Despite the team’s poor finish in 2014, there are few spots on the Red Sox roster that are up for grabs this spring, writes Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald. The starting lineup is set, and the bench will consist of backup catcher Ryan Hanigan, offseason signee Chris Young, Brock Holt and Travis Shaw. Craig Kimbrel, Koji Uehara, Carson Smith, Junichi Tazawa and Robbie Ross ar locks for the ’pen, and the final two spots could be somewhat influenced by the fact that lefty Tommy Layne and right-hander Steven Wright are out of minor league options. Lauber lists four players that could make strong impressions on decision-makers and end up factoring into the team later in the year — left-hander Brian Johnson, right-hander Pat Light, first baseman Sam Travis and outfielder Brennan Boesch, the latter of whom had his best years on the Tigers, when Dave Dombrowski was general manager.
Here’s more from the AL East…
- The potential upgrade from deploying Rusney Castillo in left field over Hanley Ramirez is striking, writes Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal. Acknowledging the extreme sample-size caveat, MacPherson points out that Castillo rated at +9 runs in 200 innings, per Defensive Runs Saved, whereas Ramirez rated at -19 DRS. While the 90-run difference resulting from extrapolating those numbers isn’t a realistic expectation, it does highlight the potentially dramatic improvement that could result from improved outfield athleticism.
- The potential addition of Pedro Alvarez to the Orioles’ lineup would push Mark Trumbo into right field, though Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com spoke to a scout who has a more optimistic take of Trumbo in the outfield than most reports. The scout to whom Kubatko spoke graded Trumbo as a 50 on the 20-80 scale in the outfield (average). “He’s not going to hurt you out there,” the scout said. “He’s athletic in the outfield. He’ll be fine. He’s got a good arm, he’s a good athlete, he’s a good fielder.” Trumbo, though, has long drawn poor reviews from scouts in the outfield and rates considerably below average in the outfield corners per DRS and Ultimate Zone Rating.
- Roger Mooney of the Tampa Tribune spoke to Rays manager Kevin Cash about the difference heading into his second season as a manager. Cash said that he learned a seemingly incalculable number of lessons from his first year on the job and stressed the importance of communicating to some of his pitchers that weren’t particularly pleased with the short leashes they were afforded last year. “That’s my job,” Cash explained. “You’ve got to be able to communicate that. I’m learning this on the fly. I never had to be that guy. Now it was, ‘OK, go tell someone why he’s getting taken out of the ballgame and explain that.’ I don’t know if you ever have a perfect message. But you get more comfortable with experience.” Cash drew rave reviews from his predecessor, Joe Maddon, especially considering that last season was Cash’s first managing at any level. “I couldn’t have done the job he did last year,” said Maddon. “I had all those years in the minors, all those experiences at all those outposts, nobody watching.” Cash also drew quite a bit of praise from Evan Longoria, who spoke very positively