The Red Sox are packing to go north and everyone would like to know who’s on the bus. My last plea to Bobby Vaentine is to punch Pedro Ciriaco’s ticket.
Ciriaco has to be the biggest surprise of Spring Training. He hits, he fields, he bunts, he steals bases, and he works hard. What else do you need to know? He has indeed played left field, so he can be a fifth outfielder until Crawford returns to active duty.
Ciriaco is an exciting, make-things-happen kind of ball player the Sox have always lacked. O.K., now they have Ellsbury, but Ellsbury is a lot more than a role-player. He’s an almost-MVP and will not be called on to bunt as much in the prime of his career.
Dave Roberts was that kind of player the year of the curse-shattering Red Sox, and his stolen base in the playoffs is now Red Sox lore. His nerve and speed were all the Sox needed. His bat is hardly remembered.
Ciriaco, on the other hand, has led the Red Sox in hitting. Sunday he stole his way to third base before scoring. He brings just the right amount of havoc for the Sox to pressure their opponents in the late innings.
Bobby Valentine has spent so many words affirming Ciriaco, it sounds like he is destined for a minor league assignment. Valentine heaped the same praise on Lars Anderson before he returned him to Pawtucket. So effusive praise from the skipper is not always a good sign.
Leaving camp with Pedro Ciriaco on the bus would be one surprise for Spring Training, and it would prove that there are always places to be earned on this roster. And it would foreshadow the new unpredictable Red Sox that the Rays and Yankees cannot take for granted.
Sitting in the Monster seats at jetBlue Park, Fort Myers, you can look past the center field scoreboard and see actual jets angling sharply into the sky as they leave South Florida International Airport. It’s a nice image for Spring Training, a smooth and successful launch, in fact, dozens of them in the course of one game.
Over the weekend, I witnessed several other smooth launchings in Fort Myers, a couple of skyrockets from Cody Ross and David Ortiz, some dazzling breaking balls from a couple of Andrews– Bailey and Miller, some whip-like pickoff throws from Josh Beckett, and wall-busting doubles from Lars Anderson, the best spring hitter to miss the cut.
Regarding Anderson, Bobby Valentine said, “He may be delayed, but he won’t be denied,” (at the Red Sox Destinations Barbeque) showing good control of alliteration, but not a strong sense of legal principle. Not to quibble, but the legal principle is “Justice delayed is justice denied,” and it has a certain aptness for the athletic first baseman, who has leveled a major league swing for several Spring Trainings past.
This spring Anderson has hit, run and fielded with big-league skill. He leads the team in RBI’s (7) and equals the formidable Cody Ross in OBP (.520). He has handled every play at first and taken a turn in left field. He has swatted the first pitch and worked the count to 3-2 and walked four times. He has shown poise and aggressiveness and hustle, all the attributes you need to break into a Major League line-up.
Probably his most prominent flaw is playing behind Adrian Gonzalez, with Kevin Youkilis available to back up first base. But Youkilis should really stay at third base when he’s healthy, and the Red Sox need another substitute in the outfield to go with Darnell McDonald, who happens to bat right. Anderson bats left.
Jason Repko, who has been mentioned as the fifth outfielder, bats right. I’m a fan of Repko, because he can throw runners out and he can bunt. But he has not shown he can hit this spring, and the Twins apparently gave him up for some such reason. It does not seem right to bring a weak-hitting outfielder up to Boston, when you have as deadly a hitter as Anderson in Pawtucket.
I remember six springs ago when Jacoby Ellsbury was sent down to season in Pawtucket. He was brought back in June, and the rest is history.
It’s early in the season, let’s give the rookie a shot.
The Lars Anderson (no relation) Bridge spans the Charles River from Cambridge to Boston. This is the final reason Lars Anderson belongs in Boston. It’s poetic justice, justice that cannot be denied.