The Week In Sox: March 12

On The Field

Where are the bats?

Boston has scored one run total in the first five innings (in other words, when the starters are in) of the last three games. For the week, they’ve scored 11 runs in those first five innings – and average of 1.57 runs per during that stretch.

Again, not reading too much into the spring, it’s a quiet nagging hanging over this season. Pitchers are generally working on things — heavily favoring one or two pitches they most want to work on, experimenting with arm slots and mechanics. Hitters should look better at this point. Not worse.

Unless they are worse.

Steven Wright turned in his third strong start of the spring, and at this point, it certainly seems as though he is being stretched out as a member of the five-man rotation for the start of the regular season.

Henry Owens, also being stretched out in earnest, seems like the more logical choice with his experience last year, but Wright is out of options and would appear to be the go-to in the (increasingly likely) event Eduardo Rodriguez is not able to start the year with the club.

Speaking of increasingly likely, I’m wondering if Owens might get an early nod as well. Clay Buchholz, on his way back from season-ending surgery last year, has one appearance so far this spring, and it was understandably rusty. What if he’s not ready in three weeks?

Nothing about that first appearance played like “OK, he’s back” — as much as we would have wanted it to.

We got a good look at the basic starting nine in the batting order a couple times this week. Travis Shaw is looking more like a potential super utility player, with the ability to play third and left, as well as back up in the outfield. He and Brock Holt (not to mention Chris Young – who as I write this just hit a two-run home run against Miami  – in any of the outfield spots) give Boston the ability to fill the lineup a wide variety of ways off the bench.

The potential position depth thus far is by far and away the aspect I’m most pleased about this spring. With the three aforementioned alone, Boston can go at least three deep at the corners and all three outfield spots. There is a wealth of viable depth at catcher with Blake Swihart playing well, Vasquez ready to go and Ryan Hanigan an everyday type of starter in any other lineup. It’s the middle infield, where you basically have Xander Bogaerts, Dustin Pedroia and Holt, that appears thinnest. The super flexibility of Holt and Shaw could allow for a guy like Devin Marrero to stick around into the season.

If Vasquez continues to progress, it’s likely Hanigan is dealt – which will be a shame, but it makes sense.

The further we get into spring training, the more pleased I am out of what Hanley Ramirez is showing both on and off the field. He’s making the adjustment to first, working hard, hitting the cover off the ball, saying all the right things to the media and becoming a fan favorite. Maybe it’s the best move that could have been made, a year after it should have been made?

Of course, at this point last year, Mike Napoli was looking like he was in line for a big year. That’s the spring for you, though. Appearances and performances can be very deceiving.

The pitching staff has me most nervous. Wright has been the best performer thus far — currently leading the team in innings pitched (7), ERA (2.57), WHIP (1.43) and batting average against (1.43). And that’s not including his strong turn against Boston College (again, I know it’s a college team, but a college team that already has a few weeks of real baseball under its belt). Porcello, Buchholz and Price weren’t impressive in their debuts, and we haven’t gotten to see Eduardo Rodriguez yet.

The bullpen appears to be stronger, and further along, than the starting rotation. However, Carson Smith, whom I have said multiple times I believe will be the team’s closer by season’s end, is experiencing back spasms according to the radio broadcast today.

It’s tough, from the outside, to get a read on how the Carlos Marmol Experiment (I had a boss who would say that’s a great band name) is progressing. He’s pitched one inning with three strikeouts – which seems great. But that’s all we’ve seen of him. Hoping more looks are in the near future. Perhaps he’s at least a temporary solution if Smith’s problems persist.

We’ll just have to wait and see.

Stars of the week: Travis Shaw (batting .471 for the spring, 5 RBI), Mookie Betts, Steven Wright (who I’m saying as of right now will be your No. 4 starter to open the season).

2,912 Miles Away From Fenway

We’re getting ready for a yard sale — at that point where we have plenty of things accumulated, and no time or energy to prepare them for sale. I’d hoped to have it ready for next week, but it’s just not going to happen.

The Nevada grass, thanks in large part to a much wetter than normal winter, is beginning to turn green at least two weeks earlier than in recent years. I still need to get out and clean up the willow branches broken off onto the lawn during the many winter wind storms. It’s annually a day-long job, at least.

We picked up “The Peanuts Movie” as soon as it came out on DVD and have watched it at least three times. I wrapped up watching “The Newsroom” on Amazon Prime and am now thoroughly convinced it was simply a retread in character and form of “Sports Night” only subbing in recent news events in place of the sports storylines. I had similar complaints about “The West Wing,” though.

Up Next Week

It’s that stretch of the spring where you aren’t getting to see anyone’s full starting nine due to split-squad contests and the 21 games-in-21 days stretch. There’s an off day on March 23, and then you’ll likely start seeing more of what you’d see during the regular season – at least for a few days.

There’s no one on the slate this coming week that Boston hasn’t already seen this spring until they host St. Louis next Saturday.

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