Eric D. Schabell Contributing Writer
The Red Sox will be starting the 2015 season on Monday against the Phillies which makes now the perfect time to size up their chances.
Looking back over the last three years, this team went worst to first to worst.
Can it keep this cycle going?
Don't hold your breath.
Even with some predictions putting them in the divers seat for the AL East crown, this team is already showing the early signs of not firing on all cylinders.
As Eric Wilbur over at boston.com puts it, "Opening Day is Monday in Philadelphia, and there already seems to be an aura of doom circling the Red Sox."
The Red Sox put number five starter Joe Kelly on the 15-day DL with biceps soreness retroactive to 27 March. This opens up a spot that Steven Wright, our knuckleballer, has won over the likes of Matt Barnes and Brandon Workman who were sent down to Triple-A this week.
Kelly would be eligible to return April 11 and start against the Yankees in New York. He will pitch in a minor league intra-squad game at Fenway South on Monday with the intent of throwing 80-85 pitches over five innings.
Wright also will pitch in that game before joining the Red Sox in Philadelphia.
If Kelly is ready to return, he would start the fifth game of the season and likely replace Wright on the roster at that point. If Kelly is not ready, Wright would make that start.
Any player optioned would have to remain in the minor leagues for 10 days, so for now Wright will be on the roster to give the Red Sox flexibility for that fifth game.
Edward Mujica, who had eight saves last season filling in for Uehara, will start the season as the closer, although Farrell is open to using other pitchers in the ninth inning.
Back to closer by committee if Mujica is unable to clear the decks, not the ideal you paid for in the offseason.
Prime catcher candidate Christian Vasquez has already gone down with an elbow ligament and had his Tommy John surgery this week. Another key player gone for the season.
It feels wrong to start to the season already patching up holes with cast off Nationals catcher Sandy Leon. He was acquired as back up to the back up, Ryan Hanigan.
Are other teams cast-offs are going to be the last minute fill in to make the difference this year?
The question begging to be asked is, did Cherington fail completely at rebuilding the pitching staff after dumping Jon Lester and John Lackey last summer?
It looks like he might have.
This is the Red Sox starting rotation for 2015; Clay Buchholz, Rick Porcello, Justin Masterson, Wade Miley, Wright.
Buchholz has looked pretty sharp this Spring, but durability has always been his issue and when, not if, he goes down there is not much in the pipeline to fill in a number one slot in the rotation. A 2.87 ERA over 5 starts, with 22 strikeouts against only 4 walks while facing 86 batters has been promising this Spring and he will be the Opening Day starter.
With a Spring 2.58 ERA over 4 starts, 14 innings pitched, he has given up only 3 walks on 11 strikeouts while facing 59 batters. That is a pretty solid starter but the low strikeout rate will mean contact that needs to be cleaned up by the defense.
Masterson and Miley need not only to induce a ton of ground balls, but produce them to the right infielders too.
On top of all of this, the staff will be handled by second choice catchers and a new last minute acquisition, which won't work together as seamlessly as one would like to expect.
With the front office loading up on bats and settling for less than stellar pitching, we sit back and watch an offense that most would dream to own.
Hanley Ramirez, David Ortiz, Pablo Sandoval, Mike Napoli and Dustin Pedroia should perform markedly better than 11th in MLB offense like last year. Much will depend on if Ramirez acts like Manny or Hanley, if Pedroia and Napoli can stay healthy along with Ortiz not falling down the performance peak he has been teetering on for years now.
While Mookie Betts has been tearing it up in Spring Training, what will happen when major league pitchers start finding any weaknesses?
He can just lean over and ask Xander Bogaerts how that feels.
Shane Victorino opens the season as an everyday right fielder, needing only tenure as it was not based on merit. He has been another health issue in the lineup, not to mention there are several realistic replacements waiting in the wings.
Admittedly the front office has the flexibility to wait out this experiment and make moves mid-season if necessary as the prospects and war chest are definitely up to almost any trade task.
Not much can go wrong before a move will need to be made, that much is obvious to even the most casual Red Sox fan.
Who believes the bookmakers odds now that have the Red Sox 12 to 1 to win the World Series?
Maybe this all gels together. Maybe the Red Sox stay healthy for the entire season. Maybe the youngsters step up their games beyond expectation this time around.
Eric is a contributing writer since 2013 and a true Overseas Fan of the Boston Red Sox living in the Netherlands. He's spent years on baseball fields around the world pitching. His weekends are now spent helping the next generations of pitchers to find their passion and love for the sport. More articles by Eric: https://www.redsoxlife.com/search/label/ericschabell