Okay. Spring Training is officially in full swing. We can say that because now the entire roster is officially in Fort Myers. In reality, most of the entire roster has been down there for some time because they were early. Like I said, this is a good thing. It may have made Tuesday, when all the position players were supposed to report which would mark the definitive moment when the team started preparing for what is supposed to be a championship season, pretty anticlimactic, but it means they’ll get some extra training in, which is obviously good.
But now that everyone’s there and ready to get going, it’s finally time to talk about what we want to see from each of them this year.
I want to see at least thirty starts from Beckett, Lackey, and Dice-K. Lester and Buchholz absolutely can not be expected to shoulder the load of an entire season. So at least thirty starts each. Especially from Beckett. Beckett decided to tweak is offseason training regimen, focusing this winter on core stability. He lost some weight, he feels great, and he looks good, which is a huge relief, because his last season was abysmal. Lackey also switched up his offseason routine; he got a new trainer, and ran more and focused on cardio exercises. So he’s also lost some weight, he’s moving around better, and of course he’s heading into his sophomore season with us, which is when new Boston pitchers really get going. So I expect some seriously stellar stuff from him. He’s starting our first Grapefruit League game today. As far as Dice-K is concerned, there’s not much to say. 2007 was a miracle year for him. I call it a miracle year because he hasn’t been able to duplicate it in Boston since. He’s had about as many issues with durability and consistency as anyone could possibly tolerate, and all I want to see from him this year is health. I only want to see him not go on the DL. That’s all I want. At this point, that really shouldn’t be too much to ask. He looks good in camp as well so far. Most of the rotation threw thirty pitches in their first side session. He threw forty-five. If he can support that work, that’s fine. I just want to see him penciled into every fifth start for an entire year.
As far as Lester and Buchholz are concerned, there’s not much I want to see that I haven’t seen already. From Lester, I want to see two things: a better month of April and a lower walk total. Every year without fail, his Aprils are terrible. And last season may have been a good one for him overall, but it also was marked by eighty-three walks, a career high. He’s going to fix that problem with brute focus. In baseball, you can never afford to take it easy and assume an out. So turn up the voltage in April and turn down the walks, and we’re talking Cy Young. And while he’s at it, twenty wins would be nice too. Regarding Buchholz, like I said, there’s not much I want to see that I haven’t seen already. He’s not setting any statistical goals for himself this year. But I’m not him, so I say twenty wins from him as well also be nice.
I want to see at least forty-five saves from Paps. He’s had a sub-par year, but he’s still an elite closer. But if he wants to keep that title, he’s got some work to do. He blew too many saves we couldn’t afford to blow. He’s surpassed the forty-save mark before, in 2008 with forty-one, but after some of the numbers he put up last season, in an ideal world I’d like to see something spectacular from him.
From the bullpen collectively, I want to see it pick up slack. I want it to be a sturdy, viable go-to option for Tito in any scenario. Our bullpen is powerful, capable, and diverse, and there’s no reason why it shouldn’t be able to sustain a season’s worth of work, giving starters and closer a day off here and there, bailing them out when necessary, and still have plenty of health in the tank. This year, I want to not hold my breath when I see Tito pick up that phone.
From Adrian Gonzalez, I want to see everything we’re hoping for: good defense and good offense over the long term. It’s pretty basic. We acquired him for a reason. This is his first year with us, and he had the surgery on his right shoulder, so he may not be at his one-hundred-percent best, but I want to see something pretty close. Something in the ballpark (pun intended) of upwards of 130 RBIs. This is obviously a stretch. Obviously. But at Fenway, I don’t think it’s as much of a stretch as it would be elsewhere. Adrian Gonzalez was born to step up to the plate in a close game and just take batting practice off the Green Monster.
From Pedroia, I’m going for playing time. He’s one of our toughest players, and I want to see him spend as much time as he possibly can on the field and at the plate. I still don’t even like thinking about that foul ball that just happened to hit that one spot on the top of his foot (what are the chances?), and all I want is for him to be back and action. Let’s say 650 plate appearances. He’s done it before, and he can do it again.
From Scutaro, I want to see an increase in offensive production across the board. I want him to not be a weak link in the otherwise strong chain of our lineup. I don’t want him to be a sigh of relief for opposing pitchers, especially since his durability is really solid; he made a career-high 632 plate appearances last season, and that with his own fair share of various ailments. From Scutaro and also from Varitek, I want to see an OPS close to .800. From Salty, I want to see reassurance in some form that he’ll be able to not only do his job but do his job well. Because, to be honest with you, he worries me.
From Youk on the field, I want to see what I saw at first base, at third. And I want to see him reach his self-set goal of posting a .980 OPS this year. He was close last year. This isn’t an unrealistic expectation.
Papi needs to increase his production on southpaws. Last season, this was a noticeable fault, and it created problems not just for the team and its ability to win but also for his own ability to succeed. If he continues to be weak against lefties, he’ll have to be taken out of the lineup against lefties. That means that any roll he happens to be on at the moment will be interrupted. That happened last season, and it wasn’t good. With everyone pressuring him with all their negative expectations, he’s fighting a psychological battle that won’t be helped by time on the bench.
When it comes to Crawford, I’m thinking about runs scored. Runs scored is an interesting statistic because it’s affected by so many things: hits, walks, and steals. With the emphasis on that last one for this guy. His speed will play a very intriguing role in his ability to score runs, and I’m looking for at least a hundred. He scored 110 last season, good for seventh in the Majors. Put someone like that on the base paths with a potent lineup like ours, and it should be a walk in the park. Pun obviously intended. He’ll be debuting Monday against the Twins.
Let’s talk about Ellsbury. Ellsbury had the entire season and offseason to rest, recover, and recoup from his injury. And he is now officially completely healthy. He has absolutely no restrictions on his movement and is fully prepared for Spring Training. He’s going back to center field where he belongs, so I want to see plenty of classic diving catches on the run. He’ll probably bat first, so I want to see good production in leadoff right out of the gate. And, since no conversation about Ellsbury would ever be complete without a mention of steals, I’d like to see him steal something like sixty bags this year.
Put together my goals for Dice-K and Papi and you have my goal for Drew: stay off the disabled list and increase production against southpaws. He has the potential to be a great hitter; he’s shown himself to be such in the past. But he’s not going to have much of an impact if he spends a lot of time on the bench or if he doesn’t seize at-bats against lefties as his times to shine. By the way, his left hamstring is doing much better, and he’s out on the field, which is a good sign. Also, this year is actually a contract year. He’s at the end of his five-year deal. So maybe he’ll pick it up a notch.
Last but certainly not least, from the team as a whole I want to see a picture of health, at least fifty wins at home, at least one hundred wins overall, and a World Series. Boom. Done. What could be better than that?
The team has already had its first official full workout. It went very well. And it started with a standing ovation for the ownership group, honoring the moves they made this winter. That’s extremely unusual. Players don’t give standing ovations to the front office and the brass just because they went out and made some acquisitions. But as usual, in Boston we know how to do it right, and that was right. We one-hit Boston College, beating them for the twenty-first time yesterday, and we crushed Northeastern, 13-2, in the nightcap. Clearly we’re off to a proper start.
In other news, the Bruins signed defenseman Shane Hnidy. And we won both of our games this week, the first against the Flames, the last against the Canucks, and we’re playing the Oilers tonight.
Boston Globe Staff/Jim Davis
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