The Red Sox will break camp with 25 players heading north to
Boston. We begin a daily look at each position on the club, from the
projected starters to their backups. Our latest installment examines the bench.
Backing up a pretty good collection of Red Sox regulars is a bench heavy on past performances. Whether that is a good thing or not remains to be seen, but the bench?s pedigree is as good as it gets.
There?s the team captain, Jason Varitek, a catcher on two World Series winning teams who has caught more no-hitters than anyone in baseball history and is as respected as any athlete in the city?s history.
Next to him sits the 2007 World Series MVP and a former Gold Glove-winning third baseman Mike Lowell, who has hit .295 in four seasons in Boston.
Also in the mix is a former 35-home run man, Bill Hall; a one-time can?t miss outfield prospect for Florida, Jeremy Hermida; and an infielder in Jed Lowrie who had an eye-popping errors streak when he first came up as a shortstop.
It?s an impressive collection that begs the question: How does one find at-bats for guys who are used to getting them?
"Sometimes it happens naturally when someone gets nicked up," manager Terry Francona said of such an issue. "Sometimes it looks difficult. You sit here now and you?re like, ?that?s gonna be a challenge.
"But that?s one of the things. First of all it's a good problem because it means you have good players which you have to have, and those things normally have a way of working out."
Varitek has accepted his role and will play on occasion against left-handers, offering whomever he catches a fantastic partner. So too will Hall, whose production has fallen off in recent years but who can play nearly every position on the field.
Hermida seems content as a fourth outfielder who will spell J.D. Drew 30 to 40 games and see action in left field when Mike Cameron needs a breather and Jacoby Ellsbury moves to center. Lowrie is a question mark with mononucleosis destroying his spring training, opening up a potential spot for Tug Hulett.
Lowell is a bit of a different issue as he has said he wants to start, and with the production he has given as a member of this team it is hard to argue. Still, he provides insurance in the event Adrian Beltre never emerges from a dismal 2009 season or designated hitter David Ortiz struggles as he did in the first two months of last year.
With a handful of off-days to start the season, the Red Sox may afford to carry one less pitcher than the rest of the year. While that decision remains to be seen, the options in camp to fill those spots are impressive.
Francona will continue to communicate with those on the pine and let them know that their time will come. In 2009, only four Red Sox players appeared in at least 150 games. One was the designated hitter, David Ortiz, and another, left fielder Jason Bay, is no longer with the team.
It?s safe to say guys like Hall and Hermida will be rather regular.
"I think from the very beginning of spring training we?ve tried to communicate to these guys to explain to them, ?Hey I know it?s a challenge.? I told Billy Hall and Jeremy Hermida the challenge we have is finding you enough at-bats where you can be productive. We understand that. We?re not trying to butt heads."
If this group of standout players is able to accept its role, the Sox are in pretty good hands should Francona need to shuffle things around.