BOSTON -- Every year it seems like there are major issues or question marks to start spring training where the answers are up in the air.
In 2015, the Red Sox lacked an ace, had Hanley Ramirez moving to left field and Pablo Sandoval coming to town.
In 2016, Ramirez was moving back to the infield, but at a new position, and his bat was in question. Sandoval was coming off a year where he couldn’t hit his weight (he hit .245 and he last weighed in at 255 pounds). How would the starting rotation look after David Price?
This year, there seem to be three questions, but in a way, they’ve already been answered.
How will the Red Sox make up for David Ortiz’s absence?
Well, for one, the Red Sox have three Cy Young-caliber starting pitchers (Price, Chris Sale and Rick Porcello) in their rotation.
And two, Hanley Ramirez is coming off a career year with his highest career output in RBI (111) and second-highest home run total (30). And while Mitch Moreland isn’t the greatest hitter, he’s good for 20 or more home runs. Plus, it seems he’s holding a spot for a certain Red Sox prospect who’s bouncing back well from an injury.
Will Sandoval earn the starting third base job back?
The weight loss is a good sign, not only for the physical reasons, but it shows he’s mentally committed to being better.
However, that doesn’t guarantee he gets his job back.
“I’m not going to say [third base] resolved itself,” John Farrell told CSNNE.com, “but you know Panda’s done a very good job of committing to get himself in better shape and we’re looking forward to seeing that play to in spring training.”
Even if Panda can’t put it all together, Farrell told reporters before Thursday’s BBWAA dinner, both Brock Holt and Josh Rutledge would be competing for the job as well.
Holt as plan B -- in the infield? Who wouldn’t take that?
Who’s going to start at catcher?
Sandy Leon, Christian Vazquez and Blake Swihart each have their pros an cons.
Leon did it all last year, but went from hitting .383 in his first 39 games to .242 in his last 39.
Vazquez has Ivan Rodriguez-esque abilities behind the plate, but couldn’t keep the staff under control last year and cannot hit.
Swihart, who turns 25 April 3, is the youngest of the three, has the most potential at the plate, but is far and away the worst of the three defensively at the most important defensive position -- excluding pitcher -- on the field.
They all have their drawbacks, but they’ve all shown at some point why they can be the Red Sox starting catcher in the present and future.
Everywhere else, the Red Sox seem to be in a comfortable position as pitchers and catchers reporting to camp draws ever nearer.
“I think the fact that we’ve got veteran players that have done a great job in staying healthy [and] young players that are getting more establishing in their return, we’re in a pretty good place in terms of the overall status of our position player group,” Farrell told CSNNE.com.
And it seems some players are confident in the team’s options as they ready for camp.
“We’re looking good in a lot of areas,” shortstop Xander Bogaerts told CSNNE.com. “Especially the pitching staff, [since] we just got Chris Sale one of the best in the game.”
“Pablo’s definitely going to bounce back, especially with the weight he’s lost."