Optimism always reigns in spring training. But the Boston Red Sox need to overcome the sour taste of a 69-93 season last year, and a pitching staff that did not perform nearly as well as it looked on paper.
Jerry Remy, the straight-talking former player and current broadcaster of Red Sox TV games, dares mention the P-word.
For one thing, Remy points out that the 2012 record is being overblown.
“When you look at the last month and a half of the season, they were playing with basically a Triple-A/Double-A team,” Remy said this past week while making an appearance in Portland. “I would expect that number (of wins) to jump considerably.
“But like I’ve said before, it depends on the starting pitching. If they can get quality starting pitching … they have a very good bullpen, a very deep bullpen.
“I think these pieces of the puzzle are going to add up. I can legitimately see them fighting for a playoff spot. I think they could go from 69 wins to that position.”
Remy believes there is even hope for the rotation, depending on a few tangibles.
“(Felix) Doubront has to get better. He’s still learning,” Remy said. “I hope (John) Lackey has a good year. I think having (new manager John) Farrell back is going to really help (Clay) Buchholz and (Jon) Lester.
“If these guys pitch the way they are capable of pitching, it should be a good rotation.”
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Alex Hassan is supposed to be entertaining his first spring training as a member of the Red Sox 40-man roster. Instead, Hassan is rehabbing a broken left foot, suffered when he fouled a ball off the foot during workouts at Duke University.
Hassan’s injury, along with Ryan Kalish’s shoulder surgery, and the recent news that Bryce Brentz will miss much of spring training after shooting himself in the foot, leaves Boston thin on outfielders.
Signing Ryan Sweeney to a minor league contract now looks even smarter.
And outfielder Juan Carlos Linares (Sea Dogs, 2010, 2012) may also get more of a look this spring.
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Lars Anderson is already with his third organization since the Red Sox traded him last July. Anderson, 25, the former top prospect when he was with the Sea Dogs (2008-09), was initially dealt to the Indians for knuckleball pitcher Steven Wright (a trade that is looking good for general manager Ben Cherington).
Cleveland traded Anderson to Arizona in a three-team deal last December. Arizona put Anderson on waivers and the Chicago White Sox claimed him earlier this month.
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Jed Lowrie has also switched teams, with Houston trading him to Oakland (joining a host of former Red Sox players). Lowrie, 28, a former Sea Dogs infielder (2007) has yet to play a full, healthy season in the majors. He totaled 97 games last year for the Astros (.244, 16 home runs).
Oakland will likely use Lowrie’s flexibility in the infield often. Lowrie, a switch-hitter who does better as a righty, could even platoon at first base with left-handed Brandon Moss (Sea Dogs, 2005-06).
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Ryan Khoury played his share of infield positions at Hadlock Field (2008-11). And Khoury, 28, is still playing. He just finished a stint with the Perth Heat, which reached the Australian Baseball League championship series, and will be returning for a second season with the Wichita Wingnuts of the independent American Association.
The Wichita manager is former Sea Dogs infielder Kevin Hooper (2001).
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Blake Maxwell completes our alumni report. Maxwell, 28, left baseball after the 2001 season, his third with the Sea Dogs. He is now back at his alma mater, Methodist University in Fayetteville, N.C. as an assistant coach.