Tuesday, January 31, 2006

FACING FEBRUARY

The best part of February is the kick-off of spring training. Add in the WBC (World Baseball Championship) and the games are kicking off early. Here is a quick look at where the Boston Red Sox look like right now:

LINEUP:
Coco Crisp: CF
Mark Loretta: 2B
David Ortiz: DH
Manny Ramirez: LF
Mike Lowell: 3B
Jason Varitek: C
Trot Nixon: RF
Kevin Youkilis: 1B
Alex Gonzalez: SS

BENCH:
Alex Cora: INF
Tony Graffanino: INF/OF
J.T. Snow: 1B
John Flaherty: C
Josh Bard: C
Adam Stern: OF/PR
Dustin Mohr: OF (RF vs LHPs)

ROTATION:
Josh Beckett
Curt Schilling
Tim Wakefield
Jonathan Papelbon (?)
Bronson Arroyo (?)
David Wells (?)
Matt Clement

BULLPEN:
Keith Foulke: Closer
Mike Timlin
Julian Tavarez
Rudy Seanez
David Riske
Lenny DiNardo (?)
Manny DelCarmen (?)

Obviously, there may be some wheeling and dealing ahead (David Wells, Tony Graffanino, Matt Clement), along with guys bouncing from the rotation to the bullpen and some guys bounced to AAA for more seasoning (Papelbon, DelCarmen, Dustin Pedroia, Jon Lester, etc).

Last year the Red Sox won 95 games. This season should prove even better. With Foulke back to health and the additions of Riske, Seanez, and Tavarez, the bullpen matches up with some of the best in baseball. Add in the fact that Craig Hansen does not have to be rushed to the majors and the Sox have some serious help to call up for the dog days of summer.

The rotation remains a strength, as Josh Beckett is a major upgrade and takes the load off Curt Schilling and the pressure off of Matt Clement. Tim Wakefield and Bronson Arroyo return as solid back-of-the-rotation hurlers. With kids Jonathan Papelbon and Jon Lester on the horizon (and Abe Alvarez, who could very possibly be the left-handed Bronson Arroyo on this staff in the future), and Beckett only 26 years old, the future is bright. David Wells, if he returns, can only help. If he goes, well, that opens the door for Papelbon and Arroyo to stay in the rotation.

The line-up remains a strength, as Coco Crisp should easily replace the numbers of Johnny Rock Star (I need to find the analysis done by Rob Neyer which showed this), and Mark Loretta is a huge upgrade over Edgar Renteria at the number two spot in the lineup. With Papi and Manny still at 3-4, the offense will remain a juggernaut. Replace the production of Kevin Millar with Mike Lowell (which any sane individual would do) and have Youkilis replace Bill Mueller in the lineup (as those two are two peas in a pod, as they say). Finally, you have the weak link, Alex Gonzalez, who by the way hit 23 two years ago (and 18 the year before).

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