As temperatures soar into the 60s in Boston, the Red Sox are nearing the end of their first week of actual play in sunny Florida. It’s enough to get us all warm and fuzzy, both in the Hub and down in the Fort, where things are slowly beginning to take shape under Bobby Valentine’s watchful eye.
In the coming weeks the roster moves will come in droves, first with several players being sent to the minor league camp. Then we will see options and releases and perhaps some late-spring signings designed to fill whatever holes might still exist. This often involves bringing in a veteran arm or two that can compete for the last spot in the bullpen, or to provide depth in the system.
While the wins and losses don’t mean a whole lot at this point in time, what happens during these early days can influence several moves later on in terms of building a roster fit for Opening Day.
Already some physical ailments are impacting Valentine’s decisions - one-time fifth starter candidate Carlos Silva has been taken out of the mix due to right shoulder inflammation and lefty Andrew Miller was scratched from Thursday’s trip to Jupiter due to elbow soreness, although Miller is not concerned about the situation.
As we forge ahead toward the meat of the Grapefruit League schedule, here are three more items to take away from the first week of game action.
1. Can’t Count on Carl
At least for Opening Day, it seems. Left fielder Carl Crawford suffered a setback in his return from a surgically repaired left wrist and was shut down Monday for what Valentine said would be 5-7 days. On cue, Crawford told Valentine on Thursday that he was not feeling any pain and a return to baseball activities could come in the next few days. Still, it places more emphasis on the upcoming performances of guys like Cody Ross and Darnell McDonald as they vie for at-bats if in fact Crawford is unable to play once April 5 arrives. With the way Crawford’s first season with the Sox went, there won’t be any desire to rush him back and put him in an uncomfortable situation. That means Ross and/or McDonald could be in the lineup for a handful of games beyond Opening Day as well.
2. Line ‘Em Up
Whenever Crawford does return, the debate can resume as to where he should hit, as well as the others who will move up and down Valentine’s lineup. After declaring early in camp that he foresees using as many as 100 different batting orders in 2012, Valentine reiterated this week that he is nowhere near formulating anything concrete. Already he has toyed with the idea of batting Dustin Pedroia leadoff and Jacoby Ellsbury second, a nod to his preference of having a righty hitting before a lefty at the top of the order. What is clear is this will remain a fluid situation all season, with Valentine structuring his daily batting order based on a wide variety of factors. For what it’s worth, Ellsbury led off Thursday against St. Louis, followed by Pedroia and Adrian Gonzalez, just the way it was in 2011. By the way, the Sox were 5-14 with Crawford hitting among the top three spots last season but 67-41 when he batted fifth or lower, just in case you had caught some of the discussion involving his possible return to the top of the order.
3. Warm up the Duck Boats
Entering play Thursday in Jupiter against the Cardinals, the Sox had yet to taste defeat, spanking their first five opponents by a combined score of 54-10 before tying the Blue Jays, 3-3. Of course, a 25-0 win over Northeastern warps that view, but you get the picture. And for those of you who think that spring training results don’t matter, consider that since 2002 the six Boston squads to make the playoffs were a combined nine games over .500 in Grapefruit League play while the four teams that fell short of the postseason were a combined 11 games under .500, including last year’s team that went 1-10-1 in its last 12 spring training affairs before opening the season 2-10. So, spring training results DO matter. No they don’t. That’s pure coincidence. Right? Yeah, must be. I think.