Three Questions Facing The Red Sox Early in Spring Training

E ASenior Analyst IMarch 3, 2009

With a drove of Red Sox shipping out for the World Baseball Classic, or already being shelved up, the Red Sox have more questions now than before pitchers and catchers reporting to training.

That, however, is a given. Injuries happen with playing, and the Sox are not invincible.

However, with about a week of exhibition under their belts, the Red Sox already have two potential impact players hurting.

If these injuries persist, what impact could that have on the 2009 hopes for the Red Sox?

JD Drew is already having issues with his back. Now what?

On Monday, Red Sox right fielder JD Drew flew back to Boston from the friendly confines of Southern Florida to get a pain-killing injection for his ailing back.

He is aiming to return to the Sox' spring lineup on Friday, when the Red Sox take on the Florida Marlins. Drew's back bothered him last summer, keeping him on the shelf for the greater part of the last two months of the season.

When he reported to spring training, Drew had already reported back stiffness and discomfort during the offseason. So far, Drew has reported that his back is reacting well to the shot, and he has also been working with a chiropractor.

However, this shouldn't be much to worry about. There is reason to believe the shot will be effective since Drew is already reporting improvement after one day.

This also means that during the regular season if Drew's back is an issue, they already know what to do. If Drew does miss significant time this year, there is a very solid fourth outfielder waiting in Rocco Baldelli.

Brad Penny's shoulder isn't up to strength yet. Will that be a problem heading into the regular season?

Thursday, Brad Penny was scheduled to make his first exhibition start of the spring. However, this start was pushed back to a later date.

Penny said his shoulder felt "pretty good," but not strong enough for where he wants to be at, combined with discomforting fatigue in the same shoulder that limited Penny to 19 starts last year.

Furthermore, Terry Francona said he doesn't know whether Penny will start the year on the active roster or not.

However, that is not a huge problem for the Red Sox. They have an incredible amount of pitching depth, so even if Penny doesn't debut right out of the gate for Boston it shouldn't be a lot to worry about.

Tim Wakefield, Brad Penny, John Smoltz, Clay Buchholz, and possibly Michael Bowden are competing for the last two spots in the rotation.

Justin Masterson is also capable of starting, although he is being made the set-up man this year.

Due to a longer spring training than normal and only a minor fatigue in his arm, Penny's shoulder is nothing to fret about, but it should still be watched.

Thankfully, when asked, Penny said this fatigue was nothing like the pain that made him miserable last season.

Josh Beckett is off to a brilliant start in Spring Training. How far will the Red Sox be able to ride Beckett in the regular season and/or postseason?

Everyone remembers Beckett from his 2007 campaign. He was the most dominant pitcher all season long, not losing a start until the middle of June en route to winning 20 games.

He put the Red Sox on his back, or shoulder rather, during the playoffs, and carried them to their second title in four seasons.

However, in 2008, that same shoulder bothered him all year long, limiting him to 27 starts.

His ERA and WHIP saw increases, and his amount of strikeouts and walks declined. He only pitched in 174 innings, compiling 12 wins and 10 losses.

With an arm that is no longer bothering him, Beckett is showing the effects of that so far in spring training, dominating Boston College and the Minnesota Twins in exhibition action.

Based on firsthand knowledge of what Beckett is capable of when healthy, it will be tempting for Francona and the Red Sox to ride Beckett to another trophy this year. However, Terry Francona knows better than that.

While the Red Sox know just how much they can rely on their ace, the 2008 season showed them what they get for it next year.

This year, expect Beckett to be one of the most key pitchers to Boston's success. However, do not expect him to be worked as hard as he was in 2007, because the Red Sox do not want to kill his arm.


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