10 things we learned from the Red Sox first week of games
|Photo Credit: Kinfay Moroti of The News Press|
Red Sox baseball is officially back and the first week of games is in the books. Here are 10 things we learned from week one of Spring Training:
1. Travis Shaw is forcing his way onto the field.
Travis Shaw is not going to make things easy for the Red Sox. Despite finishing last season with 13 HRs, 36 RBIs and a .270 BA through 65 games, Shaw was projected to be a bench player for the Red Sox this season heading into Spring Training. This was always going to be difficult for the team. The fans loved what they saw from Shaw last season and will not forget easily. He also happens to play both corner infield positions, which are currently manned by two of the more disliked players on the roster. The last thing Sandoval, Ramirez and the Red Sox need is loud calls for Shaw to replace one of them so early in the season, as if either player needs more pressure on them. Not that the team wants Shaw to fail, but 5 for 8 (.625 BA) with two runs and two RBIs, and that does not even include his stats from the Northeastern game, where he went 2 for 3 with two RBIs.
2. Pablo Sandoval is not helping matters.
If Shaw is going to be knocking on the door of anyone’s starting position, it is Pablo Sandoval. Including the unofficial games, Sandoval is 0 for 8 this spring, with one poorly played ball defensively at third base. Could Sandoval survive a hitless spring?
3. Hanley Ramirez looks re-energized.
On the other side of the infield, Hanley Ramirez has looked great. Including the unofficial games, Ramirez is 6 for 10 at the plate, with one stolen base, and no defensive errors at first base. Even more importantly, he has allegedly been requesting more work with infield coach, Brian Butterfield, at first base. I expect huge things from Hanley this season.
4. Xander can still hit.
Xander Bogaerts nearly won a batting title last season and has continued his hitting ways this spring. The Red Sox recently gave him an unnecessary raise and you have to wonder if the two sides have talked extension yet. Remember though, Xander is a Scott Boras Client and Boras always advises his young clients against early extensions.
5. Carson Smith is forcing his way into the 8th inning role.
Carson Smith should be the Red Sox primary set-up man. At 6’6”, 215 pounds, the 26-year-old Smith is a force on the mound and best of all, he has command of his pitches and likes to attack the zone. This is a guy who walked four batters in 70 innings of work last year, while striking out 92 batters and holding opponents to a .194 BAA. Smith has been perfect in his two innings of work this spring, including an inning yesterday, where he struck out two of the three batters he faced.
6. Joe Kelly and Henry Owens pitch to a draw.
The competition for the fifth spot in the rotation remains even, which is a good thing for Joe Kelly, as he will win the job if things are fairly equal between the two this spring. Both Henry Owens and Kelly pitched two scoreless innings, but Owens made more of an impact by registering five of his six outs by strikeout. Roenis Elias makes his Red Sox debut tomorrow as he tries to pitch his way into this competition.
7. Ross and Layne the favorites to be lefties in the bullpen.
Robbie Ross, Jr. and Tommy Layne appear to have the inside track on the bullpen’s two available spots for left-handers this season, but watch for Roenis Elias, who is also being considered for a relief role, to pitch his way into the conversation tomorrow.
8. Update on the Sixth Spot in the Bullpen.
Many entered this spring assuming the Red Sox will give the final right-hander spot in the bullpen to either Steven Wright or Matt Barnes, with Wright having the advantage because of the fact he is out of options. However, Barnes looks really good so far and he is still one of the hardest throwers on the team, which is something GM Dave Dombrowski values quite a bit. Wright looked strong in his first appearance against Boston College, but was hit hard in his only start against major league competition. Will the Red Sox really keep Wright around merely because he is out of options? Does he really deserve that level of deference? If he earns a job, fine, but if Barnes or someone else is better, whether or not Wright is out of options should not factor in to the team’s decision.
9. Christian Vazquez ready for spring debut.
Christian Vazquez is going to be ready to start the season. He caught David Price’s simulated game and came out of it feeling good. He will make his first start on Tuesday, catching Roenis Elias’ start.
10. Heath Hembree wins Pitcher of the Week.
Heath Hembree has been the Red Sox pitcher of the week. Recall that Hembree was one of the two prospects acquired from the San Francisco Giants in the Jake Peavy trade. Prior to the trade, Hembree was a well-regarded prospect in the Giants system. In 2015, Hembree spent some time with the Red Sox, compiling a 3.55 ERA in 25.1 innings of work over 22 appearances. However, you have not heard much about Hembree and the 2016 bullpen, which is something that may change if he continues to strike out two batters per inning (3 IP, 6 SO, 0.00 ERA).
Question for the Readers: What are your biggest story lines from week one of Red Sox Spring Training?
Follow Max Sandgrund on Twitter @SotoSpeakz