Welcome back to Read Sox. This week we consider Pablo Sandoval’s weight, the open competition for the fifth spot in the starting rotation, Clay Buchholz being named the number two starter, how Chris Young is going to get his at-bats and a look at the beginning of David Ortiz’s farewell season.
The positional players reported for Spring Training this week. Among them was Pablo Sandoval, who caused quite the stir amongst the Boston fans and media after he showed up overweight and then held a press conference in which he gave various unflattering answers about his offseason, weight and motivation for the upcoming season. Dan Shaughnessy of The Boston Globe joined in on the barrage of fat-shaming pieces about Sandoval, despite saying last season he never would, and John Tomase of WEEI provided some further context to the situation. In my view, this week has been an embarrassing one for the Boston media and its fans. The Red Sox signed Sandoval to a five-year deal prior to last season. At the time, his nickname for years had been “Panda.” In fact, the Red Sox did a marketing push following his signing playing on the Panda nickname.
News flash: Sandoval was not given the Panda nickname for his skinny body type. Rather, he was given the Panda nickname because he was famously overweight while playing for the San Francisco Giants. Sandoval was overweight when he helped the Giants win three World Series, even winning one World Series MVP. He was overweight in his 39 playoff games, in which he compiled a .344 BA, 6 HRs and 20 RBIs. He was overweight in his 12 World Series games, in which he compiled a .426 BA, 3 HRs and 8 RBIs. He was overweight when he was voted an All-Star in 2011 and 2012. He was overweight when his home run totals in 2012 and 2013 were 12 and 14, not much different than the 10 he hit in 2015. And he was overweight during his final three seasons in San Francisco when his average season was 14 HRs, 73 RBIs and a .278 BA. Those numbers are much stronger than what he produced in his first season in Boston, but would they satisfy Red Sox fans? The point is, who did the Red Sox, including Tom Werner, think they were getting when they signed Sandoval? He was, is and always will be an overweight, average regular-season player.
As Jason Mastrodonato of the Boston Herald recently discussed, John Farrell began Spring Training by opening up a competition for the fifth spot in the starting rotation, much to the delight of Henry Owens, who genuinely believes he has a chance to win the job over Joe Kelly. With that being said, Kelly is the favorite, as the Red Sox will want to see if his finish to last season can be replicated. Over his final nine starts of 2015, Kelly went 8-0 with a 3.00 ERA over 51 innings. However, that is not to say there is not a path forward for Owens, who actually finished last season with a better ERA than Kelly, albeit in fewer innings. In 2015, Owens finished with 11 starts, 63 innings, 24 walks, 50 strikeouts and a 4.57 ERA. In fact, considering he surrendered at least seven runs in three of his 11 starts, his 4.57 ERA is fairly impressive.
Chris Young began his first Spring Training with the Red Sox and outlined his plan to attack the Green Monster this season, per ESPN.com’s Rick Weber. Young was signed to a two-year deal in the offseason, with the idea of him being their fourth outfielder behind Mookie Betts, Jackie Bradley, Jr. and Rusney Castillo. Young is much stronger against left-handers than righties, finishing with a .327 BA, 7 HRs and 24 RBIs last season against southpaws, which is why many thought Young would get most of his at-bats this year against left-handers. However, according to John Farrell, Young is going to start against every left-hander the Red Sox face this season. Although Farrell did not note who Young would primarily play for — Castillo or Bradley — it will probably depend upon who is swinging the bat better at the time, as both are substantially better against righties than lefties.
Clay Buchholz is “probably” going to be the Red Sox number two starter to begin the season, per WEEI.com’s Rob Bradford, which makes complete sense given his track record. With apologies to Rick Porcello, the only other potential candidate is Eduardo Rodriguez, but he does not need that added pressure on him in only his second season. Plus, how a team lines up their starters to begin a year is more symbolic than anything else and Buchholz, as the veteran of the rotation, deserves that spot. Plus, do not forget, this is a pitcher who is only two years removed from being 12-1 with a 1.74 era. As for his injury-shortened 2015, he was quite good, compiling a 3.26 ERA over his 18 starts. And over Buchholz’s final five starts. he pitched 34.1 innings and surrendered only 4 runs.
Bradford also examined the journey Roenis Elias has taken to the Red Sox. As you all know, the Red Sox acquired him in their offseason trade with the Seattle Mariners for Wade Miley.
Christopher Smith of Mass Live explained John Farrell’s conundrum regarding Hanley Ramirez’s defense, and it revolves around wanting to keep his bat in the lineup every day.
David Ortiz arrived for what is supposed to be the last Spring Training of his playing career. Dan Shaughnessy thought Ortiz hit a home-run in his opening remarks to the media. Rick Weber of ESPN discussed how the Red Sox and Ortiz do not want his final year to be a distraction to the team.
Photo by Nick Tuchiaro/USA Today Sports Images