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.

4 Questions as Red Sox Head to Spring Training

spring training

While New Englanders will be braving the cold weather this February, the Boston Red Sox will be preparing for the start of spring training. Red Sox pitchers and catchers have to report to Fort Myers, Fla by February 20.

Boston has added a number of new faces to its roster over the off-season. While it appears the team has improved, there are a number of questions the team needs to answer if they are expected to contend in the American League East. Here are four key questions for the Red Sox as they enter spring training.

Can Xander Bogaerts live up to expectations?

Spring Training

This is a huge spring training for Xander Bogaerts. Last season, the shortstop came into spring training with lofty expectations after an impressive 2013 postseason where he hit .296 in 12 games.

In 2014, Bogaerts struggled as he batted .240 with 12 home runs and 39 RBI in 144 games. While he is only 23-years-old, the pressure is on Bogaerts.

Boston doesn’t have a backup plan if he continues to struggle. Even with an improved lineup, the Red Sox need Bogaerts to play better this season.

Can any of the pitching prospects earn a spot on the 25-man roster?

While the Red Sox added pitchers Rick Porcello, Wade Miley and Justin Masterson in the off-season, the team still lacks an established No. 1 starting pitcher. Because Boston lacks a true ace, this will be a great opportunity for one of the team’s young prospects to earn a spot in the rotation.

Henry Owens is regarded as the Red Sox best young pitcher in their minor league system.  The left-hander started last season in Double-A before being promoted to Triple-A late last summer.

Owens has to improve his command this spring before he has any chance of being on the opening day roster this April. Other pitchers to keep an eye on this spring are Danny Rosenbaum, Eduardo Rodriguez and Brian Johnson.

How will the Red Sox handle their crowded outfield?

The expected starters in the Red Sox outfield are Hanley Ramirez (left field), Rusney Castillo (center field), and Mookie Betts (right field). That leaves Shane Victornio, Daniel Nava and Allen Craig to battle for the remaining outfield bench spots.

In 2013, Victornio was a key member of the Red Sox World Series Championship team. Last season, he was limited to only 30 games. It wouldn’t be surprising if Victornio were to beat out Betts for the starting right field spot if he can remain healthy throughout spring training.

The more interesting decision for manager John Farrell is who will he choose to be the fifth outfielder? Craig was an All-Star in 2013, but he only hit .215 and eight home runs a season ago.

Nava is a switch-hitter that batted .270 last season in 113 games. Given his previous role off the bench and his production on the left side of the plate (hit .293 when batting left-handed in 2014), Nava is probably the better fit as a fifth outfielder

How much longer can David Ortiz produce at a high-level?

David Ortiz had another All-Star season in 2014 as he hit .263 with 35 home runs and 104 RBI. Now at age 39, how much longer can the designated hitter produce at a high-level?

While no one knows how much longer Ortiz can continue to hit over 30 home runs and 100 RBI, you can’t rely on his spring training numbers to answer that question. Last spring, he batted .054, but he hit five home runs and 14 RBI in the first month of the regular season. Ortiz probably has another season or two left in him, but we truly won’t know until April or May.

Fenway South, Jetblue Park in Fort Myers

Fenway south

As an architecture buff, I would be remiss to not write a post about some of the features of Fenway South, even though the preseason is one week from its inevitable conclusion.

I believe everyone already knows that JetBlue Park was built to replicate the same dimensions and on-field specifications as Fenway Park, such as the Green Monster, South in left field, and the center field spanning the full 420 feet from home plate just like in Boston. Notable on the aesthetics side are the stands. The canopies, which provide shade, are said to echo a popular Southern Florida landscape feature, the cypress tree. Others whom have seen the ballpark from the outside report that it looks like the Sydney Opera House in Australia, because of the undulating, white structural design. I think someone got carried away with this characterization.

fenway south

Before entering the facility, there is a sculpture park of Red Sox retired numbers. A duplicate statue of Ted Williams that stands outside Fenway Park in Boston is also installed. Walkways with concessions and a focus on interactive fan experience have also been reported.

JetBlue Park also boasts the best training facilities for player development and space for companies and corporations to hold conferences for up to 5,000 people according to the Red Sox website. The park is accessible year round.

Populous, the architecture firm that drew up the renderings for the ballpark also did other well-known stadiums and ballparks, such as Wembley Stadium in the UK. They know what they are doing, and seem to be the go-to guys for a top-notch facility, based on a quick perusal of their website.

I look forward to attending the final two games of spring training to be played at JetBlue Park this year, its second year open for operation. Ticket prices are a bit higher than most of the other Grapefruit League ballparks, but hey, from what I can tell, it is worth it.  After all, we are the Red Sox and it is a fairly new facility. This park makes Ft. Myers a bit more of a tourist destination. Farmers markets and events take place around the park, adding life and money to the local economy.  People who work at JetBlue Park give back to the community just like their counterparts at Fenway. I am always happy to see companies, and the people that work within them, give back to their communities.

All of this is good news for permanent residents of the area and for Red Sox fans around the world.