Found February 04, 2013 on Boston Sports Then & Now:
Lester and Lackey Beyonce’s thigh shaking has ended. One of the Harbaugh brothers beat the other. Stats “after the power outage” are in the books. The Super Bowl is over and now I can start to think about Major League Baseball. Breathe. It is true that I love hockey. I am an avid Boston Bruins fan. But there is not another sport I love as much as the one that is played outside, on the diamond. After a dismal 2012 campaign, I am ready to wash away the Beer and Chicken; I am ready to forget about those players who have left via The Trade. Rather than pull a hockey jersey over my head, I desperately want to button up my Sox jersey:  hopefully this season I can be proud to wear it. Pitchers and catchers report for the Red Sox on Tuesday, February 12th. This is a staff comprised of questionable talents to say the least: Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, Ryan Dempster, Felix Doubront and John Lackey make up your starting 5, Boston fans. If we rewound time, I would be more excited. These guys all have the potential to have great seasons. They could also all implode fantastically. Conversely, the bullpen looks good; really good. The addition of Joel Hanrahan is huge. This guy is a bona fide closer. Even though he has spent his career in the National League, I believe that the Senior and Junior Circuits are balancing out a bit. Last season Hanrahan was an All-Star. He posted a 2.72 ERA in 59.2 innings pitched. He struck out 67 and walked 36. His WHIP of 1.274 is higher than I’d like to see in a “lights out closer” role, and his late season face-plant wasn’t pretty. But he should execute and compile a lot of saves (last season he had 36). If  he doesn’t go anywhere, Andrew Bailey should have a bounce back year at the back end of the Sox bullpen. As Boston fans know, Bailey was injured for much of his inaugural season as a member of the team. However, in 2011 he struck out 41 in 41 innings, posting a 3.24 ERA and saving 24 games. What was most impressive with Bailey was his walk total. For all of the 2011 season he walked 12 batters. If Bailey can re-gain health I think he can re-gain form, which is much better than a set-up guy should be. Koji Uehara is another guy poised to take on his first full Red Sox season. Boston fans will come to know what Texas Rangers fans already do after years of Uehara in the pen: Koji spells strikeout in Japanese. Uehara garnered 43 K’s in 36 innings last year, which shook out to a 1.75 ERA and a 0.639 WHIP. With numbers like those it is hard to say that the Sox will have trouble stopping batters once their starters leave the game. Crazy Alfredo Aceves is still there. Youngsters Junichi Tazawa, Clayton Mortensen and Rubby De La Rosa will all likely fit in and Andrew Miller and Craig Breslow figure to continue to post decent bullpen numbers. Needless to say, as shaky as I think the starters will be, the Sox pen will truly be fitted with stoppers in 2013. As for catchers, coach Gary Tuck is gone, which I’m told is a huge loss. Possible battery-mates of Sox pitchers include David Ross, Ryan Lavarnway, Jarrod Saltalamacchia and (maybe on occasion) Mike Napoli. For all intensive and purposes, the Sox have designated Napoli their full-time first baseman. So, as he does not have to report to spring training yet, I will hold off on any critique of the move that brought him here. All I will say is that one year at $5 million looks a heck of a lot better than 3 years at $39 million. Jarrod Saltalamacchia (unless he is traded) will likely see the bulk of time among this group from behind the plate. Salty led the team with 25 home runs last year. It’s hard to find a catcher who will hit that many home runs. However, it is not hard to find a catcher that hits above .222. Salty is not the solution the Red Sox need at the dish, but his power numbers are good enough to have him slot into the middle of the order. With the addition of supposed defensive wizard David Ross, Ryan Lavarnway will probably open the season in triple-A. I agree that this is good for Lavarnway’s development. The kid can mash the ball and I think that while he does not project to be the starting catcher for any major league franchise, he does figure to become a good middle-of-the-order bat. David Ross isn’t exactly going to light the world on fire with his offense at Fenway Park or elsewhere in 2013, but the guy does get on base (.256/.321/.449 slash lines in 2012). Suffice it to say that he should provide some very Varitek-like intangibles in Boston. And so, with the culmination of the Great Beyonce Zumba Class, I am ready for Truck Day tomorrow, February 5th. One can only hope that John Lackey wears a bit more than Jay-Z’s main squeeze when he arrives in Fort Meyers next Tuesday. Follow me on Twitter @darylvelez
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