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Tag:Spring Training
Posted on: December 8, 2009 3:22 pm
 

Casey Kelly chooses pitching over shortstop

The Boston Red Sox have been cursed to find a consistent and reliable shortstop ever since trading Nomar Garciaparra in the middle of the 2004 season. 

Scratch one more player off of list of possibilities at the middle infield position.

The Red Sox announced yesterday that Casey Kelly, who split last season between the mound and the infield, will focus on being a starter for the remainder of his career. GM Theo Epstein made the announcement at this year's general manager meetings in Indianapolis.

Kelly is heralded as the top prospect in the Red Sox farm system and was involved in the heaviest of trade rumors between the Sox and the Toronto Blue Jays for ace pitcher Roy Halladay. Epstein emphasized that Kelly is not on the trading block.

Kelly went 6-1 with a sparkling 1.12 ERA with 39 strikeouts in 48 innings during his time at Greenville in the second half of last season. Greenville is one of Sox single-A affliates (considered as A++, i.e. a step above A+ Salem).

It was also announced that Kelly will be offered an invitation to Spring Training to get him acclimated to the feel of big league pitching. Epstein said that they feel that Kelly has an excellent possibility of pitching in the "upper minors" this season, meaning making it at least to double-A Portland and possibily triple-A Patwucket.

Kelly will be only 20 years old when he reports to Fort Myers in February. The decision of which position to play, according to Epstein, was ultimately left up to Kelly, who called the GM earlier this week with his decision. While the Sox have been looking for a long-term option at shortstop, Kelly's decision was not altogether suprising. While compiling excellent pitching statistics, Kelly batted only .136 with three home runs and 16 RBIs in 136 at-bats in the minors last year.

Posted on: June 24, 2009 8:33 pm
 

Red Sox Have a Logjam at Shortstop

Ever since July 31, 2004, the Boston Red Sox have had issues with at least one position on their roster.

Shortstop.

Yes, it was on that Saturday afternoon when it was announced that the Sox had traded the face of the organization, Nomar Garciaparra. Since Garciaparra left, the Sox have been hard pressed to find a replacement.

This season, the prospects for a dependable shortstop seemed best as the Sox had two legitimate players contending for the job in spring training. Julio Lugo was the veteran, entering his third season with the Sox, while Jed Lowrie was, like Garciaparra, a homegrown product and had only a half season under his belt.

Lugo is considered a more offensive-minded shortstop, although that may be due more to his downright terrible defense than anything else, as his offensive numbers are hardly remarkable. Lowrie is a much more solid defender, having made no errors in 45 games at shortstop last season (compared to Lugo’s 16 in only 81 games), but has not proven that he is anything more than an average hitter.

Although Lowrie played well as a rookie, it would be hard to bench Lugo given the kind of contract (4 years/$36 million) he was given. But then Lugo injured himself during a very impressive spring training, and was forced to the disabled list to open the season. To many, this was an excellent excuse to bypass Lugo’s lucrative contract and give the job to Lowrie.

Fans were optimistic about Lowrie, and with good reason. Fans were hoping he would be the next in the long and impressive list of homegrown talent over the recent years. However, he struggled mightily to open the season, recording only one hit in 18 at-bats. After this abysmal start, it was discovered that he was playing injured, and he underwent surgery to fix a wrist injury that has been bothering him for sometime.

The Sox now had to turn to their third-string option at shortstop, and they were lucky to have Nick Green, who has been somewhat of a journeyman in his first few seasons in the majors. Green also had a very good spring training, despite not playing at all in the majors in 2008.

Now almost three months into the season, Green has so far weathered the “shortstop curse” left behind by Garciaparra. In fact, his play has impressed manager Terry Francona to the point that although Lugo has rejoined the club for sometime, Green has taken over the everyday shortstop duties.

Through 53 games played, Green is sporting a very respectable .292 batting average, to go along with four home runs and 26 RBIs while spending most of his time in the ninth spot in the lineup. However, shortstop is not his natural position, and he struggled some early in the year defensively, but his defense has picked up of late.

But Lowrie is now at triple-A Pawtucket rehabbing from the wrist injury and figures to rejoin the team by the All-Star break just a few weeks away. While Green, Lowrie and Lugo have all played several positions at times throughout their career, it is unlikely that all three will remain on the roster. The remaining bench players (George Kotteras, Mark Kotsay and Rocco Baldelli) are not going to be moved anywhere, which means that one of the three shortstop options will not be with the big league club in a few weeks.

The Sox will try (and likely tried last year) to move Lugo at the trading deadline, but will be hard pressed to find a new home for him given his poor play and ridiculously over-priced contract.

Green has exceeded expectations, not just for himself but he has given the Sox better play from the shortstop position than they had likely expected regardless of which of the three they put out. The team would much rather have Lowrie and Green, but likely one of them will have to go. However, with his continued lack of play, Lugo may land on the disabled list with some kind of mystery injury ala Daisuke Matsuzaka and his strained shoulder.

 The Sox will try very hard to keep both Lowrie and Green on the team. What do you think they should do?

Posted on: January 20, 2009 8:18 pm
 

Papelbon Resigns, but Contract Issues Still Loom

The Boston Red Sox resigned All-Star closer Jonathan Papelbon to a one year, $6.25 million contract. Papelbon has been the Sox' lights-out ninth inning man since 2006, and has made the All-Star game in each season. His career 1.84 earned run average ranks him second among major league pitchers since 1900 who have thrown at least 200 innings. He is only 29 saves away from establishing the Red Sox franchise record for career saves.

Papelbon's salary last year? $800k.

Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein understands the importance of avoiding drawn out arbitration battles, which lead to dissent among players and an altogether uncomfortable player-team relationship. So while the New York Yankees were signing seemingly all of the available free agents and their immediate families, Epstein focused on securing home-grown talent. Reigning MVP Dustin Pedroia and Kevin Youkilis, the third runner up for MVP, both completed long term deals that will delay their potential free agency considerably.

But Papelbon has been vocal about his salary and how it does not represent his performance on the field. And, considering that he has earned roughly $1.5 million while established himself as a premier closer, it is easy to see his argument.

During Spring Training before the 2008 season, Papelbon had this to say about his future with the Red Sox: "I can’t sell myself short. I know they’re not going to give me what I want, so the question becomes, ‘How close can we get?’ If I can’t get close, they can just renew me." [ref]

Papelbon and the Sox came to the one-year, $800,000 contract a few days later. Though happy to be with the Red Sox, he was reportedly unhappy with the figures, but having too few years of service to be eligible for arbitration, he had to settle. The contract nearly doubled his salary from the previous year.

However, the Sox reluctance to sign Papelbon to a long term contract should be considered worrisome by Sox fans. With relief pitching being in such limited amounts, and Papelbon entering the prime of his career, there is no reason to believe that a team like the Los Angeles Angels, or Detroit Tigers or even, (gasp!) the New York Yankees will not be quick to offer Papelbon several years with upwards of $12 million per year. (Mariano Rivera can't pitch forever)

As much as Sox fans believe that there are certain young players who are "untouchables," both in trades and free agency, and that the Sox have stuck to their guns with most of those players, Papelbon is no longer a prospect.

Perhaps Epstein is hoping to get one more year out of Papelbon for relatively cheap until he is forced to come up with a long term contract, but whatever the rationale is, Sox fans may be seeing Cinco-Ocho suit up for another team in the near future.

 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com