With Spring Training right around the corner, the Boston Red Sox are looking to rebound from a forgettable 2014 season. The Red Sox already look not too shabby as they have retooled their roster and upgraded their starting lineups heading into the 2015 campaign. For the most part, the Sox are not expecting any drastic position battles this spring as they have a number of starters returning and added several new players to fill the needed roles. It is a normal case every year that there are still a few things the Sox need to figure out before Opening Day. There are just a few positions that will likely be determined by spring training performances.
It appears that new acquired Hanley Ramirez is going to shift from shortstop to left field for the 2015 season. According to a source, Ramirez had been working in the Dominican Republic playing outfield and will be putting in some extra work in Florida prior to the official Spring Training period. After Ramirez in left field, Rusney Castillo and Mookie Betts appear to be locks for both center field and right field. However, there is still a $13 million burden still on the roster and his name is Shane Victorino.
The 34-year old veteran is entering the final year of his 3-year, $39 million contract that he signed prior to the 2013 season. Victorino missed most of the 2014 season because of injuries, but if he’s healthy and ready to go, Farrell may just consider playing Victorino versus between Castillo and Betts that only have 62 games of Major League experience between the two of them. If Victorino plays like he did in 2013 and remains healthy, it could create quite a debacle for John Farrell. The Sox didn’t intend on signing Castillo to a $72.5 million deal last season just to ride on the bench and Betts is the guy that could become a leadoff hitter in the future, which makes it really difficult to take him out of the lineup.
The discussion of who the Red Sox’ Opening Day starter is now just a two-horse race between Clay Buchholz and Rick Porcello as the Sox failed to sign a starter during the Winter Meetings. Clay Buchholz is unfortunately very inconsistent. In 2013, he went 12-1 with 1.74 ERA and made the All-Star team. That’s good if it carried into 2014, but it didn’t as Buchholz finished last season going 8-11 with a 5.34 ERA. That’s basically been how Buccholz has been throughout his career in Boston.
Rick Porcello on the other hand, may now be entering his prime. Porcello has expanded his repertoire of pitches in the recent years to include a 4-seam fastball and an improved curveball. Based on talent alone, Porcello appears to be the best option as the Opening Day starter. If I had it my way, I would have went out in free agency and grabbed James Shields. But now the Sox just have to work with what they have and I believe that it should be Porcello that takes the mound on Game 1 of 162. However, the role of the Opening Day starter goes to whoever has had the longest tenure on one franchise and Buchholz may end up winning the role.
Those are just some of major position battles heading into Spring Training, but anything is possible and someone could shine in Florida and sneak their way onto the 25-man roster come Opening Day.