And while it is still way too early to definitively gauge who is poised for a big year in Boston, it is always fun to make some educated predictions.
So let's observe five Red Sox starting pitchers and position players who are most likely to lose their jobs:
(The criteria for this list: All players are starters. Relief pitchers and bench/platoon players are excluded from the discussion).
The interim Red Sox shortstop may not enjoy his starting gig for much longer.
Jose Iglesias had a solid day at the plate on Opening Day at Yankee Stadium, going 3-for-5 with an impressive push-bunt, collecting an RBI and scoring a run.
But Stephen Drew, who is still out after suffering a concussion, is progressing and at the moment, seems to be the favorite to land the starting job once he is healthy.
Iglesias needs to prove he is capable of remaining in the big leagues. If he continues to swing the bat well—which is unlikely given his history—he can make the club's decision to option him to Triple-A Pawtucket a tough one.
This is an interesting one.
Jackie Bradley Jr. stole the show this spring and earned a spot on the Opening Day roster, becoming the first Red Sox rookie to make his major league debut in the season opener since Shea Hillenbrand did so in 2001.
Even more impressive, Bradley did it after compiling just 615 plate appearances in the minors (none at Triple-A).
While his astronomical leap from Double-A Portland to the Boston Red Sox surprised many, it did not surprise Bradley as Gordon Edes of ESPNBoston.com noted:
When (John Farrell) broke the news to (Bradley) that he was officially on the team, while the team was airborne from Florida to New York, Farrell said Bradley took it in stride.
It will be interesting to see what the Red Sox do with Bradley once David Ortiz returns from the disabled list. Ortiz is currently rehabbing from an Achilles injury he suffered last season. As a result, Bradley is manning left field while outfielder Jonny Gomes is filling in at DH.
But the “JBJ” era, might be coming to an end for now. His debut with the big-league team was out of necessity. Had it not been for Ortiz’s injury, Bradley may still be in the minors.
For the Red Sox, it would be beneficial to send Bradley to the minors once Ortiz returns. If he remains at the major league level without spending 20 days in the minors this season, he will hit free agency a year early in 2018.
Jonny Gomes is occupying the role of DH in David Ortiz’s absence. Once Ortiz is activated, Gomes will most likely shift back to left field with Jackie Bradley Jr. optioned to Triple-A.
However, if Bradley outperforms Gomes, the Red Sox may elect to stick with the rookie in left, using the former as the fourth outfielder and optioning Daniel Nava to the minors.
It would certainly be a risky move considering Bradley’s lack of experience, as well as the resulting effect the decision will have on his contract status (Bradley is represented by hard-dealing agent Scott Boras).
Boston, though, is desperate to get off to a good start in 2013 after having started 0-6 in 2011 and 1-5 in 2012. If Bradley’s strong play helps propel them, anything is possible.
This may come as a shocker, but the effect of David Ortiz’s injury remains to be seen (he did not play a game during spring training).
Hopefully his rehab is successful and he is able to regain his dominance—23 HR, 60 RBI with a .318 average and 1.026 OPS—from a year ago.
Ortiz got off to a rough start in both 2009 and 2010, causing members of the media to suggest his career as a power hitter was in sharp decline. Although he was able to bounce back and put up fantastic numbers by season’s end, this could be the injury that starts the real decline.
If that is the case the Red Sox will have to get creative.
Trading Ortiz (sentimentality aside) does not seem to be an option. He is a 10-5 player (10 years in the big leagues, five with his current team) which means he has a full no-trade clause.
Even if he was to waive it he would generate little interest. Not many clubs would be willing to pick up an aging slugger, who is owed $25 million between this year and next, and is coming off a major Achilles injury.
Are there any arguments here?
John Lackey is on a short leash after a disappointing start to his Red Sox career at 26-23 and a 5.26 ERA.
He served as the poster boy for the infamous "chicken-and-beer scandal of 2011" and missed all of last season after undergoing Tommy John surgery.
Nobody is questioning the turnaround that Lackey made this offseason. He arrived in Fort Myers looking trimmer than ever and said all the right things during his sessions with the media, but it is up to him to prove he can deliver in 2013.
The Red Sox are stashing him in the back of the rotation and are hopeful he can regain the ace status he had as a member of the Los Angeles Angels.
However, if he resembles the pitcher he has been over the last few years, expect the Red Sox to utilize Alfredo Aceves—who has been such a valuable asset—as a starter in Lackey’s place.