BOSTON (CBS) — While the snow is piling up around Boston, spring is just around the corner for their beloved baseball team.
The famous equipment truck will depart from Fenway Park for Fort Myers on Thursday (weather permitting, of course) and pitchers and catchers have their first workout a week from Saturday.
The Super Bowl champion New England Patriots (and those large snow piles) have dominated the headlines the last few weeks, so it was easy to overlook the boys of summer and their rapidly approaching season. So on Tuesday, 98.5 The Sports Hub’s Toucher & Rich welcomed The Boston Globe’s Peter Abraham on the show to cover all the bases.
– James Shields signed with the San Diego Padres on Monday. Does this help or hurt Boston’s efforts if they want to trade for Phillies’ ace Cole Hamels?
“I think it [helps]. I don’t know if it necessarily means they’ll trade for Hamels, but it certainly takes one of the suitors (San Diego) out of the mix and that can only help the Red Sox. Patience seems to be what Ben Cherington has wanted to do with this situtaion; he hasn’t budged on giving up Blake Swihart or Mookie Betts. So until the Phillies come to what the Red Sox want to do, the Red Sox look content on starting the season with what they have.”
— Do the Red Sox need an ace to win a World Series in 2015?
“You need to see what they have first, and then they can always [add an ace] in July. There are going to be a lot of pending free agents who are big-time pitchers and their teams, some of them, won’t be in contention. So deals could be made then. Hamels [will be available] at any time. If the Sox get into the middle of Spring Training and don’t feel they have enough they can turn to Hamels.”
— Moving behind the plate, who will be Boston’s backstops this season?
“In the immediate future it’s Christian Vasquez with Ryan Hanigan backing him up. They have Hanigan signed for two years and he’s a solid veteran guy, but I don’t know if he’ll ever be the regular guy. But Blake Swihart, who I wrote about today, is going to be here soon. He’s a switch-hitter, a former first-round pick, and everyone says he’s one of the best 10-12 prospects in baseball. At some point they need to figure out what’s going on with him, whether he’s playing another position, he’s catching or they trade him. One way or another, this is a guy who is going to force himself to the majors soon.”
— Who’s on first? Could it be Allen Craig?
“He’s signed for two more years after this at a pretty decent rate, so they could keep him around this year as a bench guy and then next year put him in at first, right field or somewhere else. (Shane) Victorino and (Mike) Napoli only have one more year on their deals, so it gives them some flexibility.”
— What can we expect from Dustin Pedroia after an injury-plagued 2014?
“This season is going to be a very interesting one for Dustin, because he’s coming off two surgeries in a calendar year on the same hand. For anybody that has had hand injuries in baseball there is some decline. He’s been saying all winter he feels great and everything has been going great, but he said that last year too and it wasn’t the case. How he looks this year at the plate will really determine the course of his career. We know how good he looked defensively — he won a gold glove last year — but the doubles, the home runs, the slugging percentage, none of that was there last year. How he looks this year, especially since he’s signed through 2021, this is going to be an interesting year for him and the Red Sox.”
— Should we be confident that Xander Bogaerts can handle shortstop?
“No, until we see him play a full year at shortstop I don’t think anyone can say that… I would think, based on how he reacted last year when they moved him, that staying at shortstop is going to help him. But until we see him go April to September we’re not going to know if he can play shortstop because he hasn’t done it before.”
— With Pablo Sandoval set at third base, we now move to the outfield. Who is Boston’s starting outfield on opening day?
“As it stands right now Hanley (Ramirez) is playing left field, but beyond that we don’t really know what to expect. You figure they didn’t give Rusney Castillo $72 million to sit, so he is probably going to play either center or right. Mookie Betts has been one of their better players and John Farrell has talked about him being their leadoff hitter, so you have to figure he is going to play. But if Shane Victorino is looking good how do you sit him? Allen Craig looks like he’ll be the odd man out to play a bunch of positions.
“It will be interesting if Victorino knows he can play — he’s not the kind of guy who is going to sit quietly and say he’ll be the fourth guy. He’s going to want to play.”
— And we’ll finish up with the back end of the bullpen. Koji Uehara struggled at the end of last season — can he continued to get the job done in the ninth inning?
“It’s a question mark, because this is a guy who had a bad turn at the end of last year. He came back and pitched a couple games, not as closer, and looked OK. But he’s closing in on 40 years old with a lot of innings on his arm, so you don’t really know what to expect. The Red Sox seem to have a lot of faith he can do it, giving him a two-year contract, but they’ve also stockpiled some guys behind him to close if they need them to: (Edward) Mujica, (Brandon) Workman, Robbie Ross. They have options, but it seems like they’re committed to Koji.”