Three weeks into spring training 2016, there have been some good and some not-so-good signs for the 2016 Boston Red Sox.
Pablo Sandoval: Not Good
There really isn’t a path to a positive outlook on Red Sox third baseman Pablo Sandoval. Inked to a five-year, $95 million free agent contract in December of 2014, Sandoval endured a very disappointing 2015 season.
This was supposed to be the season when a trimmed down, motivated Sandoval would start to be the player that former Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington and the Red Sox organization thought they were getting when they committed all those years and dollars to him.
Sandoval arrived a little late to spring training and unfortunately that was the only thing “little” about him. Regardless of whether or not he was really supposed to slim down during the offseason, it was painfully obvious that he did not. Sandoval was also quite adamant that his 2015 performance and his weight were not of concern to him.
Appearance is one thing, performance is another. Ultimately Sandoval will be judged on his production.
Through five spring training contests Sandoval is just 1-for-12. He’s slashing .083/.083/.167 (his one hit is an RBI double.) Sandoval’s two errors mean he’s been a disappointment on multiple levels. The good news? From where he’s at now, there’s really only one direction for him to go in.
Guys Named “Travis” : Good
Guys? That would be Travis Shaw, the upstart late-bloomer who made the most of his limited 2015 playing time, and Sam Travis, the team’s second round pick (No. 67 overall) in the 2014 MLB Amateur Draft.
Both men are projected as first basemen, and Shaw as noted earlier has 55 major league games under his belt at first base.
Sam Travis is the more notable prospect. He’s only 22 years old ( Shaw is 25) and he earned his second round draft pick status by mashing baseballs for the Indiana Hoosiers in College.
So far this spring Travis Shaw is slashing .571/.625/.857. He’s got 1 double, 1 home run and 5 RBI’s. Sam Travis isn’t fairing that much worse. He’s slashing .455/.357/.545 with 1 double a team-high 6 RBI’s.
Both players are performing above expectations. As of now it doesn’t look like either player should count on consistent major league playing time this April. Lots can change though, and the Red Sox have to be thrilled with the development of both players.
Manager John Farrell: Not Good
Managers generally can’t have bad spring trainings, but this hasn’t been the type of return that John Farrell had envisioned.
After missing nearly all of the final two months of the 2015 season while recovering from treatment for stage one Non-Hodgkin’s Burkitt lymphoma, Farrell’s return to the dugout had plenty of “feel good” potential.
The team’s 5-3 record is by no means a reason for major concern, but unfortunately for Farrell, an off-field issue has taken center stage.
Last Friday Comcast Sports New England’s Red Sox beat writer Jessica Moran abruptly resigned from her position. Rumors swirled that there was some form of romantic relationship between her and Farrell.
No one really knows all the details of the relationship, and Farrell has been tight-lipped about it. There’s no getting around the fact that the issue is a bit of a distraction. ESPN Boston sportswriter Jackie MacMullen was not shy about her thoughts regarding the lack of professionalism and questionable judgements of both Moran and Farrell.
There was already pressure on Farrell to get this Red Sox squad on a winning path, this story certainly won’t help his cause if the team struggles to get off to a fast start.
Hanley Ramirez: Good
Maybe not all-good, but for a guy who entered spring training with as much, if not more negativity surrounding him than Pablo Sandoval, Ramirez’s performance thus far is a bit encouraging.
He’s slashing .400/.400/.500 with 1 double and 4 RBI’s. His play at first base hasn’t been flawless, but the effort appears to be there. Ramirez’s spring training sure looks a lot better than that of Pablo Sandoval, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
Henry Owens: Good
Young pitchers are almost always a test of an organization’s patience. That being said, it sure has been nice to watch highly touted Red Sox pitching prospect Henry Owens this spring.
Through two starts he’s pitched 5 innings, walked 3, allowed 4 hits and struck out 6. The walks are a concern, but he’s getting batters to swing-and-miss and he looks pretty comfortable for a 23-year-old with only 63 innings of big league experience. Owens was supposed to be headed for a year where he’d be on the outside looking in at the Red Sox starting rotation, but that might not be the case…
Eduardo Rodriguez: Bad
Eduardo Rodriguez was all but certain to be the Red Sox fourth or fifth starter this season. The hard-throwing, 22-year-old lefty was 10-6 with an ERA of 3.85 in 2015. Rodriguez had some struggles last year, primarily in the form of tipping his pitches.
That problem had been addressed prior to the start of spring training and Rodriguez was very confident that he had put it behind him.
With what looked to be his biggest problem already in the rear view mirror, expectations were high for Rodriguez this spring.
Three weeks into spring training, those expectations are far from being fulfilled. Rodriguez has yet to appear in an exhibition game. Almost three weeks ago he injured his knee shagging a fly ball. The swelling and discomfort still has not subsided to the point where Rodriguez has been able to make an appearance on the mound.
None of this is really Rodriguez’s fault, but as of Thursday morning, the likelihood of him starting the season as a member of the Red Sox starting five is looking fairly remote.
David Ortiz and David Price: Good
Forget the spring training stats. Neither player has that much to prove in exhibition games.
The story here is that both players are healthy, both players are happy, and most importantly, both players are happy to be playing alongside one another.
Price and Ortiz haven’t always been best buddies. The two stars had a fairly negative exchange during the 2013 American League Divisional Series in which Ortiz’s Red Sox bested Price’s Rays over four games.
Would there be any lingering tension now that they were teammates? Nope.
Ortiz and Price literally hugged-it-out upon arriving in Fort Myers Florida. Since then there’s been zero tension between two guys who are arguably the most important players on the 2016 Red Sox.
David Price makes his first start of the spring at JetBlue Park, Thursday afternoon at 1:05 pm ET against the Minnesota Twins.