Fernando Abad: What to Expect Moving Forward

News came at the end of February that Fernando Abad would be competing for his home country in the World Baseball Classic. Abad will miss time with the Red Sox this spring training to pitch for the Dominican Republic. Fans around Red Sox Nation are wondering what this means for the 31 year-old left-hander, as well as the future of the team’s bullpen.

Fernando Abad is set to make $2,000,000 this Fernando Abadseason, but that money is not guaranteed. He was traded by the Minnesota Twins to the Sox in 2016 at the non-waiver trade deadline, and was immediately thrown into the fire by Sox manager John Farrell. In 18 appearances with the team, Abad was simply a-bad pitcher. In 12 and 2/3 innings, he recorded a 6.39 ERA and a WHIP of 1.66. The Red Sox kept Fernando Abad off of the ALDS roster.

Fernando Abad Moving Forward

The Dominican team has had the pleasure of using Abad during the tournament, but the Sox have decisions to make. Abad is a guy who is still trying to win a spot in the Boston bullpen. He was unable to prove his worth last year, and isn’t doing himself any favors choosing to participate in the WBC. This event is a huge deal in other countries, but for Abad, is it really worth not having a big-league job this season?

The Red Sox bullpen has vastly improved this off-season. We traded for a legitimate set-up man in Tyler Thornburg. Also, Carson Smith will be back from his Tommy-John surgery. Joe Kelly emerged as a go-to guy out of the pen in the playoffs last year. The Matt Barnes/Robbie Ross duo is a solid right/lefty combo that John Farrell can go to late in the game. Meanwhile, Craig Kimbrel is still as effective as Craig Kimbrel will ever be. Where does this leave Abad?

Fernando Abad can enjoy his time in the World Baseball Classic, as I am sure he will. There simply isn’t enough room for Abad in our bullpen as long as everyone stays healthy. After a dismal performance last year and poor decision-making now, he has most likely outlasted his stay in Boston.

Will Red Sox Pitching Go Deep This Year?

The excitement of having David Price, Rick Porcello, and Chris Sale in the rotation has everyone in Boston talking. Will Red Sox pitching go deep this season? It’s hard to say no. The three have a combined 24 years of experience and a whopping 3,837 K’s. It doesn’t hurt to have several All-Star appearances and a few Cy Young Awards between them either. Most teams in baseball today are thankful enough to have two solid starters on their rotation. But with such a dominant pitching staff the Red Sox are sure to give the American League a run for its money.

There’s three reasons to believe that Price, Porcello, and Sale will carry the team thisRed Sox Pitching Go Deep season. After a solid 2016, Price is learning from last year’s mistakes to find a new rhythm. He still posted a 17-9 record with 228 strikeouts last season so he can only go up from there. Then there’s Rick Porcello who won the 2016 Cy Young Award while posting a 22-4 record and 189 K’s. His performance certainly wasn’t something people expected but it was an added bonus. Then there’s Chris Sale who the Red Sox acquired last year. Sale posted a 2.73 ERA with 274 K’s in 2015 with an additional 233 K’s and six complete games last season. One of the issues Sale had with the White Sox was a lack of run support. But with a solid offense in development for 2017 Sale is sure to have all the run support he’ll need.

We’ll See Red Sox Pitching Go Deep, But Will Offensive Back Them Up?

A pitching staff is only as good as the run support behind it. Filling the void David Ortiz leaves after retiring isn’t an easy task. But Hanley Ramirez proved he can come through in clutch situations like Big Papi did. Then there’s Andrew Benintendi who’s proven he’s the real deal. Despite his limited playing time, Benintendi didn’t let many down with his hitting. If he can keep that momentum going into the 2017 season he’ll run away with the Rookie of the Year award. There’s also Pablo Sandoval who literally worked his butt off to get in shape. Boston did not have a solid 3rd baseman last season and having Panda back is an added bonus, despite what others might think.

All in all, the Red Sox are shaping up to have a solid season. Between its pitchers, young hitters, and experienced players who’ve been around for a while, it isn’t out of the realm of possibility to see the Red Sox bring a second championship to Boston this year.

