We're getting close, people. This is the exact week, in fact, that the season will begin in earnest (and no, I'm not counting any games that took place in Asia; sorry). Thursday afternoon, or morning if you live near or are me, the 2012 Red Sox, the real 2012 Red Sox, will take the field for the first time. Pulling the All Star second baseman in the fifth or sixth inning, or sending the starter to the showers after three full is over. This Thursday it gets real. And I, for one, can't wait. Bet you can't either.
After months of speculation, disagreements and sometimes even outright arguing, the Red Sox named their starting rotation yesterday. Of course Jon Lester, Josh Beckett, and Clay Buchholz will hold down the top three spots, but the fourth and fifth spots were open. They aren't any longer. Felix Doubront and Daniel Bard will be the fourth and fifth pitchers in the rotation, respectively. Allan at Joy of Sox has plotted out the starters' schedule through the first three turns of the rotation. Lester will start on opening day in Detroit, Beckett will get the first start at Fenway Park, and the first series against the Yankees (April 20-22) will feature Buchholz, Doubront, and Bard. Doubront and Bard will get their first starts as members of the rotation in Toronto on the 9th and 10th.
The other big piece of Red Sox news is that closer Andrew Bailey looks like he may be headed to the disabled list, according to Alex Speier of WEEI.com. The issue is the thumb on his pitching hand which is causing him some unspecified problem. Bailey is headed back to Boston today according to the Globe where he'll be examined. Hopefully any DL stay is short, and as Dayn Perry of CBS's Eye on Baseball notes, the silver lining in this is the injury isn't (assuming reports are accurate) his shoulder or elbow.
With the announcement of the starting rotation, so has come the placement of some of the minor leaguers who comprise the top of the Red Sox prospect ranks. Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal has the rundown. Ryan Lavarnway will return to AAA Pawtucket to work on crushing the crap out of the ball while improving his catching and play-calling behind the plate. Lower down, Xander Bogaerts and recent draftee Jackie Bradley, Jr. will head to single A Salem while starting pitching prospect Anthony Ranuado will make the jump to AA Portland.
One of the things I love about baseball is it's connection to the American city. Ballparks, especially those built contemporaneously with Fenway, were pieces of the urban fabric, connected to the cities they were a part of. Since the construction and opening of Camden Yards in 1991 reconnected baseball with its urban roots, that has become a component of many of the newer ballparks. In that vein, the Washington Post has an excellent slideshow of 36 photographs of the neighborhood surrounding the new Washington Nationals ballpark. The photos show a neighborhood that used to feature underground sex clubs and rundown and abandoned buildings. Now new development is the order of the day, and the ballpark is the center of it all. Now, you can certainly debate whether or not all that development is positive, how good any of the new jobs from the ballpark really are, and the effect the development has had on the current (especially older) residents of the neighborhood. But, whether you think the development is a good thing (and the Post is clearly painting that picture) or not, the photos illustrate an old neighborhood in transition. It's fascinating.
At SI.com, Clifford Corcoran makes his guesses as to how the major awards will turn out both the AL and NL for 2012. He chooses a top three for each award and yet still doesn't pick a single Red Sox player anywhere. This is a bit surprising in that Adrian Gonzalez, Dustin Pedroia, and most prominently Jacoby Ellsbury were all serious MVP candidates last year. However, in Mr. Corcoran's defense, Albert Pujols was in the NL last year too.
At The Platoon Advantage, Chris St. John discusses how his first Ottoneu draft turned out. For those not in the know, Ottoneu is Fan Graphs' fantasy baseball for those more sabermetrically oriented fantasy players. As I am lucky enough to be a member of the same league as Mr. St. John (and in first place, I might add) I echo his sentiments. The idea is a sound one, but the execution could use some work. I trust that like the rest of Fan Graphs it'll soon be very user-friendly.
Finally, at BP the incomparable Sam Miller discusses how all jobs suck, even Bobby Abreu's (free!). And finally finally, my latest at BP is up as well. It's sadly behind the paywall [shakes fist!] but if you're a BP subscriber you can read about my predictions for the upcoming season.