FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Good morning from the Fort, where two weeks from Boston’s April 1 regular-season opener in Yankee Stadium, it’s possible to make an educated guess on the composition of the team’s 25-man roster.
DH (1): Jonny Gomes
This is, I repeat, strictly a guess. Under this scenario, pitcher Daniel Bard, catcher Ryan Lavarnway and infielder Brock Holt would begin the season in Pawtucket. The reasoning in each case: Mortensen is out of options, so the Sox can send Bard to Pawtucket, let him continue to build on his progress here and have some success there, and get something out of Mortensen while they can. With Ortiz out, Lavarnway could make the club as a DH, or John Farrell could DH Jarrod Saltalamacchia and use Lavarnway behind the plate, but that would leave the Red Sox unbalanced toward the right side. That’s why it makes sense for Bradley to make the club, and Gomes to open the season as DH.
Farrell noted he preferred that young players would get regular at-bats rather than sit on the big-league bench. Playing behind Pedroia would anchor Holt to the bench, so it makes sense to send him to Pawtucket to play second base every day.
One talent evaluator was telling me yesterday that we put far too much emphasis on the Opening Day roster, because it usually changes so rapidly, and that will certainly be the case when the four players on the DL are healthy enough to return. What could become a compelling story line is if Iglesias gets off to a great start while Drew recovers from concussion symptoms that have persisted far longer than the Red Sox initially expected. Iglesias almost certainly would go back to Pawtucket, but there would undoubtedly be an outcry.
The Sox are unlikely to keep Bradley Jr. when Ortiz returns, because they want him to play regularly, but again, what happens if he goes off in April? Those are good problems to have.
Besides the obvious issues of Ortiz and Drew, another area that should be of concern to the Sox is starting pitching depth. The Sox are thin, especially with Morales hurt, which is why the Sox will learn to live with Aceves’ erratic behavior. Rookie Allen Webster will help at some point this season, but the Sox don’t want to rush him. Behind them, we’re talking about guys like Terry Doyle, Chris Hernandez, and knuckleballer Steven Wright, which is a thin line of defense should one of the top-of-the-rotation starters go down. It would not surprise me to see the Sox add depth by the end of spring training, especially after March 26, when non-roster big-leaguers have an opt-out clause.
* One year after Bobby Valentine was yelling at him during a drill, “Don’t be stupid” [according to NESN’s Tom Caron], Bronx-raised Mike Aviles has emerged as a star for Team Puerto Rico, which advanced to the finals of the World Baseball Classic by upsetting defending champion Japan, 3-1, Sunday night in San Francisco.
Aviles, who was traded by the Sox to Toronto for manager John Farrell and subsequently was dealt to Cleveland, drove in his ninth run Sunday, the most on Puerto Rico and one fewer than tournament leader David Wright of Team USA. Aviles, who has been playing short for PR, has posted a batting line of .333/.375/.481/.856.
Sox reliever Jose De La Torre, meanwhile, pitched 1 1/3 scoreless innings in Sunday night's win, striking out three. De La Torre figures to start the season in Pawtucket.
* Finally, Evan Drellich of MLB.com outlined how service time would impact the Sox decision on whether to open the season with Jackie Bradley Jr.:
If Bradley is on the Opening Day roster and is never optioned to the minors for at least 20 days, he'll become a free agent after the 2018 season.
If Bradley is on the Opening Day roster, the Red Sox can prolong his free agency to after 2019 at the earliest if at any point they option him to the minors for at least 20 days.
If Bradley comes up on April 12 or later, he won't hit free agency until after 2019 at the earliest.
"We have a whole year to determine how that service time would factor in going forward," Farrell had said on Sunday. “The bottom-line thing would be -- when any young player, whether it's Jackie or any young position player -- when they come to the big leagues, you want to be sure they get regular at-bats. If those are there, that becomes part of the equation. Most importantly, he's doing whatever he can to impact the decision."