Well, after a long, cold, snowy winter, baseball is back and the start of spring in New England has finally arrived. (We hope!)
The Red Sox are off to what could be called by many a surprising start. They’ve gotten good starting pitching, and stellar starting pitching from their top two pitchers -- Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz. They’ve gotten some timely hitting, as we saw with Daniel Nava’s three-run homer on Monday. They’ve gotten some relentless offense, as we saw Sunday in Toronto. And they’ve played error-free defense.
Not a bad way to start the season. How long can they keep it up? We’ll see.
But let’s get to your questions.
A lot of today’s questions revolve around the impending roster moves the Sox will be making in the next few days. I hope you don’t mind, but I’ve grouped similar questions together, for ease of answering and reading. So, let’s get to it . . .
@maureenamullen Has Iggy earned a shot as the regular SS?— rrlse (@priusport) April 9, 2013
@maureenamullen your thoughts on Iglesias/Drew/Ciriaco at SS?Who starts/sits?— Dirty Water Rants (@dirtywaterrants) April 9, 2013
The situation with shortstops Stephen Drew and Jose Iglesias is a bit of a dilemma for the Red Sox. They acquired Drew in the offseason, on a one-year, $9.5 million contract, with the plan of sending Iglesias back to Triple-A Pawtucket to work on his offense. We all know Iglesias’ glove has never been an issue. He is one of the top defensive players in baseball. And Drew has been solid both offensively and defensively. Before the concussion on March 7, when he was hit in the helmet by a pitch, Drew appeared to be over the (gruesome) ankle injury that limited him to just 165 combined games between 2011-2012. In four rehab games with Double-A Portland he has gone 2-for-13, batting .154. He went 1-for-3 with a home run last night, in what is expected to be his final rehab game.
This is not meant as a knock on Drew in any way, but I was surprised when the Sox acquired him.
I was of the opinion that the job should have been Iglesias’. Actually, I thought the job should have been his last year. I thought the Sox should have just said to him “Hey, kid, the job is yours. Don’t worry about looking over your shoulder.” But, because he hit just .118 in 25 major-league games last year, the Sox brought in Drew.
Iglesias showed a much better approach at the plate in spring training. The Sox were happy with it, and scouts were impressed by it, too. Now, he is hitting .450 (9-for-20). His OPS of 1.026 is almost equal to his OPS’s added together in his first two major-league seasons. Yes, it’s early in the season, and yes, it’s a small sample size, and yes, he went 0-for-3 in the home opener (although, the Sox had just five hits altogether). But, it’s the approach and the confidence he’s shown at the plate that are different this year.
But, yes, barring anything unforeseen (an injury, a trade, another blizzard), I expect Iglesias will be sent to Pawtucket when Drew is scheduled to be activated on Wednesday. You can’t leave that amount of money on the bench.
As for Ciriaco, I think his role as the utility infielder, pinch-runner, pinch-hitter, and occasional center fielder at the Trop (Kidding! . . . just wanted to make sure you were paying attention) is exactly where he needs to be and exactly where the Sox need him. He can play three infield positions and can be used in the outfield if necessary, as he did last season and again this spring. He has some speed and he always seems to make things happen.
Scott, I think the Sox see Webster coming up to help at some point this season, but I’m not sure it’s this week. They certainly liked what they saw of him to have him included in the blockbuster trade with the Dodgers in August, and he backed that up with his performance this spring. In four spring training games, spanning 11 innings, he allowed just three runs, two earned, on nine hits and one walk with 14 strikeouts, for a 1.64 ERA.
While talking with a scout this spring about a completely different subject, he offered the unprompted opinion that Webster was the best pitcher he had seen this spring, at any age, any level. That’s pretty high praise.
But, keep in mind Webster, who just turned 23 in in February, has pitched just one game above the Double-A level. And that was last week when he started the second game of the season for the PawSox, when he went five scoreless innings against Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, giving up two hits and three walks, with five strikeouts.
Also keep in mind that this is a young pitcher who is still learning how to pitch. Here’s one story that was relayed to me of a minor-league game this spring: Webster had the batter down 0-and-2 after throwing two of his high-90s fastballs. On the second pitch, the batter stepped out of the box, shaking his head, and muttered “Diablo!” On the third pitch, Webster threw a curveball, which the batter crushed for a home run.
Also, before Lackey’s injury on Saturday, colleague Sean McAdam wrote that he had talked with someone in the Sox organization who had targeted June as a possible arrival date for Webster. And, on Monday, manager John Farrell said Alfredo Aceves could be a candidate to take Lackey’s spot in the rotation if Lackey is not able to make his next start on Sunday. The original spring training plan was for Aceves and left-hander Franklin Morales to get stretched out in case of situations like this.
