Five Random Red Sox Thoughts As Spring Training Games Begin

The Red Sox open up against Northeastern on Friday


Feb 24, 2023

The Major League Baseball season is officially here, as the Boston Red Sox are slated to open up their spring training schedule against the Northeastern Huskies at 1 p.m. ET on Friday.

Though the 2022 season went about as poorly as fans could have imagined, Friday marks the turning of a new leaf for Red Sox nation. The 2023 spring training schedule is a bit different, with the World Baseball Classic starting March 7 and drastically influencing Boston’ pre-Opening Day roster.

That may seem like a bummer for a team in influx, but the whole ordeal will allow the Red Sox to take a longer look at some players who may not be as entrenched into the organization’s plans moving forward.

Plus, it will afford us all the opportunity to get our wheels churning regarding the Red Sox’s potential outlook moving into the regular season. Some might even call them, thoughts.

Let’s discuss some of those thoughts that have arisen in the early days of Boston’s work down at Fenway South.

How will the Red Sox approach bullpen roles?
Red Sox manager Alex Cora has a very specific way he likes to do things when it comes to his bullpen. If at all possible, Boston would like to rely on set roles for the pieces in his bullpen. The only question remaining, who is doing what?

Kenley Jansen undoubtedly will be looked upon to close things out, providing the Red Sox with a legitimate option at closer for the first time since Matt Barnes’ late-season slide in 2021. Every single role behind him, however, is up for grabs.

John Schreiber will return to provide a solid right-handed option in high-leverage situations, but he seems to be the only member of the 2022 bullpen that has a role locked down moving forward. Garrett Whitlock is moving to the starting rotation, while Tanner Houck could be asked to do almost anything. Ryan Brasier, Zack Kelly and Kaleb Ort, the only other returning members, all face an uphill battle in trying to make the Red Sox roster.

Why is that? Well, there are a lot of newcomers.

Chris Martin (RHP), Richard Bleier (LHP), Joely Rodríguez (LHP) and Wyatt Mills (RHP) were all acquired this offseason, and all have experience playing specific roles in successful bullpens. There also are the likes of Brandon Walter (LHP), Chris Murphy (LHP), Josh Winckowski (RHP) and Kutter Crawford (RHP), who could be asked to work in the pen, but feel like Triple-A starters at this point in their careers.

Our best guess? Martin gets first crack at the eighth inning, while Bleier, Rodríguez and Mills are used as matchup-specific options, with Houck serving as the team’s top long-reliever.

Masataka Yoshida should move around the lineup
Yoshida is one of the most interesting players on the Red Sox’s roster. The scouting reports all sound great, but there’s really no way of knowing whether an international free agent will translate to the MLB level.

Here’s what we do know: The Red Sox intend on splitting Yoshida and Rafael Devers, entrusting the leadoff spot to their newly signed product of Japan. We just don’t know if Boston should marry that idea.

Boston received practically zero production from the leadoff spot last season, so Yoshida looks like the perfect candidate to solve that problem. He’s also renowned for his approach, which makes us wonder if he should just be used to protect Devers.

The idea is out there, sure, but why not use the games that don’t count to see whether or not he can do more than be the leadoff man. At the very least, it would be fun seeing him hit between big boppers like Devers, Adam Duvall and Triston Casas.

Where does Bobby Dalbec fit on the roster?
Speaking of Casas, it appears the Red Sox have entrusted first base with the 22-year-old. So where does that leave Dalbec?

If Casas is allowed to take up the majority of the at-bats, and Justin Turner supplements his time at DH with a few games at first base, there doesn’t appear to be a legitimate reason to roster Dalbec.

Or is there?

Of the healthy players on Boston’s major-league roster, only Dalbec can claim to be a true utility infielder. Though the 27-year-old has played about 90% of his game on one of either corner, he’s also been trusted to play some second base and shortstop. Oh yeah, he’s still got some of the best raw power on the Red Sox roster.

Dalbec’s issue over the last two seasons has been timing, as he’s fallen into nasty slumps by allowing bad habits to get the better of him. By all accounts, he looks much better to start 2023, and a strong spring could avoid another trip down to Triple-A Worcester.

Boston needs to test its versatility
This one is for Cora.

No one like’s talking about versatility quite like the Red Sox manager, who would force everyone into playing every position if he could. Good thing spring training was literally built for such experiments.

Kiké Hernández is moving to shortstop. Christian Arroyo will be given an opportunity to play second base full time. That does not mean Boston should shoehorn their bats into specific roles, however. There’s no reason not to move some of the roster bubble guys around in hopes that they can catch on somewhere. We touched on it with Dalbec, but Enmanuel Valdez still needs to find a defensive home, as does Adalberto Mondesi once he gets healthy. Ceddanne Rafaela can and will do a little bit of everything, so why can’t Yu Chang get a shot to do the same? Let’s get weird.

Who steps up as the Red Sox’s new leader?
Sorry to bring it up Red Sox fans, but Xander Bogaerts is gone.

Watching the man that many viewed as the captain of the team walk out the door is tough, but could be even more so if someone else doesn’t step up. That is where Hernández and Jansen are expected to step up, but who else?

Expect Turner, who played that role in his time with the Los Angeles Dodgers, to provide some the leadership qualities left behind by Bogaerts.

Maybe we’ll get a fun trend out of it.

Thumbnail photo via Nathan Ray Seebeck/USA TODAY Sports Images
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