BOSTON (CBS) — Baseball will be back next month, and for that, most are happy. Others were turned off by the months-long bickering between players and owners, but they too will probably be happy when games start to be played at the end of July.
We know for a fact that WBZ-TV’s Dan Roche is pretty amped for the return of baseball. He’s sick of throwing a ball against the wall and thinking about the glory days of yesteryear, even if the 2020 Red Sox aren’t expected to add to the organization’s recent success.
After all the turnover of the offseason — from the Mookie Betts trade to Alex Cora’s ousting to Chris Sale undergoing Tommy John surgery — Boston is viewed as a rebuilding team this year. The expectations are low, and the World Series hopes are nonexistent. But in a 60-game season that is more of a sprint than the usual MLB marathon, anything can happen. Especially when you ask Rochie.
To get WBZ’s resident baseball man and fellow fans ready for the new abbreviated season, we hit Roche with 10 burning Red Sox questions about the 2020 season. So grab some peanuts, cracker jacks and an ice cold beverage, cram yourself into an uncomfortable seat, and prepare yourself for some Red Sox baseball :
1. OK, Mr. Optimistic, what is a realistic expectation for the Red Sox this season?
In a condensed season, it’s imperative that the Sox get off to a good start. Eduardo Rodriguez and Nathan Eovaldi have to lead the way with 2-3 good, solid starts and then the bullpen needs to be strong. And, it has a chance to do just that with Darwinzon Hernandez, Marcus Walden, Heath Hembree, Ryan Brasier, Matt Barnes, Brandon Workman, etc. If the bullpen puts it together, the Sox have a chance.
The lineup – minus Mookie Betts – is definitely weaker, but should still produce. Ron Roenicke has some options. Here’s a possible order:
1. Andrew Benintendi, RF
2. Jose Peraza, 2B
3. Rafael Devers, 3B
4. J.D. Martinez, DH
5. Xander Bogaerts, SS
6. Mitch Moreland/Michael Chavis, 1B
7. Alex Verdugo/Kevin Pillar, RF
8. Christian Vazquez, C
9. Jackie Bradley Jr., CF
Peraza could be huge in the two-spot of he can get back to the form he had in 2018 in Cincinnati, when he hit .288 with 31 doubles and 85 runs scored as their leadoff or No. 2 hitter. If not, then maybe Verdugo could plug into the two-hole — if healthy. Of course, Bogaerts could move up there, but I’d like to leave him alone in the fifth spot.
It won’t be easy, but with a good start the Sox could battle for a playoff spot. Think about it like it’s only April and May of a regular season and anything can happen. Why not?
2. Will this 60-game season benefit the team or hurt their chances at a postseason run?
I think the 60 games helps because losing Sale/Price for 20 starts instead of 60 is huge. It allows you to mix and match and use your bullpen in a sprint fashion as opposed to a marathon. Win today and hold nothing back. Maybe it works.
3. Who is the leader of this team with Mookie Betts no longer around?
Xander Bogaerts is the guy. He just needs to continue his steady hand, on and off the field. He’s won two rings and has respect from everyone. I think he’s got a good group around him too, a collection of guys who love to play the game and understand Boston.
4. With Chris Sale out for the year and David Price with Mookie in L.A., who is the team’s ace?
Eduardo Rodriguez just needs to go out and pitch and not worry about anything else. My fear is that he misses the guidance, calmness, and motivation that Alex Cora provided. But, he has to be the ace. Nathan Eovaldi has ace stuff, but there’s always a worry about his health.
5. Who should be Boston’s closer?
Brandon Workman. End of discussion. He was great last season and deserves to be in that role.
6. How many dingers will Raffy Devers hit in this shortened season – and will he lead the team?
He hit 32 (along with 54 doubles) as a 22-year-old last season and is one of the best hitters in the game. The only question is whether he comes into camp in good shape, ready to go. If he does, there’s no reason for him not to hit 10-15 homers and lead a dangerous heart of the lineup with Martinez and Bogaerts.
7. Will Andrew Benintendi bounce back?
That’s a good question. He’s a key to the team’s success. He worked hard in the first offseason to get his swing/approach back, and if he comes out of the gate looking and feeling good then the Sox offense will follow his lead.
8. Who will make more highlight-reel catches – JBJ or Kevin Pillar?
Great competition and a lot of ground covered when they’re out there together. Benintendi can just stand in left field and think about hitting. I’ll give the nod to JBJ because he’s more familiar with center field and can call off Pillar to make some of those difficult catches.
9. Which prospect has the best chance to make some noise in the Majors?
Really hard to figure this one out in this bizarre short season. I’ll take pitcher Tanner Houck, who could emerge out of the bullpen where the Sox will need all the help they can get.
10. This is more for after the 2020 season, but will Alex Cora be back on the Boston bench next season?
I think it depends on how this sprint goes with Ron Roenicke, and if Chaim Bloom wants to work with Alex or has another man in mind outside of the organization that he thinks will be a long term solution. Bloom may have always said to himself, “If I become a GM someday, I want ____ to be my guy.” That GM-Manager dynamic is everything in today’s game. But, I also think that Bloom would be open to a Cora return if the players AND ownership come to him saying it’s the right move.
No matter what happens, it’s nice to have baseball back, isn’t it?