Bats have been cracking and mits popping in Fort Myers for more than a week as Red Sox players have worked their way through the start of spring training. The team begins playing exhibition games on Saturday, which means real games can’t be far behind. What have we learned so far? What questions need to be answered? Take a look at some key spring training storylines. Next
John Farrell and moving forward
On the surface, the biggest difference between this year’s team and the last-place team from last season is the manager. New manager John Farrell seems to have the right attidude. “You seek the best available people and give them the freedom to do their work.,” said Farrell. “To look over one’s shoulder all the time and micromanage, I think that’s a de-motivator and doesn’t allow for the creativity of the individual to come out. We’ve got that in place with our staff and the individuals that comprise the staff.”
Third baseman Will Middlebrooks welcomes the change. “[Farrell] knows how to handle the city, he knows how to handle the media, he knows how to handle the characters and the personalities that are here. He’s a perfect fit for us.” Next
Some of the Sox have found themselves training at new positions when another player is injured. That’s been the case for Daniel Nava (right) who’s been training on first, instead of his usual outfield position. “The more I work there, the better it feels," Nava said. "The throw in the infield is different, but I think I have the right arm action for it. Obviously, it's different with the reactions to the ball when it's hit and some of the footwork, but that's coming." Top prospect Xander Bogaerts has been working in at third base even though his natual position is shortstop. Next
The Red Sox are hoping Farrell can solve many of the team’s attitude problems, but several players are worth keeping any eye on:
-- Alfredo Aceves: After already earning a time out with Farrell about his performance during last Sunday’s practice, it’ll be interesting to see if any more drama pops up around this pitcher.
-- John Lackey. Despite a less-than-stellar performance at the end of last season, Lackey looks to be in good shape at Spring Training, keeping his fastball down. He’s lost a ton of weight, which quiet his chicken-and-beer detractors.
-- Dustin Pedroia—On a lighter note, the question surrounding Pedroia may be: To tweet or not to tweet? Pedroia has both confirmed and denied that he is now on Twitter. Next
Pretty good coaching
Pedro Martinez will be giving the Sox his expert knowledge and tricks of the trade all season—something other teams' hitters should be wary of. Martinez said he's happy to be back in a Red Sox uniform. Still witty and competitive, Martinez even admitted to hitting 90 percent of the batters he lobbed pitches at on purpose saying, "It was always retaliation for my teammates."
Jason Varitek is working with the catchers and Tim Wakefield is expected to make an appearance as well. Next
The starting rotation
All of the team’s starting pitchers will throw 2 innings or 35 pitches before switching out during this week's games. John Lackey (pictured) will open against the Rays on Saturday, John Lester against the Cardinals on Sunday, Steven Wright on Monday verses the Blue Jays, and Alfredo Aceves on Tuesday when the Sox play the Rays again. Will Aceves stick as a starter? Will Lester be an ace? Can Lackey be more than a 5th starter? The rotation may be the key thing to watch this spring. Next
Who starts at shortstop?
There is still no word who will be playing shortstop for Opening Day, but John Farrell doesn't seem too concerned about it yet. Farrell told the media Sunday, "We've got a few other things to take care of before we get to that. We've got to get through Northeastern and BC first." Stephen Drew and Jose Iglesias are battling for the position. Next
Mike Napoli has a hip condition, but he reportedly had no symptoms come Sunday’s practice. The team is still favoring David Ortiz’s Achilles tendon, allowing batting practice and agility drills but keeping him from running bases at this time. Craig Breslow’s left shoulder is slowly getting better; he’s been playing long toss at 75 feet and should be in good shape for the start of the season. And the only thing standing between Clay Buccholz and some playing time is a few running drills to clear that pesky hamstring. Next
The Sox have a jam-packed week of pre-season baseball ahead of them.
-- Thursday: Doubleheader against Northeastern University and Boston College.
-- Saturday: The Grapefruit League Opener against the Rays at JetBlue Stadium.
-- Sunday: The Sox will take on the St. Louis Cardinals.
-- Monday: The Red Sox first encounter with the Blue Jays since last season.
-- Tuesday: The Red Sox will take on the Tampa Bay Rays again for the second time in four days. Back to the beginning
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