2014 Red Sox Roster Preview
Red Sox Spring Training Roster Preview
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- As is the case with most contending teams, the Red Sox don't have a lot of roster spots available as spring training opens, six weeks prior to the start of the season.
But thanks to the free-agent defections of center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury and (for now) shortstop Stephen Drew, there is more than a little uncertainty about the final roster makeup as pitchers and catchers report to work Saturday at Fenway South.
Here's a position-by-position breakdown of the 25-man roster as spring training gets underway.
CATCHERS (2): A.J. Pierzynski and David Ross
Newcomer Pierzynski is expected to handle the majority of the games, but as long as he stays healthy following two concussions last season, Ross will play 60 or more games.
Christian Vazquez will get a look in spring, and so will Blake Swihart, but the former is headed to Pawtucket and Swihart, who might open the season at Portland, will join him eventually.
That leaves Ryan Lavarnway as the odd man out, though the Sox plan to have him get some work at first base this spring as a means of making him more versatile.
DESIGNATED HITTER (1): David Ortiz
Everyday DHs are becoming almost extinct, but Ortiz continues to produce at the position like few others. A few other players might get some playing time here -- but not much.
INFIELDERS (6): Xander Bogaerts, Dustin Pedroia, Mike Napoli, Will Middlebrooks, Jonathan Herreira, Mike Carp
Pedroia and Napoli are set on the right side of the infield and Bogaerts will play everyday SOMEWHERE.
As long as Drew doesn't return, Bogaerts will be the regular shortstop. Should Drew come back -- which seems less and less likely with each passing day -- Bogaerts would shift to third.
Middlebrooks will be given another chance at third as long as Bogaerts is at short, with the hope that he can become more consistent. His raw right-handed power is too much of an asset to give up on.
Carp, who will also get some outfield and DH time, will be considered the primary backup first baseman and top lefty pinch-hitter off the bench.
Locks (3) : Daniel Nava, Jonny Gomes, Shane Victorino.
In competition (2): Jackie Bradley Jr. and Grady Sizemore
Victorino will return as the everyday right fielder and Gomes and Nava will split time in left. Center field, however, represents the one true bit of competition in camp.
Until a month ago, it was widely assumed the Sox were content to give the job to Bradley, while hitting him in the lower third of the batting order to allow him to ease into a regular role.
But then the Sox signed Sizemore, providing Bradley with someone with whom to battle. If Sizemore can show he's healthy, it's hard to see him not getting the job, with Bradley returned to Pawtucket for additional seasoning.
A more likely scenario, given that Sizemore hasn't played a game in the big leagues the last two seasons and will be brought along slowly in camp, is that Bradley opens the year as the starter, while Sizemore begins the year on the DL -- either in extended spring or on a minor-league rehab assignment, thus buying his body more time.
STARTING PITCHERS (5)
Locks: (3): Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, John Lackey.
In competition (3): Ryan Dempster, Jake Peavy, Felix Doubront
Lester, Buchholz and Lackey are set, assuming they begin the season healthy.
At some point, however, there's going to be an odd man out. That means either a pitcher is dealt, or someone is put in the bullpen to start the season.
If a pitcher is moved, it's likely to be one of two veteran starters: Peavy or Dempster. Both are pricey, but are also established and would be nice additions to most major-league staffs.
It remains to be seen whether the Sox want to run the risk of moving one during spring training only to find a month or two into the season that they're short on veteran starters.
Doubront won't be dealt because of his youth, the fact that he's left-handed and has a high ceiling. But he could be shuttled to the bullpen to alleviate a short-term logjam.
Locks (5): Koji Uehara, Junichi Tazawa, Craig Breslow, Andrew Miller, Edward Mujica
In competition (5): Burke Badenhop, Drake Britton, Alex Wilson, Brandon Workman, Rubby De La Rosa
Uehara will close, while Tazawa, Breslow and Mujica split the set-up duties. Miller will be mostly used in the seventh, though he's versatile enough to pitch almost anywhere.
That leaves two open spots, one of which might have to be claimed by Doubront, who could be squeezed out of the rotation picture.
If a trade or injury happens and Doubront stays put, there's still plenty of candidates for the last two spots. Workman, whom the Sox view as a starter long-term, deserves a chance to open the season in the majors, given how well he pitched down the stretch and in the postseason.
Badenhop has major-league experience and, thus, a leg up on others, most of whom have remaining options and could start the year in Pawtucket.