Answers to the questions for the 2009 Red SoxProBaseball-fans.com Boston Red Sox Correspondent Elizabeth Dreeson brings us her latest update on Red Sox Nation.
On February 14, not only did pitchers and catchers report to the training complex down in Fort Meyers, Florida, some of the players did as well. After game seven of the 2008 American League Championship Series, a couple of questions were raised for the 2009 season regarding mainly health and rehab, but also addressing positions for a few players.
Jed Lowrie was called up from Triple AAA Pawtucket as early as April of 2008 when Mike Lowell went on the disabled list, and was called up again when Red Sox shortstop Julio Lugo tore his left quad in mid-July. Jed Lowrie really proved himself by providing both solid defense and offense for the Boston Red Sox. Jed Lowrie did not let on that he actually had a sprained and fractured wrist towards the end of the season, which probably had something to do with his declining average. Lowrie played through the pain, and provided a clutch hit in game four of the American League Division Series against the California Angels, which allowed the Red Sox to advance to the ALCS against the Tampa Bay Rays. Lowrie decided to avoid surgery, which would have prevented him from potentially starting on Opening Day, and opted for a rehabilitation process instead. However, even though Julio Lugo’s performance was mediocre at best, benching him would be wasting approximately $9 million dollars. During Spring Training, Red Sox manager Terry Francona and General Manager Theo Epstein will be watching closely to decide who will be the starting shortstop for 2009.
Who will be Jason Varitek’s Back up Catcher?
Now that Jason Varitek is safely secured after a long, complicated offseason, the Red Sox will have to figure out who will be catching veteran knuckleballer Tim Wakefield, and who will be backing up Jason Varitek should he receive less playing time. The three potential suitors are Josh Bard, Dusty Brown, and George Kottaras. Josh Bard is the most familiar of the three, as he caught Wakefield for a month in April 2006, before being traded to the San Diego Padres after ten passed balls. Theo Epstein called it a “short-sighted mistake” as Bard went on to bat .338 for the Padres. It was decided in Spring Training of 2006 that Bard would be catching Wakefield, but before the season started, Bard tried to adjust his mechanics to that of Doug Mirabelli, who had previously caught for Wakefield, and was not successful. He is now ready for a second chance and is ready to prove himself. On the other hand, Dusty Brown and George Kottaras split time in Triple AAA Pawtucket in 2008. George Kottaras had a batting average of .243 with 22 home runs and 65 RBIs and Dusty Brown batted .290 with 12 home runs and 55 RBIs. The Red Sox are still looking for Varitek’s future replacement, but these catchers are determined to prove that the Red Sox do not need to look any furthere.
How are Josh Beckett, David Ortiz, and Mike Lowell health wise, and how will it impact the Red Sox?
Josh Beckett carried the Red Sox to a World Series championship in 2007 going 20-7 with a 3.27 ERA in the regular season and posted a historic 4-0 record with a 1.20 ERA. However, in 2008, his injuries started during Spring Training with back spasms, and didn’t seem to stop as he also had right elbow soreness and a pesky right oblique. According to Terry Francona, Josh Beckett is looking more like his 2007 self. After he carried the Marlins to their second franchise World Series victory in 2003, he posted a 9-9 record with a 3.79 ERA in 2004, but was able to turn it around in 2005 going 15-8 with a 3.38 ERA. Perhaps he will be able to rebound and contend for the Cy Young award again.
David Ortiz did not post the ‘Big Papi’ numbers that everyone was used to in 2008. In fact, he batted a mere .264 with 23 home runs as oppose to .332 and 35 home runs in 2007. David Ortiz complained about a bothersome risk during the 2008 season, which probably prevented him from attaining the ‘Big Papi’ stats that we are all used to. During the offseason, he lost weight and firmed up, so it looks as if the numbers will be back to normal.
Mike Lowell’s hip bothered him for much of the 2008 season, which hindered him from reaching his 2007 World Series MVP numbers of the pervious season. In 2008 he batted .274, and in 2007 he batted .324. Lowell had surgery this offseason, and plans on starting on Opening Day. However, if he is not ready for Opening Day, he will not play because he wants to be able to help the team in the best way possible, and he wants to stay healthy through the 2009 season.
Where do Clay Buchholz and Justin Masterson fit into the realm of pitchers?
Clay Buchholz was essentially handed the fifth starting rotation spot as it was learned that Curt Schilling would not be part of the rotation. Buchholz got a reality check, and the glory of his no hitter against the Baltimore Orioles on September 1, 207 did not carry over into his 2008 season. After posting a 2-9 record, he was sent down to Double AA Portland, perhaps to get some more seasoning. It is obvious that Buchholz was not ready, but he was able to gain his confidence back in the minors, and in the Arizona Fall League. In 2009 it is very unlikely that he will be in the starting rotation, and he may follow a similar path to Justin Masterson.
In 2008, Justin Masterson had success both as a starter, and as a reliever. He even proved that he could handle clutch situations as he was called upon numerous times in the postseason. However, the Red Sox have their five starting slots locked up, so Masterson will probably be providing solid relief in the bullpen.
By: Elizabeth Dreeson
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