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MLB Boston Red Sox

First Spring Impressions of the Boston Red Sox

John Lackey

Greg M. Cooper-USA Today Sports

Here are some first impressions from watching the Boston Red Sox today. It feels good watching the Red Sox, even if it is just a spring training game against the Tampa Bay Rays.

It was likely the team that will take the field against the New York Yankees on Opening Day except for Lyle Overbay manning first base instead of Mike Napoli.

These are snapshots, nothing more or less.

John Lackey looks really good physically after missing all of the 2012 season. Lackey seemed to start out with his pitches in the high 80s for the most part. Command was slightly off, but that is to be expected given the long layoff.

It will be easier to see towards the end of spring how well Lackey is recovering from Tommy John surgery. If he can at all resemble the pitcher that he was with the L.A. Angels, the Red Sox rotation will be much better than the past two seasons, because the Red Sox have never seen that pitcher pitch for them.

Hopefully Red Sox’ manager John Farrell won’t bat Shane Victorino third in the Boston lineup. If anything, the Red Sox could experiment with Victorino batting second or lower in the lineup, around seventh.

Drake Britton looked very solid replacing Lackey. He was consistently in the mid-90s with his fastball and but will need to address his control to factor at the major league level. Could be a bullpen piece with more consistency.

Catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia had a rough day. I know the organization is telling everyone that he is going to be the starter, but defensively he is still a liability behind the plate, meaning he has to be improved as a hitter. David Ross will push him because Ross is a very good defensive catcher and the pitching staff desperately needs a leader behind the plate.

Reliever Alex Wilson had a pretty dominant inning, threw strikes, moved the ball around and put hitters away with high fastballs. Wilson figures to factor into the second-half of the Red Sox season.

Jonny Gomes hustled down the line and almost beat out a routine groundball to shortstop during the game. Gomes seems like he will take over the Cody Ross-role this season, meaning expect him to have his uniform dirty every game.

In general, the Red Sox look deeper in the bullpen than at any time that I can recall in the immediate past. This team will have half-a-dozen good arms in Pawtucket to support the major league roster.

Jose Iglesias, who looks a lot more comfortable at the plate, hit a two-run home run. But, he has got to make those routine plays in the field. His job is to force the Red Sox to make a decision that they haven’t planned on making.

Daniel Nava looked solid around first base, one the ways he can make the team out of spring training.

Jeremy Hazelbaker had two nice at-bats during his time in the game, showing good patience at the plate.

Jackie Bradley Jr. and Xander Bogaerts both looked at ease at the plate and in the field. Both players had solid at-bats and got hits in the game.

It’s early to take snapshot of the Red Sox with the pictures likely to change on a daily basis, but it is great to have baseball back.

You can reach Jonathan Cullen:

Twitter at jcullen71

Email at jgcullen71@gmail.com

Writing about the Boston   Red Sox at www.baseballslate.com

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