Well, we’ve made it to the second installment of “Countdown to Spring Training,” and it’s only going to get better as actual baseball related activities start to pick up, I promise.
The countdown has reached 6 days. Yes, you heard it right, just 6 long days before those pitchers and catchers report down to Florida and get down to business. I for one, could not be more excited.
Let’s take a look at what’s been going on this week:
- Sadly, former Red Sox player, Curt Schilling, announced that he has been diagnosed with cancer.
- Roger Clemens, Pedro Martinez, Nomar Garciaparra, and Joe Castiglione have all been inducted into the Red Sox Hall of Fame.
- Former Red Sox set-up man, Daniel Bard, signed a minor league deal with the Texas Rangers. He recently had surgery for thoracic outlet syndrome in January.
- Stephen Drew is reportedly seeking an opt-out as part of a multi-year deal. Essentially, this gives Drew all the control if a team were to take him up on this offer. The Red Sox aren’t going any higher than the one-year deal, but for teams like the Mets and Yankees who might, it provides another wrinkle in attaining his services.
- Jonny Gomes supplying more reason to love him if you’re a Sox’ fan. Check out his new tattoo.
- Andrew Miller’s arbitration hearing is set for February 18th.
Burning Question of the Week
This week’s burning question: Can Jackie Bradley Jr. be the guy in center field?
There will be a changing of the guards in center field for the Boston Red Sox when the season begins.
Jacoby Ellsbury, who roamed the outfield grass of Fenway Park for the last seven years, will now spend his time in New York after signing a seven-year, $153 million contract with the Yankees. The Red Sox did not retaliate with a move of their own, instead, they opted to keep their checkbooks closed, putting faith in an up-and-coming talent named Jackie Bradley Jr.
After scorching the GrapeFruit League last spring (.419/.507/.613), Bradley found his way on to the opening day roster (and started) for the 2013 Boston Red Sox. Part of that was due to his performance, but a larger factor in play was that David Ortiz was not going to be ready to start the season, and the Sox would need another left-handed bat. The expectations were high, and myself included, thought this kid was going to be a stud from day one.
Unfortunately, his inflated expectations caught up with him in a big way as he trudged through April hitting just .097, looking nothing like the player many thought he would be.
As the season progressed, Bradley spent much of it in Triple-A trying to regain his confidence and solidify his approach at the plate. He did just that. Bradley’s playing time in the majors was scattered throughout the summer, but he got a chunk of playing time in September when rosters expanded where he hit .243, and had an OBP of .317 in 37 plate appearances. Nothing to write home about, but a noticeable elevation in his approach against major league pitching was a welcoming sign to Boston.
That was the test run.
This time around, there is not much of a contingency plan if Bradley is to, yet again, falter out of the gates in the majors like he did in 2013. He is pegged as the man in center field with the only relative back-up being Grady Sizemore — who has missed extended parts of the last four seasons, including the last two completely. The back up options are slim: slide Shane Victorino over to center and allow Daniel Nava to get a bulk of the time in right; let Nava take over center, although he looked overmatched in the few games he played there last season; or plug in a guy in Sizemore who has a history of health issues and hasn’t seen major league pitching in over two years. For a team that prides themselves in depth, it simply isn’t there in center field.
The Red Sox are hoping that none of those options turn into a reality and that Bradley will be the everyday starter for the team.
I believe that Bradley will a) win the job out of spring training, b) produce at the major league level, and c) get at least 400 AB’s this season. He’s got tremendous instincts for a young center-fielder with a plus-arm to go along with it and he showed signs of discipline against some tough lefties, which is impressive for a young left-handed hitter, even if it was just a small sample size. I still really like this kids game and am looking forward to his development, and bright future, with the Boston Red Sox.
(It was a really slow week in Sox’ news and I didn’t get much feedback to do a mailbag, so I leave you with highlights of, the one and only, Nomar Garciaparra. Can’t wait until they retire that No.5 out in right field.)