So, while things can change on a moment’s notice, all of that is a long-and-winding answer to: Yes, I think Webster will be up this season, and likely sooner rather than later, but I don’t think it will be Sunday.
@maureenamullen What's the feel in the clubhouse this year compared to last?— Mitchell McGuire (@McGuire_2032) April 9, 2013
Mitchell, I think you have to take into consideration that the Sox’ clubhouse has had tremendous turnover since last season. The 40-man roster includes 11 players, more than 25 percent, who weren’t in the organization last season. The 25-man roster has eight such players, 32 percent. Also, every coach is new, and only first-base coach Arnie Beyeler, assistant hitting coach Victor Rodriguez, and bullpen coach Dana LeVangie were even in the organization last season, all in different capacities. (Yes, manager John Farrell and bench coach Torey Lovullo have a past with the organization, and are familiar.)
Any time any group undergoes that kind of transformation there is bound to be a change. And the new players the Sox brought in brought with them reputations as high-character people. And, so far, from what I have witnessed, they have lived up to that.
And, I think the players who had been here wanted things to be different -- and better.
Last season will be remembered as one of the most chaotic and dysfunctional in recent Sox memory. I think everyone who remained after all the roster moves wanted a change -- and a chance to make things better.
I got a sense very early in spring training that there was a different and better vibe to the clubhouse. Whether that will translate to wins on the field remains to be seen.
@maureenamullen when does Bradley get sent down, when Papi is ready?— dan celso (@dan_celso) April 9, 2013
Dale and Dan, yes, at this point Jackie Bradley is the most likely candidate. As of Monday, the Sox hoped Ortiz would get into three consecutive days of simulated and/or extended spring training games in Fort Myers before going out on a rehab assignment, possibly beginning Thursday. A roster move wouldn’t be required until Ortiz makes his return to the active roster.
Bradley, who will turn 23 on April 19, was one of the most exciting and eye-opening players to watch this spring. He was brought to big league camp, but was not expected to contend for a roster spot. A typical progression for a player who had been promoted to Double-A during the previous season would be to return to that level, or maybe earn a promotion to Triple-A out of spring training.
But, Bradley’s spring performance, combined with injuries to fellow left-handed hitters Ortiz and Drew, opened the door for Bradley to crack the big-league roster.
But, in six games this spring, he is batting just .143, going 3-for-21, with one extra-base hit (a double), five walks and seven strikeouts. He was not in the starting lineup Monday for the first time this season, after going 0-for-7 with four strikeouts in the previous two games.
But, if Bradley is sent down, I have no doubt he will be back to the major leagues this season and will have very nice career ahead of him.
@maureenamullen What are the best online ways to follow the PawSox and Sea Dogs? Writers? Internet radio of games? Thanks in advance!— John Burke (@JohnBTV) April 9, 2013
John, I would check each team’s website: Pawsox.com and Seadogs.com. The PawSox have a new radio team this year with Bob Socci and Jeff Levering. And Mike Antonellis has been doing a fantastic job on Sea Dogs radio for several years. I think you’ll enjoy listening to both broadcasts.
Matt, yes, it’s very possible Dempster’s ERA could rise. Pitching in the American League and facing a DH, rather than in the National League against another pitcher at the bottom of the order is a challenge for any pitcher. Dempster, who turns 36 next month, knows that.
In 16 starts with the Cubs last season, he posted a 2.25 ERA. In 12 starts with the Rangers, after being traded at the deadline, he had a 5.09 mark.
“Whether people admit it or not, aside from probably about 10 pitchers, there is that little bit of a break at the bottom of the lineup where you get to face the pitcher,” he said, when the Sox signed him. “You still have to make your pitches and get outs but I’d much rather sit there and face a pitcher than have to face a David Ortiz, that’s for sure. That’s probably the bigger test, you have to maintain your focus. And once you do that, it’s just about making pitches.”
Dempster, who is scheduled to start Wednesday, is 4-9 with a 4.93 ERA (a little over half a run more than his career 4.34 ERA) in 19 career games against the other four AL East teams, including his first start with the Sox, a loss in Yankee Stadium on Thursday. He has made three starts in his career at Fenway Park, where he is 1-1 with a 6.06 ERA, allowing 11 earned runs, with five home runs in 16 1/3 innings. He made one start at Fenway in 2012, though, going seven scoreless innings for the win on June 15.
@maureenamullen David Ross wears the hockey-goalie style mask. Has any other Sox catcher sported one?— Yawkey Yak (@YawkeyYak) April 9, 2013
I checked with Joe Cochrane, the Sox long-time equipment manager, who said the only other Sox catcher who comes to mind is Josh Bard.
Ok, that’s it for now. Thanks for reading! We’ll do it again soon!