As we deal with snow totals as tall as David Ortiz in and around Boston, the Red Sox are taking in the warmth of the Florida sun with spring training nearing full swing.
First full squad workout: Wednesday, Feb. 25
First game: Doubleheader Tuesday, March 3 at 1:05 p.m. against Boston College and Northeastern
Grapefruit League opener: Thursday, March 5 at 7:05 p.m. against the Twins.
If you go
Workout facility: Fenway South Player Development Complex, Lee County, Fla.
Spring training park: JetBlue Park at Fenway South
How to buy: 888-REDSOX6 or online.
Spring Training Decisions
The rotation: The Sox are comfortable with Clay Buchholz, Joe Kelly, Justin Masterson, Wade Miley, and Rick Porcello as their starters. But getting them in the right order and building some depth behind them will be a priority during camp.
Outfield alignment: Hanley Ramirez will start in left field. As for center field and right field, the Sox have Mookie Betts, Rusney Castillo, and Shane Victorino. Something has to give there.
Sorting out the bullpen: Outside of closer Koji Uehara and set-up men Junichi Tazawa and Craig Breslow, the Sox aren’t sure about their bullpen. There are about a dozen candidates for the other spots. Alexi Ogando, Robbie Ross, and Anthony Varvaro are at the head of the list.
Who’s at first: Mike Napoli was an early arrival to camp. He is recovering from two surgical procedures — including jaw reconstruction to cure sleep apnea — and may be a little behind his teammates. But he expects to be ready to start the season.
New stars: The Sox will welcome Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval to their roster this spring. The high-priced free agents are being counted on to rejuvenate a moribund offense.
Sox to Watch
Some spring trainings represent an act of going through the motions, with rosters largely set entering the year. However, that characterization does not fit this year’s Sox. Here are a handful of players with the most on the line:
Shane Victorino: It’s easy to forget now that Victorino, in the 122 games for which he was on the field in the 2013 regular season, was as valuable as — and arguably more valuable than — any other position players for a team that won the World Series. He offered outstanding right field defense, above-average power, and excellent baserunning with the ability to get on base and hit for average. He never shied from the spotlight, as evidenced by his becoming the first player to deliver the game-winning RBI in three different postseason clinchers. Victorino’s production, energy, and attitude were sorely missed by the Red Sox in 2014. But after the 34-year-old underwent season-ending back surgery last August, there’s little way to anticipate what kind of player he’ll be in the coming year. If he’s healthy, then there could be an emerging trade market for his services. Of course, if he’s healthy and looks anything like the player he was in 2013, then the Sox might also need to figure out a way to get him into the lineup. There’s a huge swing in terms of his potential role with the 2015 big league team. The uncertainty surrounding him coincides with his final year before reaching free agency. That combination of factors suggests a player who will be watched like none other in Sox camp.
Allen Craig: Over three years, from 2011-13, Craig developed a reputation as the best pure hitter on a Cardinals team in perennial World Series contention, posting a .312 average, .364 OBP, and .500 slugging mark. Then came 2014, when the absence of a normal offseason workout program (the result of his recovery from a foot injury) contributed to a horrific year in which he hit .215 with a .279 OBP and .346 slugging mark. His performance with the Red Sox after his mid-year trade from St. Louis ranked among the worst in team history, as he posted the second-lowest average (.128) and highest strikeout rate (33.6 percent) by a position player in team history (minimum 100 plate appearances). Craig doesn’t have a defined role, but if he looks anything like the middle-of-the-order force of 2011-13, he’ll find his way to one. Like Victorino, there’s a chance that could come with another team, with potential interest in him likely to heat up based on his spring performance. But given that Craig is under contract through 2017 (with an option for 2018) and could represent a successor to Mike Napoli at first base, he could also play his way into a part-time/depth role for 2015 with an eye toward a more significant role going forward. Of course, if he does not look like a productive player in the spring, then at a time when the Red Sox outfield is overcrowded, the team may feel compelled to subtract him from the roster.
If Xander Bogaerts flourishes, then the Sox’ overall potential will be considerable.
Jim Davis/Globe Staff
If Xander Bogaerts flourishes, then the Sox’ overall potential will be considerable.
Xander Bogaerts: With a Sox rotation that now features five starters with groundball rates that have ranked among the best in the majors over the duration of their careers, infield defense will be at a premium for the Sox. While Dustin Pedroia is a perennial Gold Glover at second, and Napoli and Sandoval grade as above-average at the corners, Bogaerts’s range will be a constant area of attention after an offseason spent working to improve his first-step quickness. There were times in 2014 when Bogaerts did not look like a major league-caliber defensive shortstop, and others where he started to look comfortable at the position. If he falls into the former category this season, the shortcoming will be exposed, especially with the prevalence of groundballs likely to be produced by Sox pitchers. Of course, as much as Bogaerts’s defense will fall in the spotlight, the Sox are willing to commit to him at short because they believe he has elite offensive potential at that position. That was evident in a couple stretches of 2014, but his season-ending offensive performance fell far short of expectations. If he flourishes, then the Sox’ overall potential will be considerable.
Mookie Betts/Rusney Castillo: If Victorino is healthy, a furious competition for the starting spots in center field and right field could play out between the veteran, Betts, and Castillo. Betts needs to prove that he’s comfortable enough as an everyday outfielder to supplant two players who have spent almost all of their careers there. Castillo must show more of what he offered glimpses of last year: Good bat-to-ball skills that will permit him to handle big league pitching while offering a measure of power to complement his above-average defensive and baserunning skills.
