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Sox Prospect Notes (Shoppach, Alvarez)

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Kelly Shoppach is Determined to Improve
Kelly Shoppach, the number one catching prospect in the Red Sox farm system, has a lot of work to do this spring training if he wants to improve his 2004 season in Pawtucket (which included a batting average of .233), and the good thing is, he knows it.

"I know what the expectations are. I've gotten over trying to do too much or trying to do something because I think they'll like it. I'm trying to do what I do to the best of my ability. They've showed a lot of faith in me. Hopefully, I've given them everything they wanted, and I'll continue to do that. I want to do it as a Red Sox. That means something."

I was expecting a lot more of Shoppach last season, especially since he had a job on the line in Boston. Though he has never had one at-bat for the big club yet, Jason Varitek was a free agent and if Shoppach performed to expectations then we may have a new fixture behind home plate in the '05 season.

There were upsides to his lack-luster 2004 season. He hit 22 home runs, his on-base percentage was great (.320) considering his poor batting average, and he still had his normal, great defense behind the dish.

If Shoppach doesn't produce this year, and really make an impact at Pawtucket, you can wave his prospect status goodbye. I personally think he can be a good player in the majors, but not with a .233 batting average. If he raises that average above .290 next season, then I think his future will still be bright.

Alvarez to Make Start Against Yankees
Sorry, folks. No Curt Schilling, Randy Johnson spring training matchup to kick off the 2005 season. Instead, Terry Francona has named 22 year-old prospect, and my personal favorite prospect in the Sox farm system, Abe Alvarez as the starter for next Monday's game.

You may remember Alvarez from a July 22 spot-start in the day game of a day/night double-header with the Baltimore Orioles. For a rookie, who was made aware not even 24 hours before game time, he pitched pretty well against a stacked Orioles lineup. Five innings pitched, five earned runs and two strikeouts was his line but, in reality, was better than that.

Alvarez, who has been praised by the likes of General Manager Theo Epstein, has an uncanny game preparation and maturity that usually doesn't come with the age of 22.

"It's not the same as the regular season or the playoffs,'' Alvarez said yesterday. "It's not like I'm going to be facing A-Rod or (Derek) Jeter four times. It may be only once or twice. It's the Yankees, but it's just like facing the Orioles. They'll jump on your mistakes. They're a lot more mentally prepared than in the minor leagues."

Not only is Alvarez mature beyond his years, regarded by some as the Red Sox's best pitching prospect, and starting in Pawtucket in the 2005 season, but he is also legally blind in his left eye.

Please. Tell me a reason why not to root for this man.