As part of our Red Sox season preview, we asked our baseball scribes -- Gordon Edes and Joe McDonald -- to answer five burning questions about the 2013 Boston Red Sox. Below are their responses.
Share your thoughts as well by answering the poll questions or leaving comments.
1. How many games will David Ortiz play this season?
EDES: That’s a perilous call to make in March, given that Ortiz just returned to taking batting practice on the field Wednesday. It would be a spectacular miscalculation if the Red Sox gave a two-year deal to a guy who is permanently broken down (he missed the last half of last season with an Achilles strain and sore heels have kept him out of game action this spring). Even the sunniest projection for Ortiz is looking at mid-April at the earliest; I’ll go with 120 games, which means he misses a quarter of the season, spread over the summer. That’s a big hit.
McDONALD: Because the aging slugger is still bothered by an Achilles and foot injury he suffered last July, he will start the season on the disabled list. Once he’s healthy enough to return to the lineup, he’ll produce. The Red Sox will have to be cautious with him because of the injury, but expect him to play 130 games and hit .288 with 30 homers and 100 RBIs.
2. The Sox starting staff had a 5.19 ERA last season, worst in team history. What will their ERA be this season, and who’s your pick for comeback pitcher of the year and why?
EDES: The league average last season was 4.39. I expect Jon Lester to shave at least a run a game off his ERA, which would be more in keeping with his career average (3.76), and Clay Buchholz to pitch below his career ERA (3.92). If those two things alone happen, the Sox rotation likely will beat the league average. I’ll go with 4.25. Now, how scientific was that?
McDONALD: The Sox team ERA will be better in 2013. It really can’t be any worse than last season, right? With a healthy Lester, Buchholz and John Lackey, the starting rotation looks in line for a big bounce back in 2013. If the Red Sox can receive contributions from the back end of the rotation, expect the starters’ ERA to hover around 4.00. While I believe Lester will return to form in 2013, Lackey will add major contributions this season and win at least 15 games.
3. What kind of an impact will Jackie Bradley Jr. make this season? How many games will he play for the Red Sox?
EDES: Truth is, he already has made an impact, forcing himself onto the Opening Day roster with a terrific spring. What is impossible to know at this stage is whether Bradley represents merely temporary relief until Ortiz returns, or will demand, by his performance, a chance to play every day. The guess here is that he’ll go down to Pawtucket after starting the season with the big club, but his return sometime during the summer is a virtual lock. I’ll say 70 games.
McDONALD: If history repeats itself, Bradley Jr. will have a major impact in Boston this season. In 2004, it was then-rookie Kevin Youkilis who helped the Red Sox with a youthful spark. In 2007, it was Jacoby Ellsbury. Now it’s Bradley’s moment to shine. If he earns a spot in the Opening Day lineup, that doesn’t mean he’ll spend the entire season in the big leagues. Barring injuries to other Red Sox outfielders, and if he’s not in the starting lineup, expect him to play at Triple-A Pawtucket in order to get his necessary at-bats. His energy and talent will eventually be needed in Boston and he could spend at least half the season in a Red Sox uniform.
4. Will Jacoby Ellsbury finish the season in a Red Sox uniform?
EDES:Yes, because I believe the Red Sox will be within striking distance at the trading deadline and won’t be able to part with Ellsbury. If he has a big year, they’ll attempt to re-sign him, though I don’t put his prospects of staying very high. Someone (the Los Angeles Dodgers? Chicago Cubs?) will trump Boston’s best offer, and the Sox will glide into the Jackie Bradley Jr. era.
McDONALD: It all depends where the Red Sox sit in the standings come the end of July. If the Sox prove to be postseason contenders, Ellsbury will remain in Boston until the end of the season. When he’s healthy and productive, the Red Sox are a better team. If Bradley can produce at the big league level when given the opportunity, then this will surely be Ellsbury’s last season with the Red Sox. The soon-to-be free agent will expect a big payday next winter, and agent Scott Boras will get it for him. It just won’t be in Boston.
5. What’s your prediction for number of wins for the Red Sox? Where will they finish in the East? Will they make the playoffs?
EDES: I still owe the world a 50-mile walk for my last Sox prediction, which was that they would qualify for the 2012 playoffs. My only (feeble) defense is that I did so before the Red Sox hired Bobby Valentine to manage, a misbegotten union if there ever was one, and before the entire roster checked into a hospital ward. I believe the Red Sox pitching will be significantly improved, and the bullpen a strength, but the Red Sox would need fortune to smile on them in a way that has been absent for the past few years. I’ll say 84 wins, third place, miss the playoffs.
McDONALD: The Red Sox will be contenders in 2013 and will finish with a 91-71 record, good enough for second place in the AL East ... and one of the two AL wild-card spots.