The Spring Training Winners
Jackie Bradley Jr.: The only bad part about Bradley so far is the nickname we have given him: JBJ. It’s way too close to Lebron’s LBJ for my taste. Give this kid time; his spring numbers suggest he may deserve a far better nickname than the bland initial abbreviation so dominant in this era of sports nicknames. Most of you probably know Bradley’s spring numbers already: the ridiculous 1.235 OPS, the .590 OBP, and the .484 batting average. But the stat which jumps out is this: he has struck out just four times, while walking six times. The Sox won the Series in ’07 because we had a lineup littered with guys who remained poised at the plate no matter the situation, who rarely gave up an easy out. Bradley fits the mold. A one through five of: Ellsbury, Pedroia, Papi (when healthy), Middlebrooks, and Bradley sounds good to me—really good.
Clay Buchholz: Frankly, Buchholz is the key to this Red Sox season. Our lineup will not consistently overpower opposing pitching. And the back end of our rotation—Dempster, Doubront, and Lackey—have a ceiling at pretty good, with a basement at disastrous. So Sox fans must like what they’ve seen this spring from Buchholz. Yes, he’s put up the numbers: 8.1 innings without giving up a run, more strikeouts (7) than hits (6), and just two walks, Buchholz’s Achilles heel in the past. But he simply looks better, sharper, more engaged. When he flows, when he is feeling it, Buchholz’s wind-up reminds me of a cobra, and hitters never know which he way he will strike; is it the two-seamer in on the hands, or the curve? Oh whoops…it was the change-up. Clay has that cobra feel about him this spring.
Pedro Ciriaco: I love this guy. As my mother would say, he’s got pizzazz. He leads the team in steals with three; at a time when most players would not risk injury (Jacoby has not attempted one yet). He has gone 10/30 at the plate. And he has continued his clutch hitting with 5 RBI’s, tied for fourth on the team. His effort stands out. He works every day in practice on playing 3B, SS, and 2B. Ciriaco demands respect and effort from his teammates through his actions and work ethic. I’d go to battle with him in the playoffs, when the wind numbs the fingers and mental strength determines the champion. I think his teammates feel the same way.
The Spring Training Losers
Stephen Drew: Perhaps this is a bit harsh, a bit premature, perhaps not. Drew took a pitch to the head a little over a week ago, and suffered a concussion. I am not, of course, criticizing him for that. I actually believe in Drew as a producer at the plate. Wait, do I? I just don’t know. Nobody knows, and that’s the problem. In a limited sample size this spring, Drew recorded three hits in sixteen at-bats. He has not been the same hitter post his brutal ankle injury suffered in 2011 while with the Diamondbacks. Meanwhile, former Sox shortstop Jed Lowrie was one of Houston’s few bright spots last season. Our shortstop last year Mike Aviles was well liked by his teammates, and if nothing else, exuded confidence on the field. The shortstop needs to be a leader. In Drew we have no idea where the positives are going to come from, if they are going to come from anywhere, not to mention he has Ciriaco, Iglesias, and Xander Bogaerts breathing down his neck. General manager Ben Cherington signed Drew as a bridge until one of the younger guys wins the job next year. Bridges should be sturdy and stable, however. While this move ultimately falls on Cherington, unfortunately for Stephen, he will be the guy on the field we all watch. Here’s to hoping he can change the Drew family fortune in Boston.
John Lackey, SP: I want Lackey to succeed. I want him to succeed so badly that sometimes I trick myself into thinking he actually can, as though he actually has the ability to do so. He quite simply does not have “the stuff” anymore. Lackey did have a scoreless outing against Puerto Rico. Overall this spring, Lackey has an ERA OF 8.10, opposing teams have hit .320 against him, and he has allowed 8 hits and 3 walks against just 4 strikeouts. His outing in March versus the Tampa Bay Rays made me cringe; his pitches had my face scrunching like I disagreed with something but was not in a position to voice my opinion. Even his outs felt lucky. He left way too many of his pitches up in the zone. Serve those up in May with the Rays in mid-season form and Lackey won’t make it past the 4th inning. He is in that zone Curt Schilling found himself in during his last full season—locate or die. But Lackey doesn’t have the out pitch Schilling had in his splitter, nor does he appear to have Schillings’ ability to focus and consistently hit the spot. Something is going to have to give for Lackey, or he may be giving away his place in the rotation come June.