Tagged: Spring Training

Pedr-annoya

Ed Note: Watched Pedroia drive in three runs with two solid hits today, March 25. I could be wrong about 2016. Maybe this will be the year he starts hot. Couldn’t happen to a better guy. If I am about to eat the words dished out below, hallelujah!

Dustin Pedroia, for all his preparation and hard work, never seems ready for baseball in the spring. I remember his first year, beating everything into the turf and even looking uncomfortable in the field, and he seems to come out every season in the same funk.

In yesterday’s exhibition against the Mets he hacked his way through another oh-fer and airmailed a throw to the plate, when he had no chance to get the runner anyway. He gets a lot of AB’s in the spring, more than most starters, but he continues to flail and flub like someone trying to break in to a new position.

Pedroia has always been my Red Sox hero. He is the Tom Brady of the Red Sox for his loyalty, for making fellow players better, for his obvious hustle. He never jumps into controversy for fear of hurting the team. He keeps his head down and runs out every grass-cutter in the infield. How can you not like that kind of player?

Well, I don’t like him much in the spring, because he looks like he’s learning the game all over again. When he is hitting, he takes the outside pitch to right field. When he’s slumping he takes vicious swings and pounds the ball into the turf– a portrait in frustration. I’m thinking, “Go the other way, Dustin. You know how good you are when you do that.” Still he swings vainly from his heels.

And it’s probably a lot more complicated than that. But why the spring malaise? Why do we look at the bench for Brock Holt, when Pedroia is the soul of the Sox? Yeah, we know something magical will happen in May and suddenly pitchers can not get him out. But what about the first month, Dustin? What’s going on then?

Yet I know no one is harder on himself than Dustin Pedroia. His frustration will be double mine. He mutters to himself and pounds his bat and glove into the wall, living the curse of spring. While I mutter, “Take it to right, Dustin.”

 

 

Home-grown Crop

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John Farrell

The flocks have gathered for Spring Training, and it looks like the Red Sox are happy with the pitching staff and pitching prospects they have. Ubaldo Jimenez has signed with the Orioles, and the Yankees captured the pitching prize of the season in Tanaka. The Sox will match up with them with John Lester, Clay Bucholz, John Lackey, Jake Peavy and Felix Dubront and a cast of young, hopeful candidates.

No one in the rotation could be defined as a workhorse, with the possible exclusion of John Lester. They are not unfamiliar with the disabled list, especially Bucholz, who has yet to prove his arm has a full season in it.  In spite of these questions the Red Sox seem to have a personnel strategy that runs counter to the American League East— bring on the youngsters!

The Red Sox have stocked their pitching staff with a number of home grown starters, considering Lester, Bucholz and Dubront, and they appear to have faith  in the starters of the future in Brandon Workman, Allen Webster, Drake Britton,  Rubby DeLaRosa, Anthony Renaudo, and Matt Barnes.  Workman has already proven he can start in the Majors. He is good enough to replace anyone at the bottom of the rotation. And Webster seems to be on the brink of gaining some composure to go with this astounding curve ball.  And the others appear to be bonafide contenders. So the odds of  coming up with two more starters out of Spring Training are good.

The exit of Ryan Dempster is a signal to all of these prospects that arms are for hire in Fort Myers this spring.  That is a good signal to send to young pitchers, who need to feel that their time is now. They have the opportunity to join the staff of World Champions and a manager who knows pitching talent.  A vacancy is just what the Red Sox needed to get their attention and get them on the fast track to the Major Leagues.

I was perturbed by the Red Sox’ inaction in the pitching market over the winter, and I think they are taking a risk now by depending on unproven pitchers. But I like the risk and I like a pitching staff that has roots in the farm system.  It shows confidence in the drafted talent, the coaching in the system, and in the principle of loyalty. The Red Sox may yet prove that team loyalty is not an outmoded concept and that the young arms have realistic hopes of throwing for the parent team as soon as 2014.

Ciriaco!

Ciriaco hit a three-run double in the sixth, then reached on a hard shot past third that was ruled a two-base error before being changed to a double. He stole third and continued home on a wild throw by catcher Russell Martin in the seventh.

Finally Pedro Ciriaco! Playing second base late in the second game of a day-night doubleheader, Ciriaco also hit two doubles and took two bases on a steal and an overthrow. Double your pleasure!

Gee, if he had only played this way in Spring Training, the Red Sox might have thought of bringing him up, instead of the anemic hitting Punto.  Let’s see, what was his record in March? Three months ago I wrote,

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.

This sounds so much like the Ciriaco on July 7, wreaking havoc on the Yankees. Could they be the same ball player?  In that same blog post I predicted a more unpredictable Red Sox offense, if only they would bring Ciriaco north.  Valentine seemed to promote the aggressive base-running and bunting game that Ciriaco could offer.

But no, after having the best offensive Spring in camp, it was back to Pawtucket, and the versatile veteran, Nick Punto, came to Boston . . . to hit .198!  To be fair, Punto had two hits and an RBI in Saturday’s game, his eighth RBI. Ciriaco had four RBI’s in his only game in Boston.

So, could we keep this guy on the team at least while Pedroia is disabled? Could we pull up the sagging Sox with some strong legs? Let him lead off and terrorize our opponents from first base. Let him wake up the slumbering Sox!

Viva Ciriaco!

 

Ciriaco

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.

 

 

 

 

Bulletins and Blather

I’ve got my tickets for a weekend trip to Fort Myers–March 16,17—and I’ve got Spring Training Fever. Looks like it’s been quite a few seasons, since I had that fever or at least since I opened up  this blog.

As much as I feast on the detail of the Spring developments, I wish the media would avoid contriving the news. Like the morbid details about the clubhouse rules. Like the silly exchange about whether Jeter was out of position during a play he made eleven years ago.  Like who is going to apologize to whom about clubhouse behavior in September. These reporters sound like a klatch of middle school girls digging up dirt and spreading rumors. And their problem is the same. Too much time on their hands and not enough hard news to go around.

Occasionally Spring Training reporters feature a new player on the squad or the comeback of an old one. Now that’s interesting. The Red Sox faithful would like to hear about players who were not on the roster last year.  The uncertain prospects in the outfield also make for good news–Crawford’s rehab. A Cody Ross or a Ryan Sweeney sighting. That’s good for one day. The progress of the lame, the halt and the blind the Sox recruited for the bullpen. How are their arms performing? That’s another good day of news.

Here’s an idea: interview the veteran reporters who can compare this team with previous ones. I always like to hear what Peter Gammons, Dan Shaughnessy, or  Roger Angell have to say. They won’t hand out the tired cliches and the faint praise you get from the coaches and the manager. They can and will say what they think.

What about this new park? Does it really resemble Fenway? Does it have a Pesky pole or an under-developed foul territory?  What do the players think of it?  Inquiring minds want to know.

Well, it may not be hard news, but it would be worth reading, and it suits the speculative frame of mind we’re in as Spring Training rolls in. And it beats running back and forth between training camps trying to start a feud over nothing or trying to deconstruct off-the-cuff remarks like they were the words of the prophets.

Let’s read about baseball and not who broke up with your sister’s ex-boyfriend.