Everyone in the Northeast looks forward to February for only one reason, and it is not for ice fishing, skiing, or more frigid cold weather; it is because the boys are heading down to sunny Florida.
It is a sure sign that Spring is just around corner, even though we may not see a blade of grass for another twelve weeks. Now Red Sox Nation is asking what is in store for the Red Sox this year. We, of course, are hoping for victory.
Let’s get down to tactics. Terry Francona and all the coaches are looking for a strong and determined line up to get our season underway. Tito knows the key to making it deep into the season is keeping our players healthy. It is the No. 1 priority.
That means that Tito needs to have a strategy of breaking down playing time.
Let’s take a look at the infield, starting with the catchers. With Jason Varitek back with Boston we can rest assure that the bullpen is far better off. Varitek has a lot to prove this year as far as his offense but we can be comfortable knowing that 'Tek will be behind the plate to help prepare and guide our pitchers.
Understanding that Tek will be 37 years old in April, Tito will need to play Josh Bard, Kottaras and Brown to allow Tek to rest.
Bard’s play time will be determined by his abilities. But don’t be surprised if Theo may be still looking for a young apprentice such as Saltalamacchia or Teagarden from Texas. This may be why we may not see Buchholz playing for Boston this season.
The pitching staff seems to be a solid group. I am anxious to see where Tito and Farrell will place Masterson. I believe he is going to have a great season no matter where he ends up.
Starters, Lester and Beckett will be a constant strength and Manny Delcarmen and Okajima will continue to support the middle but I am not so sure about our closers…not sure how Papelbon will do this year.
It remains to be seen how Wakefield will help out but if he has as good of a season as he did last year it will help. Also we can look forward to our new veteran pitchers such as Smoltz and Siato. I am sure we will see Buchholz as long as he is not traded for a new catcher.
I believe there is no question of who is playing second base. Yes, our amazing Dustin Pedroia. Need I say more? Although Lowrie and Lugo will be fighting for playing time it appears the shortstop position is secure. I think we will see Jed Lowrie break out this season. Set himself above Lugo.
Now it comes down to First base, which of course belongs to our energetic Kevin “Yooouk” Youkilis. His willingness to shift to third helped us tremendously last year and even though we signed Wilkerson due to Kotsay’s back surgery, I believe you may see an up and coming star name Lars Anderson.
I believe Mike Lowell will play and benefit the Sox this year but I do not see him coming off this injury 100 percent. The odds are against him but there is a lot say about his leadership in the dugout and I believe he will have a positive influence on our young players.
Moving onto the outfielders with Jason Bay at left, Jacoby at center and JD Drew at right I am very confident that we are covered, that is to say, as long as they stay healthy. I am looking forward to see Rocco Baldelli in a Red Sox uniform. I believe his bat will greatly benefit us.
It is my understanding that Baldelli has a better handle on his condition and as long as JD stays healthy I believe Rocco is the answer to our relief in the outfield. When Kotsay recovers from his back surgery he will be able play infield or outfield for us and this is a great benefit.
I would like to see Jacoby work on his bunting to increase his on base percentage.
Confident in JD’s beautiful swing I believe he is due to have a great season. Jason Bay will be right at home. Getting a taste of Boston last year and seeing how great the fans can be Bay’s bat will not disappoint us.
In conclusion we can’t forget our Big Papi. I am hoping to see him come back swinging hard and accurate. He will need to keep his wrist strong and be aware of over stressing it. This can be accomplished with less pressure on our designating hitter.
Yes, it is Papi’s job but I have found that the Red Sox play their best when everyone is pitching in and doing their jobs at the up most of their abilities. I would not be surprised to Rocco helping out as a designer hitter.
I can’t wait to see the start of Spring Training on Feb. 12. NESN will have all day coverage. GO SOX!!!