Openings in Red Sox Starting Lineup Could Elevate Competition, Kill Complacency

Openings in Red Sox Starting Lineup Could Elevate Competition, Kill ComplacencyBOSTON –– For years, the Red Sox had the majority of their starting positions filled. Up and down the lineup, there were little to no holes.

Not anymore. From the last two rotation spots to shortstop — and potentially in right field — the Red Sox have positions up for grabs in Fort Myers. Like the changes this offseason, the bevy of competition strays from the team’s past philosophy.

But it’s an approach that general manager Ben Cherington, who spoke at Monday’s Hot Stove Cool Music roundtable, believes could benefit the Red Sox.

“We like [competition] for spring training,” Cherington said on Monday night. “We’ve had years where we haven’t had a ton of competition for the team. I think some level of competition is healthy and it gives [manager] Bobby [Valentine] and the staff a chance to evaluate players a little bit more of a legitimate setting.”

“Spring training isn’t the best time to evaluate players, but when guys are trying to win a job, you see a version of them that’s closer to the real thing. It’s helpful from that standpoint.”

Valentine will have no shortage of battles to decide. When the Red Sox shipped Jed Lowrie and Marco Scutaro in separate trades, it vaulted Mike Aviles and Nick Punto into competition to start at shortstop.

The same applies for Boston’s rotation. Daniel Bard, Alfredo Aceves, Andrew Miller, Felix Doubront, Vicente Padilla, Aaron Cook and Carlos Silva headline the laundry list of pitchers who will contend for the fourth and fifth starting spots.

With all the decisions on his agenda, Valentine suggested that Major League Baseball should tweak the roster deadline.

“My overall philosophy on that is I wish the roster were extended through April so we could have real competition under the lights and real atmosphere, and not in this sunny park morning baseball, afternoon baseball atmosphere,” Valentine said. “But I think it’s always good for guys to feel they have a chance to work and to make the team, so they work a little harder because the more you work and practice, the better foundation you have to last the entire season. I think it’s a real tough place to compete.”

Cody Ross and Ryan Sweeney will both receive an official indoctrination to the tense atmosphere. The outfielders — both in their first seasons with the team – will likely enter the season as starters while Carl Crawford recovers from wrist surgery.

Once Crawford returns, though, Valentine may have to settle yet another competition in right field. But for the time being, the new manager isn’t offering any tidbits on his thought process.

“If I had a preconceived notion about what would really happen, then why would we even go to spring training?,” Valentine said. “I’ve never seen any of the guys ever play other than Punto, or other than on television or in the booth. If we get seven weeks together, we practice together and we play together, that will all work its way out.”

Have a question for Didier Morais? Send it to him via Twitter at @DidierMorais or send it here. He will pick a few questions to answer every week for his mailbag.

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