(Editors Note: We are delighted to run this guest piece by Andrew Martin)
Spring training is about to begin for the Boston Red Sox.
In what has become an annual tradition, fans turned out recently at Fenway Park to celebrate “Truck Day.” This unofficial holiday was the packing and departure of a truck loaded with equipment that delivers its precious cargo to the team’s spring training site of Fort Myers, Florida in advance of the official opening of camp.
Coming off winning the 2013 World Series, the Red Sox will already have a lot of buzz this spring. However, there are some specific things fans should look for, including:
Dustin Pedroia’s Health: The star second baseman missed just two games last year, hitting.301 with nine home runs and 84 RBIs. After the season ended, it was reported he had injured his thumb on opening day, played all season with the affliction and had surgery once the World Series was over. He is expected to be healthy but it will be interesting to see how he looks this spring, and if he can continue his typical high level of play.
Catcher A.J. Pierzynski Taking Control of the Pitching Staff: The 16-year major league veteran was signed this offseason to take over as the starter for Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who left via free agency to sign with the Miami Marlins. A .283 career hitter with some pop, the 37-year-old should be fine with his bat. His biggest adjustment will likely be taking over Boston’s veteran pitching staff and getting everyone on the same page before the start of the regular season.
The Emergence of a Leadoff Hitter: Outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury, who operated as the Red Sox’s primary leadoff hitter when healthy since 2008, signed a huge deal with the New York Yankees this offseason. No official replacement has yet been named but manager John Farrell did indicate that outfielders Shane Victorino and Daniel Nava are top candidates, according to NESN.com’s Ricky Doyle.
Rookie shortstop Xander Bogaerts and outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. could also be dark horse candidates because of their superior on-base skills. A final pick could come down to if a particular player takes the role and runs with it this spring.
The Final Version of the Starting Rotation: Coming into 2014, the Red Sox have veteran starters Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, John Lackey, Jake Peavy, Felix Doubront and Ryan Dempster vying for five rotation spots. In addition, youngsters like Anthony Ranaudo, Brandon Workman and Allen Webster among others who could be ready for big league duty.
Although injuries or a trade could play a role in determining the final composition of the starting rotation, it could also come down a good old fashioned competition. Having too much good pitching is never a bad thing, so this is one of those good problems fans should embrace.
Doyle, in a separate article, recently reported the Red Sox are expected to move on from the whiskers in 2014. He also wrote how Farrell recently appeared on ESPN’s First Take, indicating his belief that his players would find something else to adopt as a team theme, stating, “There’ll be some other characteristic that will emerge. So, I think it’s just great that they can be themselves.”
The beards started to become a thing during last spring training, so similar timing this year shouldn’t be a surprise. The biggest question is trying to figure out what the players will come up with this year.
*Andrew Martin is a regular Red Sox and New England Patriots writer as part of the Yahoo Contributor Network and is a noted baseball historian.
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