The state of the Sox

Thank goodness the baseball season starts in a week.  My March Madness bracket is sooo busted I can’t decide if I will continue with the next round on the CBS round by round contest.  But baseball.  That’s a different story.  The season is ahead of us, all those games from April to September and beyond to the World Series.

The big question for Boston is whether the Red Sox can rebound from last year’s train wreck.  Actually the disaster began in September 2011, but things got worse under Bobby Valentine.  Maybe it is time to forgive Bobby.  After all, he was a new manager coming into a difficult situation, but he was just wrong for Boston and wrong for the Sox so no forgiveness yet.  Now it is John Farrell’s turn to try.

Spring training has been about what one could expect.  The Sox are .500.  We’ve seen some good youngsters and the pitchers are working faster – even Cloy Bucholtz.  The bullpen seems solid.  The question is:  Can the Sox hit?

Nick Carfardo had a nice list of issues the Red Sox have to resolve to get to their roster of 25 in the Boston Globe this morning.

1. Lyle Overbay — He is the most immediate decision since he has an opt-out Tuesday. The Sox have to tell him by noon Tuesday whether he will make the 25-man active roster. If he does not ask for his release and agrees to open the season in Pawtucket, he will receive a $100,000 retention bonus. The Sox might be OK with that as insurance in case something happens to Mike Napoli.

Overbay is also a proven first baseman while Napoli is not. We’re assuming that David Ross, Pedro Ciriaco, and Daniel Nava are on the bench. That leaves one spot for Ryan Sweeney (who has a March 28 opt-out), Mike Carp, and Overbay. Nava is protection at first base and in the outfield and is also a better fielder than Carp. Overbay is a pure first baseman (he made a nice diving stop Monday) and lefthanded bat. Carp went 1 for 2 against the Orioles and is hitting .211.

I haven’t been that impressed with Overbay or Carp and Napoli is doing OK at first.  I’d let Overbay opt out this morning and keep Nava as back up.

Jackie Bradley Jr. has raised his spring average to .444.

Jackie Bradley Jr. has raised his spring average to .444.

2. Bradley — It appears he’s made the team, at least that’s the indication after the team reversed its decision not to play him in left. He’s passed every eye test, including facing a tough lefty Sunday in Cliff Lee, whom he took deep for a three-run homer and sacrifice fly in his first two-at bats. He followed that up Monday by coming off the bench with two hits, a two-run single up the middle against Pedro Strop and a triple vs. lefty Chris Petrini.

Jackie Bradley, Jr.  Jerry Remy keeps using his full name.  He might be a rookie, but he’s been to the College World Series and appears very mature and stable.  I know there is all this talk about the free agency date being different if he starts the season at Pawtucket, but let’s face it, we need his bat.  Even if he cools off, as he will, I think he will be as asset.

3. Daniel Bard — We’re assuming the bullpen spots that are set are Joel Hanrahan, Andrew Bailey, Andrew Miller, Koji Uehara, Alfredo Aceves, Junichi Tazawa, and Clayton Mortensen. That could change if Aceves or Mortensen is traded. Mortensen, who was touched up for two homers Monday, is out of options and the Sox don’t want to lose him because he’s stretched out and basically fills the same role as Aceves.

Bard has options and could go back to the minors, as his performance hasn’t been smooth this spring. The Sox also could option Tazawa as well.

I would trade Mortensen ( I’ve read that there is interest in him.), keep Tazawa and have Bard start in Pawtucket.  It is a long season and we will need Bard sooner or later.

How will the Sox do this season?  Predictions have a way of coming back to haunt you (take my March Madness bracket), but I think the Sox will be a better than .500 team.  The AL East is tough and I think Baltimore is the team to beat, but never, never count the Yankees out.

(By the way, I picked Indiana to win the basketball crown this year, but any team but Louisville will suit me fine.)

Photograph Kathy Willens/Associated Press

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