling dropped out. The #3 spot appears to now be waiting for Tim Wakefield. If he’s healthy, he has to be one of the better 3-guys in the league. Jon Lester looks to inherit the number 4 spot. It will be worth watching this spring to see if he grabs the role, or if it’s his by default. He needs to go out there and show that he’s the Lester who closed out the World Series. If he goes back to the inconsistency that had plagued him during his career, there’s a cause for concern. The problem with that, however, is the nature of spring training. Depending on the line-ups they face, and when they face them, pitchers are naturally inconsistent during the spring. Lester will just have to try to stay on track. The final rotation spot looks to fall to Clay Buchholz. Again, it would be nice to see him come out this spring and take the job. I don’t want to get to April wondering if Kyle Snyder would be a better option. It will also be interesting to see how the Sox will handle Buchholz. With his age, I’m sure they’re not thrilled about penciling him in for 30 starts. Do they try to work other starters this spring as well to give Clay some rest? Are they expecting Clay to pitch 5 innings max per start, so they hold Snyder or Tavarez as long men to compensate? Do they hold Snyder or Tavarez for frequent spot starts to give Buchholz a day off?
Opening Day comes early this year. So, the answers to these questions should come around quickly. This promises to be another exciting spring.

No comments:

Post a Comment

What people are reading this week