5 Things We've Learned About the Red Sox so Far in Spring Training
Just a few weeks into spring training, there's still a lot of question marks hanging off the Red Sox.
For instance, we don't yet know whether or not Jon Lester, John Lackey and Clay Buchholz are back to their old selves—though it looks promising—or whether or not Mike Napoli's hip will hold up all year.
We definitely don't know if David Ortiz will be ready for Opening Day. And we don't know if the team can or will win 90 games, or how they'll stack up in the AL East.
But the puzzle is slowly coming together.
With each spring training inning, we're learning more and more about the 2013 Red Sox and what we can expect from them. Here's what we know so far.
Dempster Is the Real Deal
There are doubts surrounding the entire Red Sox starting rotation but none have eased minds so far more than Ryan Dempster.
The righty has put on the most believable spring training show of the group.
Dempster threw two perfect innings in his spring training debut. In his second appearance, he threw 25 strikes on 28 pitches over three innings. Though he allowed one hit off his first batter, he retired every one after that.
Even better, he attacked his batters, throwing first-pitch strikes to all nine he faced in Sunday's outing.
He then posted a 5.09 ERA in 12 starts and raised concerns about his ability to play in the American League.
But in 2013, the new guy on the mound has yet to give a reason for people to doubt him or his future with the Red Sox.
The Red Sox Bench Is Deep
The good news for the Red Sox—especially after a few injury-riddled seasons—is that their bench will run deep in 2013.
While simple math showed us this before spring training even began, camp has proven that actual talent backs it up. We pray for a healthy year, but if the sky falls once again, the Red Sox' second and third strings look unlikely to disappoint.
Boston has a surplus of players at several positions, ready and eager to jump in if any starters gets hurt or underperform.
If there's a stumble in the starting rotation, a number of players could fill in—Franklin Morales, Rubby De La Rosa and Allen Webster—just to name a few.
Behind Jarrod Saltalamacchia, the waiting list at catcher is led by newly acquired David Ross, followed by Ryan Lavarnway and impressive prospect Christian Vazquez bringing up the rear.
There's Mike Carp ready to come in for Mike Napoli at first base—especially if his hip becomes an issue—but both also have Lyle Overbay, Daniel Nava and Mark Hamilton nipping at their heels.
Hitting machine Jackie Bradley Jr. shows major league promise, but will have to patiently wait his turn behind Jacoby Ellsbury, new Sox veterans Jonny Gomes and Shane Victorino, and likely backups Ryan Sweeney, Nava and Carp.
The bullpen is overcrowded, containing more names than most can keep track of.
The Red Sox have plenty of backups and backup backups. But what we don't know yet is how all of this will play out: Who will make the 25-man roster, who will hang out in Pawtucket or Portland and who might be used as trade bait.
Those answers might take a few more weeks.
Gomes Is the Guy We Wanted and More
Outfielder Jonny Gomes was one of several veteran players signed by the Red Sox in the offseason not just for their talent, but also their character.
The Sox clubhouse needed a facelift. They needed hard working guys that didn't have egos or attitudes, and would lead by example.
Already in the first weeks of spring training, it's obvious that they weren't wrong about Gomes, who's notoriously the kind of guy that wins wherever he goes.
Gomes' homer against the Orioles—which he blasted off lefty Zach Britton—was inspiring and exactly what fans hope to see from a new player. But even better than that was what Gomes did off the diamond a few games later.
Gomes cut his knee on the outfield fence last week and required three stitches. He was listed as day-to-day after that, but Farrell said he spent his time sidelined "bitchin' and moanin'" to get back out there.
He eventually got his way, returning a day earlier than slated.
The Red Sox want a player that can't stand to be sitting out, that always wants to be out there helping his team. So far, Gomes is the right guy for the job.
Napoli Can Crush It
Mike Napoli's hip condition raised eyebrows from the second the Red Sox signed him.
Concerns deepened when Boston's new first baseman was eased into spring training, finally entering a game last Friday.
But Napoli sent those worries flying out of the ballpark. He blasted a home run in just his second game at camp, and then an insurance homer on Tuesday night, at his sixth at-bat this spring training.
The Red Sox desperately needed sluggers and Napoli's greatest attraction was his ability to send balls flying over walls. With David Ortiz a big question mark at the moment, Napoli's instant production is more welcomed than ever.
The Future Is Bright
Yes, the status of the 2013 Red Sox roster is the utmost importance and focus at this time. But there's one thing that the initial weeks of spring training have made clear: The future is bright.
Several Red Sox minor leaguers and prospects have shined this spring. And while it's highly doubtful they'll make the Opening Day roster—or in some cases even graduate to the majors this year—they've given fans something to look forward to.
First up in the pitching department is Rubby De La Rosa, who hit triple digits on the radar gun more than once during his flawless, three-inning debut. In his second outing he went on to impress Farrell with his command of his secondary pitches, especially his changeup.
Then there's Allen Webster, who hit 99 on the gun and struck out four big-league hitters in his first outing. Both he and De La Rosa are turning out to be valuable pieces the Red Sox received in last summer's megatrade.
Outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. and utility guy Pedro Ciriaco have both been machines at the plate, while catcher Christian Vazquez has turned heads despite deep competition at his position.
And that's just a handful of the upcoming talent that's been put on display in Florida so far this camp. However 2013 turns out, there's hope yet.