Here are my final roster predictions for the Boston Red Sox to open the season.
The Red Sox have already made one of the toughest decisions they were faced with by granting Lyle Overbay his release on Tuesday. Overbay wasn’t free for long, getting snatched up by the New York Yankees on what Overbay termed as a three-day tryout with the team.
As far as the rest of the roster, the Red Sox might be working the phones to find homes for Ryan Sweeney, Clayton Mortensen and Alfredo Aceves.
Pitching Staff: The rotation have Jon Lester getting the Opening Day nod, followed by Clay Buchholz, Ryan Dempster, Felix Doubront and John Lackey. If the starters can regularly get this team into the sixth and seventh inning, this team can win the division. The rotation should be a major cause of optimism to open the season.
Joel Hanrahan remains the closer to start the season, even with a so-so camp. Andrew Bailey has started to resemble the pitcher he was with the Oakland Athletics and could be a vital piece in the bullpen.Having both Koji Uehara and Junichi Tazawa gives manager John Farrell a ton of flexibility out of the ‘pen. Andrew Miller seems to have come into his own as a left-handed specialist.
Aceves and Mortensen figure to round out the bullpen. I would expect one of the two to be traded by June 1. Daniel Bard will likely start the season as Pawtucket’s closer and could be a real weapon for the Red Sox if he can return in the second half of the season to his 2010-2011 form.
Catchers: Jarrod Saltalamacchia and David Ross. The Red Sox made this official this morning by sending Ryan Lavarnway down to the minors. Saltalamacchia figures to be the starter, but I would expect him to play maybe six out of every 10 games or so as catcher. Ross’ ability to handle the pitching staff and his defense won’t be overlooked by this coaching staff.
Infielders: Mike Napoli, Dustin Pedroia, Jose Iglesias and Will Middlebrooks will be the starters with Pedro Ciriaco and Mike Carp being the backups. This group has looked solid this spring, with Napoli being much better defensively then expected at first and Middlebrooks looking like he is ready to become an All-Star third baseman.
Iglesias has had a huge spring for the team even if his numbers don’t reflect it. Stephen Drew will be the starter at short when he returns, but Iglesias’ defense and his improvement at the plate will be tough to overlook. Ciriaco will give the Red Sox solid defense and speed backing up the middle infielders.
Outfielders: Jacoby Ellsbury, Jonny Gomes, Shane Victorino, Daniel Nava and Jackie Bradley Jr.
Ellsbury is expected to have as monster season, but has looked somewhat timid so far this spring. Gomes has been an adventure in left and will likely get the bulk of the DH at-bats while Ortiz is on the shelf. Victorino hasn’t looked good this spring, but has looked better in the past week. He’ll need to do the little things to stand out this year. Nava has earned a spot with his play at first base and his work at the plate.
Which brings us to Bradley Jr. Simply put — he has been the best player in camp this spring. He had been the best outfielder this spring. He should go to New York for Opening Day and he may well force the Red Sox to change their thinking and make a spot for him. This is a great development for Boston.
Sweeney is likely to be released or dealt by tomorrow.
Disabled List: Ortiz, Drew, Breslow and Morales. Oritz figures to be back in early May and will be a huge component for Boston. The Red Sox need his offense badly. Drew will likely return a week or so after the start of the season. If he resembles the player he was with the Arizona Diamondbacks, then this will be a great problem for the Red Sox to have. Breslow and Morales look like they will be back in May at the earliest.
Overall, the Red Sox start the season with a very deep roster even with the injuries to Ortiz and Drew.