MLB PREVIEW: 2014 BOSTON RED SOX
February 12, 2014INDIANA SPORTS PAGE
The Boston Red Sox did something in 2013 not many expected….win another world championship. The bearded organization did it by clearing away $250 million in salary in 2012 and reviving the careers of Jon Lester and John Lackey. Now they have a new motto….DON’T OVERSPEND! Hey it worked in 2013 so why not try it again in 2014? Jacob Ellsbury and Jacob Saltalmacchia’s services weren’t needed and signed elsewhere in the offseason. Don’t feel too sorry for Boston since they still have DH David Ortiz (if he resigns), 2B Dustin Pedroia, closer P Koji Uehara and a great starting rotation. The veterans on this team are thinking about another championship and won’t settle for anything less.
The starting pitching will again be the key for the Red Sox in 2014. Jon Lester found his fastball and that allowed him to use his cutter, curveball and change-up more effectively. John Lackey went 10-13 but had an ERA of 3.82. Lackey’s biggest weakness is keeping teams from running on him. Lackey gave up 36 stolen bases in 2013. Still Lackey was a huge key in the Red Sox title run.
Clay Buchholz got off to a great start in 2013 but ran into injuries that limited him to only 16 starts. If Buchholz can give them 200 innings, the Red Sox will be elated. Boston will look to veteran Jake Peavy to fill the role as the number four starter. Peavy is a crafty pitcher who will eat up 150 innings if he stays healthy. Ryan Dempster and Felix Doubront will look to get innings as the fifth starter.
The bullpen is led by closer Koji Uehara who had an incredible 2013. Uehara led all relievers with an ERA of 1.09, WHIP of 0.565 and opponents BA was a mere .130. Uehara was almost unhittable after the All-Star break giving up only nine hits. Boston did invest in Edward Mujica who had 37 saves with St. Louis but he faded late in the season. Mujica will give Boston some security if Uehara runs into trouble. Andrew Miller and Craig Breslow will look to eat relief innings from the left side.
With Jarrod Saltalmacchia signing with Miami, the Red Sox went with veteran catcher A.J. Pierzynski, who signed a one year deal. Pierzynski will team with David Ross to make up Boston’s catching tandem. If they struggle, the Sox have two very good young backstops in Christian Vazquez and Blake Swihart who are ready to step in.
Second baseman Dustin Pedroia is now the staple on this team. Pedroia had thumb surgery to repair ligament in his thumb last November. Pedroia is one of the toughest outs in baseball and when healthy, nobody is better. Mike Napoli is back at first base after hitting 23 homeruns and a .482 slugging percentage in 2013. Xander Bogaerts will take over at shortstop. Bogaerts has an active bat and will be solid defensively. Will Middlebrooks should be back at third base after struggling in 2013. Middlebrooks was demoted to Triple-A after hitting under .230 and had an OBP of only .271. DH David Ortiz had another outstanding 2013, hitting 30 HR’s and driving in 103. Ortiz is never an easy out and will be a key for Boston’s chances in 2014.
OF Jacob Ellsbury has departed to New York. That will open the door for Jackie Bradley Jr. He is an excellent defensive outfielder and has a better arm than Ellsbury. Bradley Jr. also has the ability to get on base but isn’t the base stealer Ellsbury was. Bradley Jr. has excellent plate discipline and has great overall instincts. The Red Sox will also count on veterans Shane Victorino, Jonny Gomes and Daniel Nava to get the bulk of the AB’s and drive in runs.
Manager John Farrell was exactly what the Red Sox needed. Several players including Jon Lester and John Lackey benefitted because of Farrell working with them. If Boston plans on winning the division and winning another championship, they need Clay Buchholz to return to his pre-2013 form and David Ortiz will need another monster season.
PREDICTION: First in AL East.