Opening Day has arrived for the Boston Red Sox, and with that comes the cut down to a 25-man roster.
While the defending champs boast a very similar look to what we saw last October, Boston's final choices to begin the 2014 season do include a few snubs and surprises.
The 26-year-old catching prospect batted .289 in Fort Myers, with two home runs and five RBI in 38 at-bats. Lavarnway's 11 hits tied him for sixth most on the team in Grapefruit League play. Unfortunately for Lavarnway, there was nowhere for the Red Sox to put him other than in Triple-A Pawtucket—he's buried on the depth chart behind A.J. Pierzynski and David Ross.
Grading the decision: Brought in on a one-year $8.25 million contract this offseason, Pierzynski is clearly the No. 1 catcher. And how can Boston not give the backup job to Ross, the man behind the plate for all four of Boston's World Series victories last fall? A-
After signing a minor league deal with Boston in February, the aging reliever was considered a long shot to make the big league roster. Cordero sat out the entire 2013 season recovering from shoulder surgery, and will turn 39 years old in May. Despite the unfavorable odds, Cordero threw very well this spring. He pitched a total of eight innings over eight appearances, allowing no runs, five hits, one walk and striking out eight.
According to Gordon Edes of ESPN Boston, last Thursday the Red Sox offered Cordero a spot in Triple-A. Said Cordero:
I’m not a young kid anymore, I thank God for the opportunity to play. It’s hard to be mad at anyone. I had a long career, a good career. I’m proud of everything I accomplished. I’m really happy with what I did.
Boston released Cordero on Saturday.
Grading the decision: It's hard to give up on a guy with 329 career saves who just tossed eight scoreless innings in spring training, even if there's no obvious place for him in the bullpen. B-
Jackie Bradley Jr.
The rookie's demotion to the minors to start the season is only a snub in perception, not in reality. Bradley Jr. was expected to take over as the Red Sox starting center fielder, but he didn't do anything in exhibition play to earn the job—hitting just .158 in 57 at-bats, with a team-leading 17 strikeouts.
Grading the decision: Although he was clearly outplayed this spring by Grady Sizemore, Bradley Jr. is far and away the best defensive outfielder Boston has. With only slow-footed veterans Jonny Gomes and Mike Carp as potential fill-ins, the youth and speed of Bradley Jr. could be missed. B
Bradley will be in Baltimore for Monday's Opening Game against the Orioles, replacing Shane Victorino who was placed on the disabled list with a hamstring injury. But it is likely that Bradley will return to Triple-A when Victorino is healthy.
All that was expected of Sizemore this spring was to provide a little motivation and competition for Bradley Jr. Instead, the 31-year-old, who hadn't played a major league game in two-and-a-half years, batted .310 and passed every test along the way to grab the starting center field position.
Grading the decision: When Sizemore steps into the batter's box on Monday it will be the feel-good story of the season so far, not just for the Red Sox, but across MLB. Ted Berg of USA Today had this to say:
And at the very least, Sizemore’s story is a testament to the value of perseverance. In 2007, no one would have expected him to be out of baseball in 2012 and 2013. But in 2012 and 2013, no one expected he’d be back by 2014.
Even if Sizemore ultimately is not up to the task of being an everyday major league outfielder, there's very little risk involved for Boston. Bradley Jr. will be at arm's length ready and waiting. A
The Red Sox didn't even bring Capuano into camp until February 22, just after Ryan Dempster announced that he wouldn't be playing baseball this season. The 35-year-old Springfield, Mass. native responded with a very solid spring training performance. Capuano posted a 2.45 ERA and 0.91 WHIP in 11 innings pitched.
Grading the decision: With Boston's rotation already set, Capuano will begin the season in the bullpen, a place he is not very familiar with. Of his 90 major league appearances since 2011, 84 of them have been starts. Via Gordon Edes, Capuano recently said:
Not too many teams make it through the whole year with five guys. I'm certainly not wishing anybody ill. I want all these guys to be successful, because that means we're successful as a team. But if I do get a chance, I'm ready for it. I'll try to embrace any role I'm in at the start of the season, try to be successful at it, try to put zeroes up.
Until his time comes as starter, what will Capuano's role be? A-
With left-hander Craig Brelsow currently on the DL, Workman was able to grab the final roster spot despite his less-than-spectacular preseason. Workman allowed 17 hits and nine earned runs over 15.2 innings this March. From ESPN Boston's David Dorsey, Workman said: "It's a great opportunity for me to be with the team at the beginning of the season. To earn my way on, it's great."
Grading the decision: Francisco Cordero may have been more deserving, and the Red Sox might have been better off keeping Bradley Jr. rather than a seventh reliever. But it's hard to forget Workman's 0.00 ERA in 8.2 innings last postseason. And as Workman's quote suggests, this is likely just a temporary position until Breslow returns. B+
Statistics courtesy of RedSox.com.