When spring training kicked off about a month ago for the Red Sox, it didn’t seem like many positions were up for grabs. A few weeks later, and with Opening Day just two weeks away, that has changed.
The third base job is officially up for grabs, according to manager John Farrell, and it would seem left field is no sure thing either.
Going into camp it looked as though Pablo Sandoval was a lock to start at third with the long-term commitment, but he showed up to camp overweight and has made his fair share of errors in the field. Maybe more importantly, he’s been challenged by Travis Shaw.
Shaw has batted .419 with two home runs in 31 at-bats this spring. Sandoval hasn’t been swinging a bad bat but with Shaw red-hot and Sandoval struggling defensively, Farrell stated that the job isn’t Sandoval's just yet.
"Is he just a corner utility player?" Farrell asked reporters of Shaw. "There could be the potential for more here. We're not in a place in spring training where we're going to shut that down. He could be competing for regular at-bats."
Another position that is open for competition is left field, as Rusney Castillo hasn’t proven he deserves the gig yet. Castillo was slowed down by injuries early in spring training and was a bit behind. Now after 10 games, he’s hitting just .267 and there are proven veterans behind him in Chris Young and Daniel Murphy who could take away his spot on the Opening Day roster.
Castillo started last season in Pawtucket, so it wouldn’t be the first time it happened, but the Red Sox expected more from him. He’s no longer a raw, young prospect – he’s 28-years-old. Murphy, who was signed by the Red Sox this spring, does have an opt out if he isn’t on the major league roster on Opening Day, so the Red Sox may need to keep that in mind when making their final roster.
Also, it’s worth noting that if Farrell and the organization are so inclined to get Shaw and his bat in the lineup, he has some experience in left field - as does Brock Holt. There are plenty of options for left field if Castillo isn’t ready.
This is the most critical time of the spring, as the last two weeks are when players really start gearing up for the season and can begin to build momentum.
With these positions still seemingly not set, it’s incredibly important for players like Sandoval, Shaw and Castillo to perform, because with a good start to the year so crucial, it’s likely Farrell will go with the players who are hot and give the team the best chance to win.