Spring training hasn't officially started, but many Red Sox players have already been plenty busy down in Florida. Clay Buchholz, who missed more than half of the 2011 season due to a stress fracture in his spine, is one such player. The early news is good, according to Nick Cafardo:
Buchholz has been busy, and feeling good after not pitching much for months -- and after a major back injury -- is a great thing to hear. It's not expected that there will be a recurrence of this injury, as we've discussed before, but it's still good to read about that in practice rather than theory, even if it's early.The Red Sox need Buchholz around to keep the top of their rotation strong, especially with no Roy Oswalt in sight as of now, so keeping an eye on how his back (and his stuff) work through spring training is key.
MLB Trade Rumors offers many services, one of which is keeping track of players without options. The Red Sox have quite a few players with no options remaining, and many of them have the same job description. Matt Albers, Felix Doubront, Andrew Miller, and Michael Bowden are all slated to be relievers, and all of them are out of options. The only other Sox player out of options is Darnell McDonald, but until/if Ryan Kalish returns to the majors, his job is likely safe.
It's no exaggeration to suggest that many of these pitchers will be fighting for their jobs in the spring. Doubront likely has trade value, meaning he is likely to pitch in the majors whether it's with Boston or not. Andrew Miller is not on a guaranteed deal, and if manager Bobby Valentine and new pitching coach Bob McClure can't reach him in the same way so many others have not, it's unlikely he'll open the season on the big league roster. Whether or not someone else wants to take a shot at the Andrew Miller Experiment is unknown, though, so, like Scott Atchison, Miller might just end up back in Pawtucket if he's designated for assignment.
Matt Albers had a promising 2011 season, but he also fell apart towards the end. More of the second half is unlikely to net him the job or paycheck he's currently working towards. Michael Bowden's conversion to relief worked out fine in the minors, but in the majors in short stints, he wasn't much different than in the past. He hasn't been passed around the majors like Miller has, but he was also never the kind of prospect Miller was, either, even when he was at his best.
Franklin Morales is the most likely of this group who seems likely to open the season with the Red Sox. His curveball improved in 2011 after leaving the thin air of Colorado, and he started to pitch like many scouts and front office personnel felt he has been capable of for years. He might not be the top 100 starting pitching prospect he used to be, but his stuff is still nasty when he's on, and he could be huge out of the pen as the primary lefty for the Red Sox in 2012.
The Red Sox have a new manager, a new bench coach, and a new spring training facility. Because of these three things, they also have a new attitude and approach to spring training regimens, as Rob Bradford discusses with Tim Bogar.