The boys come together at Camelback Ranch on Sunday afternoon. They can’t get started a moment too soon. Real winter weather in the Midwest and financial distress have made this winter insufferable. So let’s play ball.
Quite happily, 4/5 of the rotation and all of the starting field positions appear to be set heading into spring. There only seem to be three significant roster battles:
DH – With the potential Damon signing looming in the background, we appear headed to a “DH by committee” plan which will primarily include Andruw Jones and Mark Kotsay. Earlier in his career A. Jones was an absolute stud for the Braves. If he can get his body right and find some of that magic, it would be outstanding for the Sox. That’s what this Sox fan is hoping for!
Fourth Bench Spot – Castro (Flowers needs to go to Charlotte to work on his defensive game), Kotsay, Jones, and Vizquel appear to be locks for bench spots, which leaves the need for another infielder, IMO. As happened last spring, this appears to be a battle between Nix and Lillibridge. Unless Lillibridge shows some real maturity at the plate, which he clearly lacked last year, this seems to be Nix’s job to lose.
Fifth Starter – Garcia and Hudson appear to be the main combatants here. I suspect that Garcia will get the spot because of his experience and his relationship with Ozzie. Frankly, I’d prefer that Hudson return to Charlotte to get a consistent spot in their rotation. Regardless of who fills this spot, I am thrilled not to have to be worried about the health and wellbeing of Jose Contreras and Bartolo Colon anymore!
The bullpen will be some combination of Jenks, Putz, Thornton, Linebrink, Randy Williams, Pena, Dolsi, Carlos Torres, and Nunez. I have a hard time getting a good read on this, but there should be enough talent there to carry us into the regular season, and if not, “Coop will fix ’em!”
THIS JUST IN – As I am writing this WSCR in Chicago is reporting that the Sox have withdrawn their offer to Johnny Damon.
Looking forward to getting a great season started. We’ve got one of the three best rotations in the AL, and an overall better defensive team than we did last year. If Ozzie ball can score some runs, there is no reason to think that this team can’t win the division!
Having lost their last four, and six of their last ten, the second best thing possible happened to the Sox tonight, they were rained out.
There is no positive way to spin it, the Sox have been ugly on this trip. The pitching got shelled by the Rangers, and then they got swept by Greinke and the Royals.
Two positives came out of this trip, I think Ozzie and Coop have finally concluded that Contreras is not ready for the rotation. Not exactly a headline you want to print in the media guide, but at least now they can move on and give Richard or one of the kids in Charlotte a run. Marquez has been terrible to start the AAA season, but two kids Wes Whisler (5 GS, 1.95 ERA, 27 innings, 10 W, 17 K) and Carlos Torres (5 GS, 0.96 ERA, 28 innings, 10 W, 28 K) have put together reasonably strong starts (although neither has pitched a substantial number of innings in their starts), so we will see if Kenny Williams gives them a run.
The other troubling thing has been the errors. Guys are booting the ball all over the place, and even when he’s not commiting errors, Fields is making it clear that he cannot go to his left, and please, please don’t get me started on Wilson Betemit. WHAT A HACK!
In the midst of the injuries and the mayhem, Jayson Nix has made a nice showing for himself. Also, Scottie Pods has returned, and while he will remind no one of Rickey Henderson, he has done reasonably well in the place of the injured Anderson and Wise and the waived Jerry Owens. How bad must Jerry Owens feel, the two guys he competed with in the spring go down with injury, but rather than give him a shot to take the spot back, they waive him, and call in a fella sitting at home watching the games on TV with you and me.
As bad as the last ten have been, it is a long season, and we are only 3.5 back, but we need to start putting together wins, or we will be watching the pennant race from the cheap seats in August.
Einstein said (yeah, that’s the way the Hitmen roll, Einstein quotes) that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
Well, Contreras just got pulled, again. After getting tagged for six earned runs within five and a third innings, again.
Now, I certainly don’t think that Ozzie is insane. So, true to Einstein’s definition, I can’t imagine that he is going to put up with Jose’s performances much longer.
Clay Richard came on to relieve Contreras in Baltimore, and I suspect that he will be replacing him in the rotation very soon.
Sox & Os are waiting out a rain delay as I write.
Important night tonight for Contreras and Ramirez. Contreras needs to begin to show some endurance beyond the fifth inning as he has not made it past the fifth in either of his two starts this year.
Alexei is struggling at the plate, just as he did early last year. While his history (short as it is) indicates that he will come out of this, the sooner he does the better, IMO.
Against the Sox tonight is the young right hander Brad Bergesen. Bergesen scares me if for no other reason than that the Sox have a bad history against young pitchers they’ve never seen before. Let’s hope they buck that trend tonight.
In other news, the Mike MacDougall era is over, again. MacDougall was designated for assignment, and the young righthander Jack Egbert was called up. MacDougall has extraordinary stuff when he can get it over the plate. Unfortunately he has not been able to do that with any consistency at all.
Three of four from the Rays, and the team as close to hitting on all cylinders as anyone could reasonably expect.
4/5 of the rotation is pitching well. The big hitters in the middle are starting to pound the ball, the “small ball” hitters on the ends are getting on base. The defense even looks strong.
Two worries, Contreras and Ramirez. Contreras needs to improve his endurance. He has generally been solid through four to five innings, then things start to unravel quickly for him.
Ramirez can’t hit his weight right now. He has always been a free swinger, but he is waving at flys up there right now. The positive is that his defense at short has been as good as advertised, and he has not allowed his offensive problems to affect the defensive side of the ball.
On to Baltimore for three!
Through four innings, Jose was everything Ozzie could have wanted him to be, no walks, strike out an inning, two hits. Then came the fifth, and Jose came unglued. He committed an error, allowed two runs, and opened the floodgates for a nine to nothing beat down.
Ozzie may simply need to recognize that, only eight months after a ruptured achilles, Jose does not have the stamina to go much longer than four.
The other half of the equation on this day was that we committed two errors, and only had four hits. Even if your starter has his best stuff, you are not going to beat many with those stats.
On to Tampa to face the Rays who are on a two game slide themselves. Thursday night’s tilt pits Danks against Jeff Niemann, a guy who the Sox lit up for six in their last outing against him.
Let’s do it again boys!
An extremely strong pitching line from Contreras and Colon in the last game of spring training against the D-backs. No runs, one walk, nine strikeouts (Three for Jose, Six for Bartolo). Ozzie and Coop have to love that!
Monday its for real against the Royals