Ten spring training battles facing Red Sox

Ten spring training battles facing Red Sox
March 5, 2014, 1:15 pm
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Want to feel old?
Today marks the 244th anniversary of the Boston Massacre. Feels like yesterday, right? The incident — which took place in front of the Old State House on March 5, 1770  — is considered by many historians to be the first battle of the Revolutionary War. At the very, very least, it was a pivotal moment in the colonies' eventual independence from Britain and the formation of the country that we live in and (most of us) love today.
And as you know, around these parts, there’s only one thing in the world more important than freedom: RED SOX BASEBALL.
So here’s a quick look at a Starting Nine of early Spring Training battles . . .
Jake Peavy vs. his fishing knife
On Tuesday in Fort Myers, Jake Peavy shed some light on the details of the accident that nearly left him short one finger on his left hand.
“I promised my little boys I’d take them fishing,” Peavy said. “We went up to Bass Pro (Shop) and bought us some riding reels that were combo’d. I was trying to cut the little wire tie that kind of holds them together. I was using the knife, obviously, with my right hand and holding the rod with my left, and when I broke the wire tie, I just stuck my knuckle there pretty good.”
Listen, we’ve all been there. Those combo riding reels are a bitch. The little wire ties? The worst.
The good news in all this is that, despite the injury, Peavy still went fishing with his kids. That’s a dedicated dad right there. But the bad news is that, despite initial reports that the injury wouldn’t be a setback, it turns out that the knife actually cut through a tendon, left Peavy with some nerve damage and required surgery, as well as stitches.
Now the Sox still aren’t even sure if Peavy will be ready for the start of the season. And while the finger itself might not be an issue come May or July or September, it’s most definitely a setback, and setbacks (especially for injury prone and older pitchers like Peavy) have a tendency to knock the whole season off kilter and manifest into something more.
Koji Uehara vs. Koji Uehara
Koji is like the anti-Matthew McConaughey. His hero is himself in the past. In this case, the most magically dominant closer these eyes have ever seen. Is there anyway he can live up this crazy self-imposed standard?
He won’t have the benefit of playing the first three months in a secondary role. He’s coming off the most strenuous season of his Major League career. And oh yeah, he turns 39 years old in April.
Anyway, yesterday Koji threw his first inning of the Spring and retired the side in order — two strikes outs and pop out — on 14 pitches.
“Shocking that he threw four balls,” Brandon Workman said.
All right, all right, all right.
Koji vs. Masahiro Tanaka
There was a horde of Japanese media in attendance to watch Koji, but the pitcher told Gordon Edes: “All this media probably went to (Masahiro) Tanaka and came to me afterward.”
Asked if he’s following the Yankees new Japanese ace, Uehara said: “I’m not following him at all.”
OK, so knowing Koji, there’s a decent chance that this is a joke. But wouldn’t it be great if these guys don’t like each other for some reason? The Sox/Yankees rivalry is in desperate need of a boost. The Ellsbury defection helped it out some, but Uehara vs. Tanaka would take this thing international. To heights that Red Sox/Yankees has never seen.
Catchers vs. Father Time
Two catchers with a combined 74 years on this Earth. That’s what the Sox will be rolling out this year in A.J. Pierzynski and David Ross.
On the brightside, Pierzynski’s been about as durable as he’s been antagonistic over his career. He’s played at least 130 games in nine of the last 12 years, and in the seasons he missed, he played 128, 128 and 129 games. But realistically, how long can a catcher do what A.J.’s doing? The body has to start wearing down at some point.
He hasn’t had the healthiest spring, either. Not that ankle sprains are typically associated with the wear and tear in the life of a catcher, but AJP’s now rolled his left one twice.
And for better or worse, David Ross is David Ross. He won’t play more than 50 games. And after last year’s concussion issues, the unfortunate truth is that he’s one good hit (from ball, or a bat or a runner) away from being right back in that horrible place.
OK, so I just laid out the worst-case scenario for both these guys. I’m not trying to be pessimistic, just morbidly realistic. Wait, isn’t that the same thing? Either way, it’s something to watch.
Christian Vasquez vs. the Hype Machine
Vasquez is Boston’s 23-year-old catcher of the future, and everyone loves him. John Farrell has gushed over him all spring. David Ross recently compared him to Yadier Molina (only the best defensive catcher in baseball and a perennial MVP candidate).
The plan is/was for Vasquez to step in next season, but with Ryan Lavarnway on the first-base conversion track and (read the section above) there’s a very a good chance that we’ll see Vasquez in the big leagues at some point this year — at which point, who knows? He might end up establishing himself as the catcher of the present.
Or we can hold off on all that talk until he at least makes his major league debut.
David Ortiz vs. Spring Training
David Ortiz is coming off one of the better all-around seasons of his career, and one of the best Octobers that baseball has ever seen. In terms of re-capturing that magic in 2014, you’d think it might be a good idea for Ortiz just to follow the same routine he did in 2013. But the only problem with that, is that last spring, Ortiz barely did anything but work on rehabbing his sore Achilles.
"Every year is different for me," Ortiz recently said. “Last year, I didn't play in spring training, but I got stronger doing all kinds of stuff with the trainers here and that probably helped me out for the season.”
But short of purposely re-aggravating his injury, there’s not much Ortiz can do to mimic what he went through last year. This time around, he might have to play some actual baseball.
But hopefully not too much.
Brandon Workman vs. Headlines
Brandon Workman’s name is a copy editor’s dream. Up there with guys with the last names like “Wright” and “Best.” It makes the sometimes-tedious act of headline writing a punny walk in the park.
Workman was recently asked about all the relentless Workman-like headlines, and had a (playful) message for the media: "Don’t you think you guys should work a little harder?"
Don’t you mean Workman a littler harder?
Shane Victorino’s right vs. his left
You remember last summer, when a hamstring injury forced Victorino to ditch switch-hitting and live his life strictly as a right-handed hitter. You also remember that, out of nowhere, Victorino brought the left-handed swing back in Game 5 of the ALCS against Detroit (and went 0-3). He went back to hitting right-handed for the rest of the playoffs.
Anyway, fast-forward to today, and the Flyin’ Hawaiian’s keeping quiet on his future switch-hitting plans. When pressed on the topic by the Globe’s Nick Cafardo, Victorino said: “You all have to see.”
To which I say: Really, Shane? Does this really need to be a secret? No even cares THAT much. We just need things to talk about between now and opening day.
The Lead off Hitter Royal Rumble
Jacoby Ellsbury left two huge holes in the Sox Roster:
1. Tom Werner’s Token Heartthrob: A role that’s since been filled by Grady Sizemore.
2. Leadoff hitter: In reality, the safe bet is on Daniel Nava hitting lead-off against righties, with Victorino stepping against lefties (and Nava sitting out in favor of Jonny Gomes.) But the Sox aren’t locked in on that. Last week, they even had Gomes lead-off a game. If they run in trouble finding a reliable bat to fill the void, there’s always the chance (albeit not ideal) that Dustin Pedroia steps in. And (in a fairy tale land) what about Sizemore?
Everyone has a chance. That’s the beauty of this country.
Follow me on Twitter: @rich_levine