With two weeks until opening day, several stories have become apparent at Boston Red Sox camp. From the reemergence of Grady Sizemore to Jake Peavy cutting his finger with a fishing knife, Sox fans have plenty to watch for as the rest of the spring unfolds.
Two young guns projected to be starting on opening day have struggled so far. Xander Bogaerts and Jackie Bradley Jr. are hitting .130 and .182 respectively, which may be a cause for concern.
Many have been skeptical of the left side of the infield and some would like to see Stephen Drew back in town, but most were critical of Will Middlebrooks, rather than Bogaerts. The 21-year-old shows plenty of upside and a good plate approach, but it is yet to be seen whether he is truly ready for an everyday job in the majors. Middlebrooks on the other hand has had a strong start and is determined to improve, especially in the field. Batting .308, Middlebrooks has only managed one walk up to this point, however, with only three strikeouts in 26 at bats, he is getting the ball in play at a much higher rate.
Last spring, Jackie Bradley Jr. exploded onto the scene and surprisingly made the opening day roster. This season, Bradley was penciled in as Jacoby Ellsbury’s replacement, but has not been producing as of yet. With Sizemore performing well, there has been rumors of Bradley losing the job and possibly even starting the season in Pawtucket. With a surplus of outfielders, manager John Farrell will need to decide if he should stick with the original plan or give the injury-prone Sizemore another shot at an everyday job.
Another outfielder that has impressed is Bryce Brentz. The 25-year-old right fielder had a line of .409/.480/.818 before being sent down to minor league camp. A year ago, Brentz was in the news for the wrong reasons, after shooting himself in the leg while cleaning his gun. He would probably be in the hunt for a roster spot, but with the trio of Daniel Nava, Jonny Gomes, and Mike Carp all taking up spots, Brentz will be getting some experience under his belt in Pawtucket while he waits for a call-up.
On the hill, the top guns have came out strong, while the prospects have been less than impressive. Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz have both looked great in a combined seven starts. Buchholz has appeared healthy and hopefully will be able to put together a full season, even if he is closely monitored. Felix Doubront has also looked strong, tossing six scoreless innings with six strikeouts and no walks. The lefty came into camp looking great after arriving in poor shape a year ago.
Several up-and-coming starters were looking to make a mark this spring, but none of them have succeeded to this point. Brandon Workman is one notable pitcher worthy of a roster spot, but with batters hitting .306 against him so far, he will need to improve to the level of play he was at in the World Series.
One pleasant surprise has been Francisco Cordero, who has looked great in his return to baseball after a one-year hiatus. With six scoreless appearances and a WHIP of .83, Cordero has shown he can still bring it. He isn’t exactly a flamethrower at age 38, but his stuff has looked solid and has helped him post seven strikeouts.
The big story to watch unfold over the next two weeks will be the battle for center field. Bradley projects to be the team’s center fielder of the future, but if Sizemore is healthy and proves to be the better player, he should get the job. The chance that Sizemore stays healthy all year are slim though, so should his health be saved for later in the season? Shane Victorino is really the only other outfielder capable of playing in center, so it is possible that he would play there on Sizemore’s off days with Carp or Nava playing in right. Quite frankly, it could be a very hectic situation in the outfield and the loss of Ellsbury to the Yankees could prove to be one of Boston’s biggest problems in 2014.