Always good to see the little guy back in action. - USA TODAY Sports
A week of injury reports, media kerfuffles, and retirement announcements. Must be mid-March.
It was a pretty eventful week down in Fort Myers, with all manner of spring training action flying about, so let's just get right to reviewing it.
One thing that always makes spring training stressful is the possibility of injuries. While Boston hasn't had to deal with anything as devastating as Curtis Granderson's broken arm or Rafael Furcal's loss to Tommy John surgery, there have been a few bumps so far this month. Franklin Morales, seen as the most likely option to start should any of the top five go down, is suffering from a back injury and has no timetable for a return. This, combined with Craig Breslow's elbow issues, have left a hole in the Red Sox bullpen, and it's unclear how the team will fix it. Of far greater concern is David Ortiz, whose heel injury seems to be more tenacious than we'd thought. Matt Collins took a hard look at Boston's options should the big DH not be able to start the season on time, and they weren't pretty.
With injuries popping up like this, it's impossible not to think of the last few seasons, when the Sox' playoff chances were torpedoed by unhealthy players. Ben looked at the rotation (now without Morales as backup) and wondered how many starters the Sox need in order to feel confident heading into 2013, One guy who could possibly help is knuckleballer Steven Wright, acquired from Cleveland last year. He's looked pretty good in spring training, but he does throw a knuckler, which is a pitch that's not just hard to predict for the batter, but for scouts as well. To paraphrase Charlie Lau, there are two ways to project a knuckleball, but unfortunately neither of them work. One guy who won't be helping the Sox rotation anytime soon is lefty prospect Drake Britton, who was arrested for a DUI this week.
Spring does offer us the chance to see the team in action, and try to figure out how things might go in the regular season. We've continued our run of spring training profiles, going through the team player-by-player and analyzing one key part of their game. This week saw looks at Andrew Miller's mechanics, David Ross's defense, Clay Buchholz's changeup, and Mike Napoli's hip. One thing that's not too useful in spring is actual stats, which between the small sample sizes, the random levels of competition, and the amount of rust on everyone's bat, are just not predictive in any way. Matt Kory took a look at a few examples of this, then examined a few things we can determine from what we've seen so far.
The boys in the Bronx lost another one this week, with Mark Teixeira sidelined with a lingering wrist issue. As the Red Sox have a potentially spare first baseman in the form of Lyle Overbay, Marc looked at the potential roster wrangling that might take place to keep Overbay out of pinstripes. Not that Overbay would save the Yankees' offense, because come on (sorry, Lyle), but tweaking the Yankees is always solid policy.
In media fun and games, there were a couple of players making waves. Red Sox second baseman/spiritual leader/sasquatch enthusiast Dustin Pedroia weighed in on the topic of MLB's drug policy. Unsurprisingly, the hard-charging Pedroia wants the league to enforce stiffer penalties against players who violate the policy by using performance-enhancing drugs. Former Sox were also out giving quotes, as Carl Crawford made the poor decision to be honest when asked about how he felt during his time in Boston. He called out the media for being hard on him, and that media promptly went into full-on, couch-fainting "surely not us, we were never anything but kind to that always-injured overpaid bum whose error cost us a 2011 playoff spot" mode. The Boston media is nothing if not entirely predictable. Speaking of which, venerable Boston icon Bob Ryan wrote something lazy on Sunday, and I called him on it. (Not personally, I don't have his number, because as previously stated, he's an icon, and I'm some guy who writes on the weekends.)
We wrap up the week with two retirements. One an all-time legend of the sport, the other a young reminder of how unpredictable life can be. Yankees closer and certain Hall of Famer Mariano Rivera is expected to retire at the end of the 2013 season. He will ride into the sunset with a handful of World Series rings, well over 600 saves, and the eternal gratitude of the employees at the Louisville Slugger factory. On the other end of the career spectrum, Ryan Westmoreland, once considered the top prospect in the Red Sox system, and a five-tool superstar waiting to happen, has decided to hang them up and stop pursuing a major-league career. Westmoreland's road to the bigs was first disrupted a few years back by the discovery of a malformation on his brain stem, an issue far more severe than just limiting his playing ability. After a successful surgery, he tried to make his way back up the minor-league ladder, but another surgery was needed last year. That his career ends that way before it truly began is a reminder of several things, most notably how accurate the term "prospect" is, and the basic, frail humanity of ballplayers. It's also a reminder that baseball can change lives. Had he not been a ballplayer, with the resources of the Red Sox organization standing behind him, it's possible Westmoreland's story could have turned out much worse. He's not ever going to be a big-league ballplayer, but at least in part because he played, he's now got a shot at living a truly full life elsewhere. We're all hoping for nothing but the best for him.
Happy weekend, all.