Roche: 3 Questions For 2014 Boston Red Sox
BALTIMORE (CBS) — As the Red Sox begin their defense of the 2013 World Series title, here are three key questions that surround the team:
1) Can they stay healthy?
This is probably the biggest question mark coming in. Any team that wins a World Series needs good health – especially their stars – and the Sox are no different. Jon Lester, John Lackey, Clay Buchholz, Koji Uehara, David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia, and on it goes.
But injuries are inevitable, and a team can certainly survive them if they have the depth. It all depends on how severe an injury is, and you need others to not just step in but to take over. The Sox proved that last year when they lost a pair of closers early in the season, but were saved by the emergence of Uehara.
Shane Victorino and David Ortiz are banged up to begin the 2014 campaign, with Victorino perhaps eyeing a trip to the DL with a hamstring injury. However, we saw last year just how good Victorino is when playing through all kinds of injuries, and he’ll likely have to do the same throughout the long season ahead.
The health of Grady Sizemore is a whole different question in itself. It’s amazing how good he looked in spring training after missing two entire seasons with injuries – and he really hasn’t been a full-time player since 2008. What will he be able to give? That still remains unclear, but the Sox will ride it as long as he can.
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2) Can the Sox produce the 2013 team chemistry that carried them to a title?
Last year’s team had such great chemistry, but like most teams there was turnover in the off-season. Now we have to see how Sizemore, A.J. Pierzynski, and others newcomers fit in with the core that is already in place.
Finding that team chemistry is not an easy thing to do. Jason Varitek used to always tell me the same thing when I asked him about the clubhouse: “Come see me in late August when we’ve been through ups and downs on and off the field. I’ll let you know then.”
Losing streaks (Boston’s longest last year was three games – which is ridiculous!) can bring out the best and worst in players and each group is different. The 2013 Red Sox was a solidified group coming out of spring training, and they were all about playing good fundamental baseball. They’ll have to repeat that approach this season, and it sounds like they’re doing just that. Resiliency is a big word with this team and you get the feeling they’ll need it.
It will be fascinated watching it unfold because I do like the character of this team. Guys who, first and foremost, love the game of baseball. We’ll see if that can carry them through the season.
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3) Will the pitching hold up?
Jon Lester has grown up a bit in the last two years and is at the point of his career where he’s one of the best starters in the game — both on and off the field. He wants the ball, he pounds the strike zone, and he wants to lead the way for the Boston Red Sox.
The question is, can the starters behind him hold up? John Lackey looked like the 2013 Lackey in spring training and that’s huge for this ball club. If Lackey is anything, he is consistent. Clay Buchholz can win a CY Young, if he finally stays healthy. On paper both Peavy and Doubront are winners, but can they give the Sox 20 wins between the two of them?
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We know the Sox have great depth down in Double-A and Triple-A, but can they come up and be good when needed? This is when we bring up that “bridge” word. There will be bumps in the road, no doubt, but how does it affect the winning and losing in Boston while these kids grow? That’s the big question.
As far as the bullpen goes, there are questions there too. Can Koji dominate the way he did last season? Can he give you anything close? I think he can. After that, I think the addition of Edwin Mujica was huge to throw into the set-up mix.
John Farrell reiterated this theme again before the opener. It’s pitching pitching, and pitching. The Sox have plenty of it. Let’s see if it can carry them to the playoffs.
Follow WBZ-TV’s Dan Roche on Twitter @RochieWBZ.
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