The Red Sox have set their final roster for Opening Day, so it’s time to take a look at what’s what.
Infield: There are no surprises in the infield. Pablo Sandoval will play third, Xander Bogaerts short, Dustin Pedroia second, and Mike Napoli first with Brock Holt taking the utility role.
Mike Napoli has been a beast all spring, and I rather suspect that is going to continue. He’s had a sleep apnea problem his entire career and he finally had surgery to correct it in the off season. Sleep apnea is one of those things that just robs you of everything from the will to get out of bed to the ability to do anything. That he has had an excellent career to this point without having a decent night’s sleep is astonishing.
Outfield: it’s a little bit surprising that Rusney Castillo is not on the team, considering that he easily looks like he’s a starter, but management feels that Shane Victorino has to play himself out of the job before Castillo can take it.
I confess I am not a fan of that decision. I would much rather have the better player playing the most. That said, it’s probably not going to be long. Castillo is one of those dynamic players that does a little bit of everything and Shane Victorino is old and broken down.
Also, should Shane Victorino prove me wrong, that would be awesome. He has, however, not played a full season in what feels like forever.
Of course, Castillo hasn’t played a full season in what actually is forever. The Serie Nacional plays a 90 game season. For that matter, Hanley Ramirez has been injured a lot as of late. Mookie Betts is the only outfielder who has actually played more than about 130 games recently.
I rather suspect that ultimately the decision will be to cut Daniel Nava and go with an outfield of Ramirez, Betts, and Castillo, backed up by Victorino and Craig.
Catchers: The injury to Christian Vazquez is a massive bummer as he was one of the things that I was really looking forward to watching this season. That said, Ryan Hanigan’s defense is also good, if not as spectacular, and Sandy Leon’s reputation suggests he’s also good.
The Sox are unlikely to get a lot of offense from the position, which means we’re all going to be watching Pawtucket to see if Blake Swihart is ready to make the jump. I rather suspect that it’s only a matter of time before Swihart is up. It might not be until September, but were I a betting man, I’d bet on him being up in July so management can’t get a good look at him in the bigs before the trade deadline.
The Rotation: Joe Kelly is on the DL, but might not miss a start. According to NESN.com he’s scheduled to pitch in a minor league game on Monday and if it’s determined he’s ready for regular season action, he’ll be activated for the April 11 game at NY.
Until then, it’s Clay Buchholz April 6 to open the season against the Phillies, Rick Porcello on the 8th, Justin Masterson on the 9th. Then it’s Wade Miley to start the series against the Yankees on the 10th, Kelly or his replacement Steven Wright on the 11th.
I rather suspect we’ll see Wright used in a relief role before the 11th which would indicate Kelly will be just fine for the 11th.
The more important thing to note is that it looks like Wright is the first guy to get the call when a sixth starter is needed. Wright is, of course, a knuckleballer, and we haven’t had one of those around here since Tim Wakefield retired.
What’s interesting is that he seems to have been battling Brian Johnson for the role, which indicates Brandon Workman has seen his last start. It makes some sense, since Henry Owens and Eduardo Rodriguez are both at AAA now, and they both have higher ceilings than Workman.
The Bullpen: Koji Uehara starts the season on the DL which is disconcerting considering his age and how bad he was at the end of 2014. He could be back as soon as the home opener on the 13th, but hamstring problems have a habit of hanging around.
Until Koji’s back, the closer is Edward Mujica, which gives me qualms, but he actually performed pretty well after the first couple months of last season.
The rest of the bullpen is Junichi Tazawa, Alexi Ogando, Anthony Varvaro, Craig Breslow, Tommy Layne, and Robbie Ross Jr.
Breslow, Ross, and Layne are all lefties and Varvaro has a reverse platoon differential. I rather suspect that when Uehara comes back, one of the lefties is going to go. I rather suspect it’s Breslow as he was rather underwhelming last year.
And look at that, I’ve blathered on for over 800 words already. Enough of this crap, time to get the season started.