Finally! The day we’ve all been waiting for! Ladies and gentlemen, Opening Day has finally arrived. It’s been one long, hard winter, but winter is over, my friends. Spring Training is done. It goes down tonight at 8:00PM. Get ready to welcome the 2010 Boston Red Sox in Fenway Park! Oh, and we’re playing the Yankees. Basically, this is the greatest baseball day ever in the past half-year or so.
There’s only one minor snag: technically it’s Opening Night, not Opening Day. I’m not calling it Opening Night. When ESPN wants its ratings, ESPN gets its ratings. Who cares about the fact that this is only the most important day in the daily lives of Red Sox Nation and an entire region of the United States, right? Ugh. ESPN. That’s all I’m saying. And the worst part is that we can’t even make a statement by engaging in the TV boycott that so many are suggesting because, let’s face it, we’ve been baseball-starved for way too long and absolutely will not and can not miss Opening Day in Boston against the Yankees. And don’t think ESPN doesn’t know that. You just can’t win with them. It’s infuriating.
Speaking of ESPN, they hired Curt Schilling to do analysis on Baseball Tonight. Because apparently all former Sox stars must be employed immediately to do analysis on Baseball Tonight. Hey, at least they have good taste in teams.
The lineup: Ellsbury, Pedroia, V-Mart, Youk, Papi, Beltre, Drew, Cameron, Scutaro. Boom. Done. And I have to say, I like it. If Ellsbury can get going in the lead-off spot, we’re golden. Can’t go wrong with the one-two-three punch of Pedroia, V-Mart, and Youk. If Papi has a solid year, the first half of this lineup will be impenetrable. I really like Beltre separating Papi and Drew; that way, the opposition can’t just throw a lefty in there. Cameron in eighth; no surprise there. And I like Scutaro in ninth because he’ll give some punch to the bottom half of the order. When you have a decent hitter batting last, you lengthen your innings because there’s no guaranteed out at the bottom, and you force a turnover.
The roster is done. Outfielders: Drew, Cameron, and Ellsbury, with Hermida as the spare man. Infielders: Youk, Pedroia, Beltre, Scutaro, and Lowell, with Hall as the spare man. Catchers are V-Mart and Tek, obviously. We know the rotation is Beckett, Lester, Lackey, Wake, and Buchholz. Beckett’s got the speed, Lester is the model southpaw, Lackey throws the first-pitch strike, Wake has the knuckleball, and Buchholz throws off-speeds like nobody’s business. (Provided he’s on.)
The bullpen includes Ramon Ramirez, Paps, Bard, Okajima, and Delcarmen, with Schoeneweis and Atchison earning the final two spots. Hey, if they earn them, they earn them. And it hasn’t been easy. Schoeneweis’s wife died last year, and Atchison returned from Japan to get better medical care for his daughter. Good luck to both of them, and we salute you.
This was the last week of Spring Training, the last week of tune-ups, so any last-minute kinks had to have been worked out by today. None of our arms disappointed. Everyone looks primed and ready for actions, if you ask me. I can’t wait to unleash this rotation on the rest of the league. We’re talking epic domination this season.
Lester finished up on Wednesday. One run on three hits in seven innings say he’s good to go. V-Mart went hard twice, Frandsen (who knew?) blasted a grand slam, and Pedroia went three for five.
Lackey had his final tune-up on Thursday; one run on six hits over five. That’s kind of a high hit total for Lackey, but one run makes it hard to argue. Delcarmen struggled; Schoeneweis pitched a scoreless inning. Scutaro, Tek, and Lowell all had a good day; it was the first time Lowell played in back-to-back games this spring, and he was actually pretty decent.
On Friday, Buchholz allayed concerns with a solid set of six innings; one run on two hits, and that was it. Paps’s ninth was scoreless; Bard sent down his two batters in quick succession. Tek smacked a three-run double; Ortiz smacked a double of his own. Reddick’s Grapefruit League average is now .404. Really, it’s a shame he’s back in the minors. That kid’s got Major Leagues written all over him.
Wake pitched himself four shutout frames yesterday. The only trouble he had was back-to-back singles with one out. If that’s the only kind of trouble he has all season, I think we’re good. He finishes Spring Training with a 3.04 ERA. Surgery? What surgery? Dice-K relieved him for four solid frames. That’s what I call encouraging. I would’ve preferred that Dice-K not have walked three batters, but this is no time to be picky. Youk and Drew went yard.
Hermida’s back in action as of Friday. Ellsbury rested his throwing shoulder this past week, so I expect some serious firing from left. Youk fouled a ball off his knee on Wednesday, but he’s fine. Ortiz was scratched on Thursday with a stiff neck but came back on Friday. Junichi Tazawa is out for the season; he needs Tommy John surgery. We’re getting close to a contract extension with Beckett that would keep him here through 2014 for $68 million.
Basically, what it comes down to is the fact that we’re going to win tonight. At least, we all hope so, and you know how it is in Boston. You gotta believe. But seriously, objectively speaking, I think we’re better. Just take it position by position. Our rotation is very obviously better. Our bullpen is clearly better. Our outfield is clearly better. Most of our infield is better. Our catchers are better. We’re just better. The great part is that that has nothing to do with keeping the faith; that’s just a verifiable fact. Which will be proven tonight. Let’s get this season started right.
Two wins and two losses this week for the Bruins. We’re seventh in the conference, two behind the Habs and two above the Flyers. It’s better than being seeded last, but let’s overtake the Habs if we can.
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