Thursday, February 05, 2009

Friday is the happiest day of the year. Truck Day!

OK, maybe that's a bit of an overstatement, but the Red Sox equipment truck departure for Fort Meyers is one of the first signs that the end of the winter is in sight. And considering how snowy, cold and miserable this winter has been, the end can't come soon enough.

So, as the team starts assembling in Florida, here are five questions I think need to be answered in Spring Training:
  • Who is the shortstop? Jed Lowrie has to be the front-runner based on his play at the end of 2008, but there are 9 million reasons why you would have to consider putting Julio Lugo back there as well. I like Lowrie a lot, so I'm hoping he ends up with the job. I could be very happy with him and Pedroia as the Sox keystone combination for the next decade or so. Given Lugo's performance the last couple of years, I think he's going to be a very expensive utility man.
  • Who's healthy? Injuries to David Ortiz, Josh Beckett and Mike Lowell are probably the biggest reasons the Red Sox didn't repeat as World Series champions last year. Beckett, especially, has to show up in shape and contribute at his 2007 level if the Sox are to compete with the Rays and Yankees. While I don't expect Papi to return to his 2006 54-homer form, I don't think a .300, 25-35 HR, 100-120 RBI year is out of the question if his wrist is OK. And I really expect a guy as professional and hard-working as Mike Lowell to come back at or near 100%. Oh, and when you talk about injuries, there's always J.D. Drew. There's a guaranteed three weeks on the DL at some point during the season.
  • Can Youk and Dustin stay at last years level after signing big contract extensions? An unqualified yes to me. I don't think the security of a long term contract is going to change the way these guys play the game one bit.
  • Will Theo pick up the Catcher of the Future? I'll be surprised if something doesn't happen, if not during Spring Training, than by the July trading deadline. It might cost Buchholz or Bowden to get it done, though.
  • Can any of the "damaged goods" signings contribute early? I would guess that Penny and Rocco will break camp with the team, while Saito and Smoltz spend some time in extended Spring Training. If I was a betting man, though, I would put money down that Smoltz will be the biggest contributor to the team come September and October.


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