By Kevin Pereau – @kpereau
I double tapped today on my ESPN App and saw the most beautiful thing…Red Sox vs Northeastern on the schedule for 23 February. Sure it is only a preseason game and against a University team at that but hey, that means baseball season is right around the corner and that always quickens my pulse.
One of the nice things about spring training for Red Sox fans is that with few exceptions, we go into every season thinking we have a solid chance of running the tables. This year is certainly no exception. The addition of Chris Sale and the trimmed down, new and improved Panda are reason for optimism. Conventional wisdom suggests we have three areas of concern. I have just one. While the Boston scribes will drone on about the back of the rotation, middle relief and replacing the big fellah’s bat, my sole concern focuses on how well the newbies handle the harsh spot lights of Boston. The glare can be unbearably brutal for most. Boston is not an easy place to play.
I am satisfied that this team will prevent runs and score enough of their own to compensate the loss of David Ortiz. It would be stellar to see the old guard guys like Ortiz, Pedro and Jason Varitek step up and assume larger instructional roles but that’s a story for another day. This team will play excellent defense, they are fast, patient and they hit well. We may not have the murderers row part of the line up of years past but what pitcher in baseball wants to face the killer B’s (Betts, Benintendi, Bradley & Boegarts) only to see Pedroia, Ramirez, and Sandoval waiting in the wings? We will win games we probably shouldn’t because of our depth and balance of talent.
The back of the rotation should also be just fine. I don’t expect a full season from Eduardo Rodriguez or Steven Wright but that should not matter. We will have Joe Kelly, Drew Pomeranz, Henry Owens and others available for spot starts. If they aren’t expected to go 200 innings or pitch April – September, we should be fine. Nobody in their right mind is concerned about the front three of Price, Sale and Porcello. Lets ratchet back our expectations on Porcello though. That was a career year and he should settle back in to about 14-18 wins for the year. If he can do that, we should be good.
I am also fine with our middle relief. Could it be better? Very few teams in baseball would say no to that one. Barnes got a little shaky toward the end of last year and injuries took their toll but middle relief help always seems to be available during the season. Since other teams have larger holes here, I really don’t think this one is our soft spot. We can bring up arms from Pawtucket or add as we go but more so than last season, we need to get a full 6 innings from our starters or we will have problems
My biggest concern is how does Sale adjust to Boston. What if we have a throw back uniform day? What if he gets off to a slow start? What if lands on Dan Shaughnessy’s “list”. Over the years, I have watched player after player struggle upon their arrival. The Panda is just the latest but does anyone remember just how good Edgar Renteria was before and after he arrived Boston? His only shortcoming was not having the thick-skinned temperament you need to thrive here. The Red Sox have more writers who follow them on the road than most teams have covering their teams at home. They all have an agenda and think they, not the players, are the show. Hopefully Sale will quickly adjust, Ramirez doesn’t wilt in his new leadership role, and the Panda has learned a hard lesson. If not, it could be a very long season.