Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz has yet to participate in any spring training games, as he's still recovering from an Achilles injury suffered last July. While that might seem like a long time to still be nursing an injury, let's remember that it's the thickest and strongest tendon in the entire human body, and basically impossible to play baseball without a healthy one unless you never ever plan on running.
Ortiz is working his way back, though, and ran the bases on Monday. From Rob Bradford:
"Actually, I was running like I wasn't worried about anything. That's important. I ran today better than the last time I ran. Everybody was pretty happy about it. I'm happy about it because nothing bothers me when I was running. That's a plus. That is telling me that I'm going in the right direction, you know what I'm saying?
Throw in that Ortiz is scheduled to run on Tuesday as well, and we might have a much better idea of where he'll fit into Boston's early season plans shortly. Manager John Farrell hopes Ortiz will be game-ready by the end of this week, and if that's the case, barring any setbacks, he would definitely be around for Opening Day. We'll see, though, as Ortiz's Achilles' condition has changed back-and-forth considerably since it occurred.
Boston's major-league spring training camp got a little bit smaller on Monday, as left-hander Drake Britton was optioned to Double-A Portland, while shortstop Deven Marrero and utility player Justin Henry were re-assigned to the minors. Britton returns to where he finished up the 2012 campaign following a mid-season promotion. He'll join Matt Barnes, Brandon Workman, and others in that rotation, waiting for a place to open up in Pawtucket. This also means that it's likely the Triple-A rotation will feature Allen Webster, Steven Wright, Rubby De La Rosa, Chris Hernandez, and Terry Doyle to begin the season -- Britton was a potential option to open the year at the level, and in the rotation, but that doesn't look to be happening at the moment.
As for Marrero, it's believed he'll begin the year with Low-A Greenville, though, it all depends on how advanced the Red Sox think he is relative to 19-year-old Jose Vinicio, who had a solid year for his age at that level in 2012. Henry was a non-roster invite to Red Sox camp, a 28-year-old who has spent his entire professional career with the Detroit Tigers. He's minor-league depth, so it's not surprising to see him re-assigned so soon into the spring.
Allen Webster won't be starting the year with the Red Sox in the majors, but one of the team's top pitching prospects has already caught the eye of manager John Farrell.
"With each added inning as he went out there, he had better rhythm and better feel for his secondary pitches," said Farrell. "Once again, high 90s with his velocity with good location. He threw three pitches for strikes -- a very impressive three innings. Twenty-nine pitches in three innings. He was really good, especially the last inning. You can ask all the umpires. It was an impressive performance."--snip--
"Up to 99 again today," Farrell said. "Again, velocity is one thing, but still, I just think the action to the stuff [stands out] and keep in mind, this is someone who has always been a starter, so the first inning coming in in the middle of the game is a little bit different for him. But with each successive inning, you can see the rhythm and just the flow of the game really start to take over. He has three very good weapons you can go to."
Webster's issue has never been stuff. He has excellent velocity, and three legitimate major-league offerings that, if all goes well, will make him a quality starter near or at the top of the rotation someday. The problem with Webster has been his command: it's just not as advanced as his stuff, and it's shown up in his numbers in the past. Whether this is a permanent issue or one he'll be able to grow past is the question with him, and it's something the Red Sox are sure to take an interest in this year, his first full one with the organization.
Developing more consistent command is vital to his future, as it's what will keep Webster in a big-league rotation, rather than in the back-end of a bullpen -- there is enormous difference in value between those two products, even if you'd be happy with promoting either from within your system. There's no reason to think he won't develop some command, though: he'll be all of 23 years old in 2013, will be in Triple-A for the first time, and has stuff so good he's succeeded without it to this point. It's just something to keep in mind before anointing his future as definite.