Red Sox Offensive Stronger Than Ever

I finally saw a spring training game in Florida this week. After spending the morning with Bill “Spaceman” Lee, I made it to Jet Blue Park to catch the Red Sox against the Minnesota Twins. I wasn’t sure what to expect when I saw the starting line up. Jackie Bradley Jr., Brock Holt, and Mookie Betts weren’t in the lineup. Those who were were on fire though. After seeing the Red Sox come from behind to beat the Twins it’s clear that we’ll see a Red Sox offensive stronger than ever this season.

One of the problems the Red Sox struggled with last season was their inability to rally.Red Sox Offensive Stronger They would put a few numbers on the board in the first few innings but the other team matched those numbers later on. Then the Red Sox would fall behind and rarely did they catch up. In some cases, they’d give up once the other team pulled ahead. This wasn’t just an issue last season, but it has been a perpetual problem since they won the 2013 World Series. Some say it’s because of John Farrell’s leadership. He’s not inspiriting the team like he should. Others say it’s the lack of drive. Eight and nine figure salaries can leave players with little to work for. But after pulling past the Twins on Saturday, it’s clear those days may be gone.

Sandoval is Part of What Makes the Red Sox Offensive Stronger

After an embarrassing setback last year, Pablo Sandoval has shown tremendous improvement. Although he failed to bunt to first, it was clear Sandoval’s has worked to run a respectable speed on the base paths. In fact, I was a little blown away by how fast he ran. Sandoval even had a RBI single in the fifth inning. Based on what I saw yesterday, Sandoval could become the source of future comebacks as he hustled, played hard, and made great contact with the ball. This upcoming season is an opportunity for Sandoval to redeem himself. It wouldn’t surprise me if he becomes a team leader this season.

Spring Training Performance Hopefully a Sign of What’s to Come

Other Red Sox players showed tremendous improvement since last season too. It’s easy to say this after only a few spring training games. However, its definitely an improvement over what fans saw over the last few seasons. The Red Sox limped and stumbled into the post-season last year. Their actual post-season performance wasn’t anything to rave about. But if the Red Sox maintain the tight momentum, their offense, combined with a threatening pitching rotation, will make the team strong contenders for October.

Red Sox Nation is Rooting for Travis Shaw

Spring training should never be taken too seriously, even for deeply passionate Red Sox fans. You’re likely tired of hearing that already, but it’s generally one of the great truisms of baseball. It’s only March, and players are more focused on alleviating the winter rust than producing exceptional results. Nevertheless, for one Red Sox player, a strong spring is Travis Shawsubstantiating the fine work he did last year, and forcing the front office into making a difficult decision.

Travis Shaw is nothing short of an aberration at this point. Last season, the imposing first baseman enjoyed 65 games with the Red Sox, hitting at a .270/.327/.487 clip with 13 home runs and 36 RBI. A rather unheralded prospect, he crept quietly onto the radar, before impressing many people with a robust introduction to the Major Leagues.

This spring, the 25-year old Shaw has continued his maturation. He is hitting .522 through eight exhibition games, with 2 home runs, 9 RBI and a 1.430 OPS. Obviously, we can’t extrapolate too much meaning from such an inconsequentially small sample size, but it is mildly notable that Shaw leads all players in batting average and on-base percentage so far this spring, forcing the front office to reconsider his future.

From time to time, Red Sox Nation falls in love with an underdog-type player and compels him to make the team and fulfill his potential. Shaw is the latest beneficiary of that phenomenon. In this regard, he reminds me a little of Kevin Youkilis, in terms of striving for progress by sheer force of work ethic. And, just like Youk, Shaw has added a second position to his repertoire in the selfless determination to help the Red Sox moving forward.

Travis has played plenty of third base this spring, with Hanley Ramirez clogging up his natural position. Similarly, plans are afoot to try Shaw in left field, adding another tool to his arsenal. At this point, it seems that Shaw will hit his way onto the roster, even if only as a Brock Holt-type utility guy initially. Yet, for John Farrell and Dave Dombrowski, it’s reassuring to know that, should the experiments with Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval fail, they have an adequate replacement waiting in the wings.

We should never read too much into the statistics of spring training, but actions and attitudes speak volumes regardless of our location in the calendar. Right now, Travis Shaw is gaining attention for his impressive production, but perhaps more importantly, he’s gaining admirers for his altruistic outlook and dedicated approach. If only roster decisions were made on true merit, rather than pure economics.

