Found March 29, 2013 on Boston Sports Then & Now:
We’re just 3 days from the most anticipated Red Sox opening day since the Butch Hobson era and the Sox have set their final opening day roster with one exception.  Before the conspiracy theorists start on the lack of a Jackie Bradley Jr. announcement, it is because the Sox have to jettison someone from the 40-man roster to make room for him and they are taking a bit of time to make that decision (which makes since if you can’t trade someone to open up the spot you must put them on waivers and risk losing them for nothing if they are claimed).  Here’s a look at the 25 guys that the Red Sox will break camp with and the major league contributors who will start the year on the disabled list. Lester needs to pitch like an ace for the Sox this year Starting Pitchers: Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, Ryan Dempster, Felix Doubront, John Lackey – If spring training is any indication this unit is headed for a bounce back season.  Lester and Buchholz have both put up ERAs under 0.80 in 6 starts each this spring.  Ryan Dempster has put up a 3.06 ERA himself.  If the top three can carry their weight then the Red Sox should win well more than 69 games this season.  The last two spots are wild cards.  Doubront pitched well early last season but the workload caught up to him.  He was OK in the spring, sporting a 4.15 ERA, but he’s going to have to show more durability and consistency.  Then there is John Lackey who we’ve already discussed to death this spring.  He had a 5.40 ERA in the spring but pitched better as time went on.  He is coming off of a year of inactivity so he should get better as the year progresses.  How much better is the question.  It’s not hard to evaluate this group – they’ll live and die by the contributions of Lester and Buchholz.  If the results are similar to last year’s then the Sox have no chance at competing.  If they are their old selves then they should be in the thick of things. Aceves should be an asset as the long man as long as he doesn’t have a mental breakdown Relief Pitchers – Joel Hanrahan, Andrew Bailey, Koji Uehera, Junichi Tazawa, Clayton Mortensen, Andrew Miller, Alfredo Aceves – This is an interesting group.  There may be concerns about the back end.  Hanrahan has a 7.36 spring ERA but he hasn’t given up a hit in his last 4 1/3.  On paper athe back end of the rotation should be lights out.  Bailey is pitching better this spring but he didn’t exactly light the world on fire after he came back from injury last year.  These two guys have the potential to be a lights out duo but that seems like a big if right now.  It’s hard not to like the rest of the right handers in the pen.  Uehera pounds the strike zone and barely walks anyone (call him the anti-Daniel Bard).  Tazawa and Mortensen pitched well in the majors last year.  Tazawa had a 1.43 ERA and 0.95 WHIP and Mortensen a 3.21 ERA and a 1.21 WHIP.  Both guys can be stretched out if need be.  Aceves is probably more than just a few cards short of a full deck (I’m a bit concerned that he’ll seek revenge on the Canadians by braining the first Blue Jays batter he sees with a fastball) but he’s back in a role where he has performed the best – long and middle relief.  Beyond all the craziness the guy is very versatile.  Miller is a weak left-handed arm in my opinion but he’s holding a place for Craig Breslow and Franklin Morales. Salty is good for a bunch of HRs and a bunch of Ks Catchers – Jarrod Saltalamacchia, David Ross – These guys really are the polar opposite types of players.  Salty is an extreme hit or miss kind of guy.  He’ll make great stops behind the plate and has a good arm but he drops more fouled tips with 2 strikes than any catcher I’ve ever seen.  At the plate it’s more of the same.  He’s good for 25 home runs and decent overall power numbers but he’s a 120 K a year guy.  He doesn’t give you much in the way of batting average or OBP.  On the other hand newcomer David Ross doesn’t do any one thing great but he is solid at almost all facets of the game.  He’s a good defender and a pretty good contact hitter with occasional pop.  Hopefully he doesn’t declare war on our manager like our last backup catcher. Infielders – Mike Napoli, Dustin Pedroia, Jose Iglesias, Will Middlebrooks, Pedro Ciriaco, Mike Carp – Everyone knows what to expect from Pedroia at this point.  Expect Napoli to be a beast at Fenway if he stays healthy.  Middlebrooks might be the key here.  The Red Sox will need some pop in the lineup and Middlebrooks showed that he may be able to provide it in his audition last year.  Iglesias may only be around for a short time but the Red Sox pitching staff might fall in love with his defense before Stephen Drew returns from injury.  If Iglesias can show some competency with the bat it may make for a difficult decision for John Farrell moving forward.  Ciriaco played himself into a roster spot with a good showing late last season.  Let’s see if he gets some early action against Yankees pitching whom he destroyed last year.  Mike Carp is really just another guy but he does have a little bit of pop and he can play the corner outfield if need be. All eyes are on the young phenom Jackie Bradley Jr. Outfielders – Shane Victorino, Jacoby Ellsbury, TBA (Jackie Bradley Jr.), Jonny Gomes, Daniel Nava – Ellsbury is an interesting case.  He’s been up-and-down for most of his career but being a Boras client in a walk year I think I’ll be optimistic.  Victorino is basically J.D. Drew with a bit less pop and a lot more personality.  We’ll see what comes from Jackie Bradley Jr. but it’s hard not to be excited about the kid at this point.  If Bradley lights it up and forces himself into a permanent spot in the lineup even when Ortiz comes back Jonny Gomes will become a high-priced spare part.  As it is the signing of Gomes may be key if Ortiz can’t get right from the Achilles injury.  If Gomes is put in a position where he is getting consistent at-bats he should produce at Fenway Park.  Nava was pretty garbage in his first two years with the Sox after his debut grand slam but he played real solid in his time last year and has learned first base to contribute more if need be.  He’s a pretty good 5th outfielder but I don’t want to see him getting the amount of at-bats that he did last season. Disabled List – David Ortiz, Stephen Drew, Franklin Morales, Craig Breslow – I am starting to worry about Ortiz.  At his age and size an Achilles injury could linger for a long time.  The fact that he is having so many issues so early on raises a huge red flag for me.  Obviously this is a problem considering he just signed for a guaranteed two years but baseball wise it may not be a huge loss if Bradley can produce.  Jonny Gomes would actually make a really good full-time DH.  Still you don’t want to see Ortiz ending his career in an injury-riddled manner.  I get all the Drew jokes but the guy has a concussion so take it easy on him.  He’s on the 7-day DL and once he passes a concussion test he’ll be back.  I’m a little concerned with the absence of Breslow and Morales.  As I said earlier Andrew Miller is not particularly good and these guys are.  Hopefully they only need short extended spring training stints and one or both will be back with the big club in short order. Well, what do you think?  Do you see a playoff contender?  It seems to me that the success of the Red Sox will rest on the starting pitching and the young lineup guys. Follow me on Twitter
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