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Random spring training Red Sox thoughts

Posted by Peter Abraham, Globe Staff  March 12, 2014 09:15 AM

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FORT MYERS, Fla. The Red Sox are off today. Seems like a good time for some random thoughts and observations from camp:

The Grade Sizemore renaissance is quite stunning. To watch him play is to have no idea that he missed the last two years entirely with an assortment of injuries. He works at-bats, makes contact and is running well.

But here's the problem: It's wildly unreasonable to expect him to be an everyday player. No matter how healthy he is, going from zero games over two years to, say, 125 games is hard to imagine.

If Sizemore is on the team, Jackie Bradley Jr. almost has to be. The alternative is playing Shane Victorino in center field and having somebody in right field who doesn't really belong in right field.

The Red Sox can't keep six outfielders. If you start with Sizemore, Bradley and Victorino, somebody has to go from the Mike Carp, Jonny Gomes, Daniel Nava left field group.

The Craig Breslow thing is suspicious. He says he's healthy and John Farrell says the same. But several weeks into camp, he's just now throwing a bullpen? That doesn't make much sense.

Rich Hill showed up last week and has already thrown several bullpens and will face hitters today.

Breslow is being treated like a pitcher who has a sore shoulder, which was his problem at this time last season. Maybe the Red Sox are just being ultra-cautious, but something is not quite right.

The Red Sox will keep as many players as they can under their control when it comes time to make their roster. They know that who is on the Opening Day roster doesn't mean anything over the course of a long season.

That said, they're not a better team if Brandon Workman is in Triple A. He's clearly one of their best 12 pitchers.

The Sox added an extra coach to Pawtucket's staff this season. One of Bruce Crabbe's duties will be teaching some of the same base-running skills and philosophies that Brian Butterfield is preaching in the majors. He'll do the same with some defensive aspects of the game.

The idea is for players to be better prepared for the nuances when they're called up. It's the kind of thing that could help win a game.

There's not a speck of evidence that Koji Uehara is the least bit affected by last season's workload. Same guy, same pitches, same efficiency.

It has been a redemptive spring training for Bryce Brentz and Drake Britton so far. Brentz had his invite to camp rescinded when he shot himself in the leg last year. Now he's mashing at the plate. Britton was exiled to the minor league camp after a drunk driving arrest in 2013. Now he's one of the most impressive pitchers in camp, Tuesday's loss aside.

It's a long season, but public perception is not reality with A.J. Pierzynski. He has blended in well and shown no signs of wanting to be anything but a good teammate. Guy can hit, too. His power is going to play at Fenway.

The Red Sox were trying too hard on Tuesday when they had the count announced during the game at JetBlue Park. For starters, the count is on the scoreboard for anybody who cares to know. Announcing it smacks of the Sox telling people what they should care about.

People can decide what they care about and if they care about the count, they can turn their heads an inch and look at the scoreboard. Games are too noisy as it is. We need fewer distractions at the ballpark, not more.

A ballgame is a great place to have a conversation with a friend. Announcements should be only when needed.

No fan should purchase a ticket for a spring training game with the expectation of seeing any particular player or players. Spring training is to get ready for the season, not to entertain a crowd. You assume the risk of seeing minor leaguers when you purchase a ticket.

The Marlins were at fault for the lineup hubbub with the Red Sox because they jacked up ticket prices to swindle Sox fans. The Sox are responsible to get ready for the season, not validate marketing schemes by other teams.

There's some chatter about the Braves being interested in moving to the Fort Myers area after their lease with Disney is up in 2017. The Sox would welcome another team to cut down on travel, especially a National League team.

Defensive versatility, and therefore added depth, is very big for the Sox. They're actively looking for players who can learn another position. Mike Carp and Travis Shaw could get some reps at third base.

Pitcher Henry Owens is very talented and it's never smart to evaluate a player in spring training. But he hasn't knocked anybody's socks off in camp. Anthony Ranaudo, for instance, is trying to show people what he can do. Owens seems almost disinterested.

Jacoby Ellsbury will steal a lot of bases for the Yankees. But he won't against the Red Sox once Christian Vazquez becomes their catcher. A scout said the other day that Vazquez will be the American League version of Yadier Molina in terms of stopping a running game. Will that be later this season or not until 2015?

Ryan Lavarnway, the catcher stuck in the middle, is starting to hit again.

Safest bet out there: Torey Lovullo is managing his own team next season.

Met Shunsuke Watanabe the other day and he seems like a delightful guy. The 37-year-old submariner from Japan is in minor league camp and clearly is enjoying himself. But his fastball is slower than traffic to the airport and would get hammered in the American League. It's hard to picture the Sox even keeping him in Triple A.

Ryan Kalish has a chance to make the Cubs. Good for him after two injury filled years.

Red Sox players say Stephen Drew now regrets not taking the qualifying offer when he had the chance. But the veteran players have turned from the idea that the team needs Drew back. That was the case at the beginning of camp, but not since they've had a chance to see Will Middlebrooks re-commit himself.

Xander Bogaerts is not going to win a Gold Glove playing shortstop. But the idea that he could be a liability there is wrong. A position player should be viewed in terms in how many runs he produces with the bat and how many runs he saves (or perhaps costs) with his glove.

Bogaerts is going to add enough to the run differential with his bat to more than offset whatever loss there is with his glove. If he's an adequate, league-average defensive shortstop, the bat makes that position a significant plus to the Red Sox.

Quiz: This player has 572 strikeouts in 1,749 career at-bats in the National League and his slugging percentage dropped 128 points last season. He doesn't run very well and his outfield play dropped in quality last season, according to metrics and several advance scouts.

It's Giancarlo Stanton.

He's a great power hitter and that's always fun. But do the Red Sox really want to get back in the habit of shedding prospects for another team's standout player?

The Red Sox front office has shown the ability to work the margins well and make economically sound deals that lead to a well-balanced roster. But the last two can't-miss stars who had to come to Boston Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez are now in Los Angeles.

The Marlins have gotten Stanton's production on the cheap for four years and can wring another few years out of him if they choose. Picking up a guy just as he's going to get expensive makes little sense.

Finally, it's worth noting that the Red Sox medical staff seems to have regained the trust of the players after all the changes Ben Cherington made. After several years of poor internal communication (and external communication for that matter), medical issues are under control again.

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