No One Should Poke at Sandoval’s Weight

When the Red Sox arrived in Fort Myers last week to begin spring training one thing that almost everyone immediately focused on was Pablo Sandoval’s weight. A less-than-flattering photo showing Sandoval’s gut hanging over his shorts in mid throw flooded social media, making Red Sox fans scowl with concern that Panda’s weight could lead to another poor season. Not only is it unfair to body shame Sandoval, it also contributes absolutely nothing positive to the Red Sox as they prepare for the 2016 season. Red Sox nation should instead throw its own weight behind Panda and the rest of the team in order to avoid a third straight disastrous season and bring another World Series Championship back to Boston.

Sandoval's weight

Sandoval claims that his body weight is now at 17%, down from 23% last season, putting him in the “good” category and above most acceptable levels. If these numbers are true, then the last thing anyone should focus on is ridiculing Sandoval’s weight, especially going into a season where morale is going to be essential for the team. While Sandoval will probably always be on the stockier side, history shows us that weight gain doesn’t always mean it’s all over for a player. Take Babe Ruth for instance.

Ruth faced a similar, yet much more dangerous, scenario in 1925 when his weight ballooned to 260 lbs in the off-season. After supposedly binging on too many sodas and hot dogs before a pre-season game (some suggest alcohol was involved) Ruth was hospitalized for weeks in what became known as “the bellyache heard ’round the world.” Fortunately, the following season Ruth worked hard to shed the weight, after which he would go on to lead the American League in runs, walks, and home runs for the next three seasons. A key factor to keep in mind here is that Ruth was 30 years old at the time he turned it around and lost the excess weight, the same age that Sandoval will turn this year. If history is any indication of what is to come, since Panda is already working hard to stay fit, then the 2016 season could definitely shape up to be one of his best. Early reports from spring training suggest that Sandoval is prepping well for what could become a strong season for him with Red Sox manager John Farrrell stating this week, “His righthanded swing is much more consistent than what we saw at any time last year.”

Sandoval doesn’t need put-downs over his weight. Instead, Sandoval needs encouragement. When he starts to play well then fans need to let him know with cheers. Sandoval needs to know that we have confidence in him (I do). A little encouragement can go a very long way and in Sandoval’s case, he’ll need all he can get. Cheers, not finger pointing, is what will help Panda and the Sox capture another World Series title.

Red Sox Spring Training Brings Uncertainty for Team

In the glory days of Theo Epstein, when the lineup was dominated by Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz, you knew what the Red Sox were, and their goal was always familiar. During that time, Boston was one of the few teams in professional sports that existed within a window of perennial contention. Red Sox Nation expected success, to a point where the regular season was almost an afterthought.

However, since 2010, the Red Sox have slowly lost that distinctive identity as their gripred sox spring training on constant postseason involvement has unraveled. This is the seventh consecutive season where uncertainty has clouded our judgment, the seventh straight spring where question marks reign. We simply don’t know what to expect from this franchise anymore.

That trend is prevalent throughout baseball in general. The increase in revenue sharing, coupled with more efficient defense and steroid testing, has flattened the field and created a vacuum of expectation. No team is guaranteed to qualify for the postseason, as the Washington Nationals and Seattle Mariners showed last year, while unheralded teams can triumph against all odds, as the Red Sox discovered in 2013. The additional wildcard in each league has led to teams aiming for 85 wins, rather than 90, as the quality of play has generally been diluted.

Moreover, baseball’s waning popularity when compared to the NFL has created a different atmosphere around the Red Sox. This team continues to inspire passion around the world, but the excitement has cooled somewhat from the manic 2000s, when the players could barely cough or sigh without opening the floodgates to reams of analysis. A gradual loss of intensity is definitely tangible, as the Red Sox attempt to rediscover their soul.

This year, they certainly have the ammunition to go far. David Price is the elite ace many people have yearned for, while Mookie Betts and Xander Bogaerts represent the next generation of Boston superstars. Yet, the uncertainty surrounding players like Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez, coupled with performance concerns over established veterans such as Dustin Pedroia and Clay Buchholz, makes this a difficult team to read. Right now, we would all be forgiven for not totally being on board.

However, such pessimism should be reserved for another day. Pitchers and catchers reporting for Red Sox spring training is a joyous occasion, evoking connotations of eternal hope and optimism. So, let’s try to move on and enjoy the moment. For one day, let’s forget statistics and logistics, and just focus on the return of baseball, and the warm glow it provides.

Go Red Sox!