Tonight, the Red Sox face an entire country. Or at least the best players from it. Well, the best current players willing to take off time from spring training for national duty. In other words, there are a few recognizable names--Pagan, Molina, Beltran, Rios, and even Aviles--but this team probably wouldn't be going anywhere fast in an MLB division.
That being said, it's not terribly likely a team with all a back-five of Mike Carp, Will Middlebrooks (one of these things is not like the others...), Ryan Sweeney, Ryan Lavarnway, and Mitch Maier would be going terribly far either. Ah, the beauty of spring training. The ugly, ugly beauty.
- Daniel Nava, RF
- Dustin Pedroia, 2B
- Stephen Drew, SS
- Mike Napoli, 1B
- Mike Carp, LF
- Will Middlebrooks, 3B
- Ryan Sweeney, DH
- Ryan Lavarnway, C
- Mitch Maier, CF
One interesting thing here is that Daniel Nava is in right field while Mike Carp is in left. Consider this something of a twin-killing. Daniel Nava is obviously the more competent outfield defender, but whether or not he can be trusted to cover Fenway's spacious right field if absolutely necessary is certainly questionable at best. Mike Carp, meanwhile, needs to show Boston that the "outfielder" part of his C.V. means more than just the ability to stand out there and watch balls drop around him. Opportunities like this are big for both players to show they deserve to make the roster, likely over one another.
Meanwhile Ryan Sweeney just needs to show he can hit, because the Sox know he can field.
All of that, though, takes a back seat to the man on the mound. John Lackey is making his third appearance of the year, and after the last two shellackings could really use a decent night. A decent Lackey isn't necessary for the Red Sox to be good this year, but it would go a long way towards calming nerves if he could avoid another bad game. Momentum is often more an invention of observers than an actual force in baseball, especially for a pitcher who goes once every five games. But right now John Lackey needs something to go right.