2019 Red Sox spring training won’t be anything like 2018.
Uncertainty was the theme of last year’s camp. The Red Sox needed a big bat to replace David Ortiz, Alex Cora was thrown into the fire as a first-year manager, no one knew what to expect from David Price, and the list goes on.
A year later, J.D. Martinez has fit into that “big bat” role as well as anyone could have hoped for, Cora led his team to a World Series title, and you could make the argument that Price deserved World Series MVP honors.
The theme this time? Cora would tell you it’s “turning the page.” The 2019 team looks to avoid being compared to the '14 group, which followed a championship campaign with a 71-91 season and a last-place finish in the American League East.
So, while there’s less uncertainty heading into the new season, there still are some questions that need to be addressed as the Red Sox begin their quest for a repeat. In this edition of the mailbag, some of those questions were asked and answered. . .
Interested to know how they are addressing the Set-Up-Man and Closer situation. Is Braiser really an option?— Mark Metivier (@MarkMetivier) February 10, 2019
JL: It’s fitting that this is the first question I was asked, because it’s the No. 1 question regarding this year’s roster as spring training gets underway.
Dave Dombrowski has made it clear there likely will not be a large expenditure for bullpen help (a.k.a. Craig Kimbrel), so it’s looking like either a closer-by-committee situation or Matt Barnes or Ryan Brasier will be forced to step up. Barnes seems ready to give it a shot if called upon, and to answer your question about Brasier, yes he should be considered a legitimate option after proving his ability to pitch in high-leverage situations during the postseason.
Are expectations for Nathan Eovaldi too high after his postseason performance?
— Curtis H.
JL: If you’re expecting the majority of Eovaldi’s outings to be reminiscent of his heroic World Series Game 3 outing, then yes.
I’m also not sure what his workload will be like this year considering he’s had two Tommy John surgeries. It’s an interesting situation given the fact Eovaldi was handed a four-year, $68 million contract this offseason, which obviously indicates the team is supremely confident having him as a key contributor in the rotation for the long haul.
The reality is Eovaldi’s career numbers are 44-53, 4.16 ERA, and 1.35 WHIP. To expect him to be anything close to as dominant as he was in the postseason would be unfair. I think he’ll be better this season than what those career numbers show, but we should all head into 2019 expecting some regression toward the mean.
What are your thoughts on the catching situation? Are they really going to carry three catchers again, or do you think someone like Swihart will be moved?
— Brady S.
JL: The Red Sox made a long-term commitment to Christian Vazquez as their starting catcher, the pitching staff raves about Sandy Leon, and Alex Cora greatly values Blake Swihart’s versatility. That makes this an extremely tough question to answer until Cora gives us some sort of idea of what he has in mind.
But if I had to place a bet on it, I’d have Swihart being the odd man out and possibly a trade chip for bullpen help. Dombrowski suggested earlier in the offseason that a trade involving one of the three catchers is probable, due to the difficulty of keeping all three on the roster with no minor league options. It’ll come down to what’s valued more between Swihart’s versatility and Leon’s rapport with the pitching staff.
Do you see Dustin Pedroia making an impact on this year’s club? If so, he can’t possibly be a full-time player, correct?
— Sean M.
JL: Impossible to predict anything Pedroia-related until he shows he’s 100 percent healthy. That will be one of the main storylines to keep an eye on throughout camp.
Will he be a full-time player from the moment the Red Sox take the field for Opening Day? I wouldn’t count on it. But to rule out a healthy Pedroia earning back his spot as Boston’s primary second baseman would be foolish.
How different will the 2019 Red Sox team look come Opening Day from 2018?
— Anthony V.
JL: Not very different. Outside of the aforementioned question marks in the bullpen, plus the Pedroia situation, there really isn’t much competition for starting roles. Barring any surprises, the Opening Day roster already looks close to set.
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