PHILADELPHIA - JUNE 29: David Ortiz #34 of the Boston Red Sox gets a rare start at first base against the Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park on June 29, 2011 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Phillies defeated the Red Sox 2-1. (Photo by Len Redkoles/Getty Images)
Depending on whether or not you count the unofficial game against the Twins, Red Sox baseball either started yesterday, or starts tomorrow. For myself, at least, it's the latter, with the traditional Northwestern - Boston College doubleheader marking the true beginning of spring training.
Now, unless you're the Pittsburgh Pirates, this sort of walkover game is the perfect opportunity to play prospects and try out some weird stuff on the field. For that sort of thing, you'll need to look no further than first, where David Ortiz will be getting some defensive work in.
While Ortiz usually saves his appearances at first for inter-league play, this year he's getting an early start. According to Bobby Valentine, it's mostly about getting Adrian Gonzalez ramped up at his own pace:"He's one of the first basemen,'' shrugged Valentine.
"And talking with Adrian and David, too, David doesn't mind playing a lot and Adrian wants to work his way into playing a lot. So I suspect [Ortiz] will get innings.
"He's moving along well in all the drills. He's a better looking first baseman than I suspected, right now."
(via NECN's Sean McAdam)
I don't think there's any real question which of the two is the first baseman and which the designated hitter, but for now each will play whatever role they have to. David Ortiz, for his part, is excited for the opportunity:
"Oh, [expletive]. We're starting on the wrong foot. Just wish me luck.''
One player who won't be seeing the field on Saturday is Carl Crawford, who has suffered a setback in his recovery from offseason wrist surgery. After taking his first swings of the year earlier this week, it was surprisingly pain following a set of bunting drills that ultimately sidelined Crawford according to the Boston Globe.
While playing on Opening Day still seems like a longshot for Boston's left fielder, the setback is apparently not serious enough to concern the team's new medical staff. In a situation like this, no news is good news.
In his retirement speech, Jason Varitek indicated that he was in contact with the team over the possibility of returning in an off-the-field role. Today on Mut & Merloni, however, the former team captain acknowledged that he wasn't ready to take on a coaching position just yet:
"Obviously, I'd like to maintain and make sure that I am a part of the organization someway, somehow," he said. "Trading ideas of how that may transpire, we haven't gotten that far to where I can sit down and talk to Ben [Cherington] and get there. But there's desire on both sides to figure something out and for that to happen. I do love the game. And I do love the fact that I know that there's still a lot I can give to the game -- and learn from the game. But how that transpires, it's going to take some time. I still wanted to play. I've got to make sure that when I change roles I'm mentally ready to accept a different role."
It's hard to imagine Tek wouldn't be able to bring a lot to the table as a catching instructor., even if he can only impart the mental aspects of his game. Still, after 15 years of faithful service, he probably deserves at least a little time off.
To sum it up, the revenue sharing system that has long had teams like the Red Sox and Yankees paying out to their less-prosperous competition has been modified, with teams in the top half of market sizes missing out. What this means for the game's wealthiest teams is a big fat rebate check--so long as they can get under the CBT by 2014.
For the Yankees, this is a rather more difficult task than for Boston, which has spent the last few years trying to stick close by the threshold. So far, though, they're doing a good job of it with short signings like Hiroki Kuroda which increase their figure now, but don't leave them with any commitments down the line.