Matt Barnes, Henry Owens, Eduardo Rodgriguez, Brian Johnson and Edwin Escobar: Spring training serves as a platform for young pitchers to put themselves on the coaching staff’s radar. With a couple of dominant outings against big leaguers, members of this group have a chance to position themselves as high-priority callups who can be viewed as difference-makers in a pennant race. They also have an opportunity to influence whether the coaching staff views them as better fits for the rotation or bullpen.
Blake Swihart: A year ago, Blake Swihart went 3-for-7 with three singles and got hit by a pitch in his first taste of a big league spring training . He did so while remaining virtually unnoticed. He won’t enjoy that anonymity this time around. After an offseason that saw him rise to top-prospect status, as the Red Sox also rebuffed numerous trade inquiries involving him, Swihart will command a more attentive following — from fans, from teammates who wonder whether he or Christian Vazquez will be the Red Sox catcher of the future, or from the evaluators of other clubs who wonder if they’ll eventually be able to pry him loose.
A look around the AL East
There’s no bigger storyline in the AL East than Alex Rodriguez returning to the Yankees after a year-long suspension from Major League Baseball for his role in the Biogenesis scandal.
A-Rod has already apologized to the Yankees for his action of the past several years, and now seeks to adapt to the DH role. The Yankees are still fighting A-Rod over his separate marketing deal that pays him millions for earning home run milestones. If he hits six more, he will reach 660 homers and earn a $6 million bonus.
Elsewhere, Tampa Bay will experience life without Joe Maddon as ex-Red Sox catcher Kevin Cash takes over the team.
The Blue Jays seek once again to become a contender in the division, adding notable players in third baseman Josh Donaldson and catcher Russell Martin. Martin should make a big difference in grooming young starters like Marcus Stroman and Aaron Sanchez.
The Orioles, who won 96 games last season, have to make up for the loss of free agents Nelson Cruz, who hit 40 homers, Nick Markakis, their leadoff hitter and superb rightfielder, and power lefty Andrew Miller. The Orioles believe getting three players — Manny Machado, Matt Wieters, and Chris Davis — back from significant time missed will make up for those losses.
All four teams will have to contend with the revamped last place Sox, who redid their entire starting rotation (minus Buchholz) and added power bats in Sandoval and Ramirez.
|March 3||1:05 p.m||Boston College||Home||WEEI|
|March 3||1:05 p.m||Northeastern||Home||WEEI|
|March 5||7:05 p.m.||Twins||Hammond Stadium||WEEI||MLB|
|March 6||1:05 p.m||Marlins||Home|
|March 7||1:05 p.m||Twins||Home||WEEI|
|March 7||1:05 p.m||Orioles||Sarasota|
|March 8||1:05 p.m.||Mets||Port. St. Lucie||WEEI||NESN|
|March 9||1:05 p.m||Cardinals||Jupiter|
|March 10||1:05 p.m||Rays||Home|
|March 11||1:05 p.m||Yankees||Tampa||MLB|
|March 12||1:05 p.m||Pirates||Bradenton|
|March 13||7:05 p.m.||Yankees||Home||WEEI||NESN|
|March 14||1:05 p.m||Pirates||Home||WEEI|
|March 15||1:05 p.m||Phillies||Clearwater||WEEI||NESN|
|March 16||1:05 p.m||Mets||Home|
|March 17||1:05 p.m||Braves||Home||NESN|
|March 18||1:05 p.m||Twins||Home|
|March 19||1:07 p.m.||Blue Jays||Dunedin|
|March 20||1:05 p.m||Orioles||Home|
|March 21||1:05 p.m||Pirates||Bradenton||WEEI||NESN|
|March 22||1:05 p.m||Phillies||Home||WEEI||NESN|
|March 23||1:05 p.m||Cardinals||Home|
|March 24||1:05 p.m||Marlins||Jupiter|
|March 26||1:05 p.m||Twins||Home|
|March 27||1:05 p.m||Braves||Disney||ESPN|
|March 28||1:05 p.m||Rays||Port Charlotte||WEEI||MLB|
|March 29||1:05 p.m||Rays||Home||WEEI||NESN|
|March 30||7:05 p.m.||Twins||Home||WEEI||NESN|
|March 31||1:05 p.m||Rays||Port Charlotte||NESN|
|April 1||1:05 p.m||Blue Jays||Home|
|April 1||7:05 p.m.||Twins||Hammond Stadium||NESN|
|April 2||7:05 p.m.||Twins||Hammond Stadium||MLB|
|April 3||7:05 p.m.||Twins||Home||WEEI||NESN|
|April 4||1:05 p.m||Twins||Hammond Stadium||WEEI||NESN|
JetBlue Park at Fenway South Fast Facts
Opened since: 2012
Ballpark address: 11581 Daniels Parkway, Fort Myers, FL 33913
|Hot Springs, Ark.||1909-10|
|Redondo Beach, Calif.||1911|
|Hot Springs, Ark.||1912-18|
|Hot Springs, Ark.||1920-23|
|Winter Haven, Fla.||1966-92|
|Fort Myers, Fla.||1993-present|