Thursday, February 18, 2010

Sox spring training has arrived...

...and questions have already arisen.

I am not talking about Dice-K and his slight back strain. As a matter of fact, ever since Dice withheld the fact that he pulled his groin last year before spring training, I am happy that he discloses information now if he has so much as a bloody nose. This is a good indication that he is apologetic for his conduct last season and is fully committed to doing the right thing. Back strains will happen. These guys have the best doctors in the world at their disposal and he is going to be just fine.

I am also not concerned about contract negotiations with Victor Martinez. It is not uncommon for Theo Epstein to want to hold off negotiations until the end of the season. Do the Red Sox want V-Mart? I cannot imagine why not. Will some other team swoop in and snag him? Well, given the Red Sox stance on negotiations and the past and present history of failed negotiations (A-Rod, Damon, Teixeira, Bay) there is always a possibility of that. But other than running with one of my favorite baseball cards, Theo has done a lot of good for the organization, so I trust that if Martinez is the heir apparent to one of my all-time favorite Sox Jason Varitek, then he will get it done.

I am also not concerned about any friction between Mikey Lowell and Adrien Beltre. While I have to admit that it is a pretty awkward situation, Mike Lowell is a professional, understands that this is a business, and is going to work with experienced trainers to heal his thumb and take a trade ticket out of town. I do like Lowell quite a bit, but I am very curious to see what all the Seattle fans rave about in Beltre. Most compliments have been directed towards his efficient fielding record, but I also know that the Monsta can be pretty magical to hitters who have the right swing. Lowell and Bay both made a living tagging dents into the wall, and I imagine that Beltre and Cameron will have the same abilities.

Where I AM concerned is with the apparent conversations taking place revolving around who the fifth starter will be in Boston this year. Word from Francona is that he considers Wakefield a starter. This would create a five-player rotation of (in some order) Lester,Lackey, Beckett, Dice-K, and Wakefield....who is missing from this picture? Clay Buccholz, that's who.

I like Wakefield, I really do. He was a major part of the 2004 World Series championship by filling is some massive bullpen duties when Schilling got hurt in Anaheim. He also is beneficially in the regular season when you pitch him in a series between two high-speed hurlers. It really throws off the timing of the other team to go from mid 90's fastballs to mid 70's knucklers, and then back to fastballs the next day. Wakefield has his qualities.

The problem is not character, it is durability. And for several seasons now that back is just not up to snuff and it always seems to go out when the team needs him the most, in July and August. I feel that a guy like Wake could be more beneficial in middle relief when trying to hold the opposition at bay while the Red Sox mount a rally...or also as a setup man in specific situations. He is versatile and can be used in a variety of ways.

Enter Clay much more does Clay need to do to earn a starting spot? Yeah he had a tough haul two years back, but he went back down to Pawtucket, worked out the kinks and every time he was called on last season, he came through big. He has done everything that the Red Sox have asked him to do, so when does he get his shot? Is there some underlying character issues that we do not know about? What is the deal?

I guess the Sox can do what they always have, and wait for a DL injury to promote Buchholz into the rotation again. I don't agree with that route though. I say run through spring training, get your confidence, take a spot in the rotation, and never give it up again. I'm not saying that this is not a possibility and could be the Red Sox plan all along, but when I hear these discussions about Wakefield as a starter, it just seems like spinning the wheels. Why don't you just throw Timlin back into the setup role and go see if Alan Embree is available. Hell, even Petey is still out there if you want to make him your ace again.

Clay deserves the spot.

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