Red Sox's Top Storylines at the Start of Spring Training
There was a changing of the guard when John Farrell was hired as the manager last October, but there are still plenty of storylines that are still playing out during spring training.
The Boston Red Sox look like a team poised to rebound from their horrendous 2012 season.
However, it is still unknown how good the Red Sox could be in 2013.
Here are five storylines to watch at the start of spring training.
Will Mike Napoli’s Hip Hold Up?
Mike Napoli was arguably the most significant signing this offseason, but an unknown hip ailment caused the Red Sox to rework his contract.
As Napoli enters spring training he has a lot to prove.
In addition to the health concerns, Napoli is changing positions in 2013.
After being a catcher for the bulk of his career, Napoli will shift gears to being the Red Sox’s starting first baseman in 2013.
Napoli must show that he can stay healthy and transition to fielding standing up rather than from the crouched position.
Will Jacoby Ellsbury Rebound?
After having an MVP-caliber season in 2011, Jacoby Ellsbury got hurt (again) and when he returned, the center fielder was a shell of himself.
Coming into spring training Ellsbury needs to stay healthy and focused as he will be a free agent at the end of the season.
No one knows how Ellsbury will handle the pressure of proving that he deserves to be paid like the 2011 version of himself versus the player that he was in 2010 and 2012.
Can Joel Hanrahan Handle the Pressure?
While Joel Hanrahan reminds me of Jonathan Papelbon, he still needs to prove that he can handle the pressure of being the Red Sox closer.
Despite showing he has All-Star caliber potential while in Pittsburgh, playing in Boston is much different and the AL East is invariably better than the NL Central.
Hanrahan shouldn’t have too much pressure on him as the bullpen looks like an area of strength, but if he fails then the pressure could trickle down to the other relievers and would change the dynamic of the bullpen.
Is Stephen Drew Version 2.0 of Brother JD?
Once Stephen Drew signed with Boston most of us started to wonder if this would be repeat of J.D.’s time with the Red Sox.
However, Stephen has made it clear that they are completely different, saying: “I'm not J.D. I want that pointed out. We're different. We're a lot alike, but we're different.”
Aside from the comparisons to his brother, the bigger concern is whether Drew can both handle the pressure of playing in Boston and remain healthy for a full season.
When healthy, Drew is an above average defensive shortstop capable of hitting between .270-.290 while hitting 15-20 home runs. That type of production would be a welcomed addition the Red Sox lineup.
Will Alfredo Aceves Stick Around?
Despite his obvious talent, Alfredo Aceves may not be with the Red Sox when spring training ends.
After multiple incidents in his first two years in Boston, Aceves added to the drama when he didn’t take a live batting practice session seriously.
Though the rubber-armed pitcher has value as a swing man capable of being a long reliever as well as being capable of starting if someone gets injured, John Farrell could make an example of Aceves by releasing him.
Releasing Aceves wouldn’t come at a great cost as his contact isn’t fully guaranteed. If he is let go before March 27, the Red Sox would only owe him $651,639.
This would be a bold move but it would send a message that Farrell means business and that he won’t tolerate this type of behavior.