Kim Klement-US PRESSWIRE
The Boston Red Sox hit rock bottom last season. They are focusing on the future and working toward getting better this year. They'll need the help of three key players going forward; Jacoby Ellsbury, Mike Napoli, and David Ortiz.
It won't take long for the Boston Red Sox to show what type of team they are this season. Even if they get off to a slow start, that won't necessarily mean they are as bad as last season. Simply watching how the players interact, seeing the relationship with new manager John Farrell, and observing how hard the team plays should tell fans everything they need to know. But there are areas of concern that will need to be addressed. Here are your Red Sox news and notes:
Jacoby Ellsbury is entering the final year of team control this season, but he won't be affected by the possibility of hitting free agency. GM Ben Cherington was asked about this topic, and according to Alex Speier of WEEI.com, Cherington has no concerns about Ellsbury's ability to avoid distraction. The contract status could be an issue for players with an uncertain future, but Cherington says Ellsbury knows how to compartmentalize.
"I really don't see it as a distraction at all. He's a very routine-oriented, regimented player who takes care of himself, has always done that, obviously talented, knows what he needs to do to get ready for a season. And he's got a lot to play for," said Cherington.
Ellsbury could be a trade chip this season if the Red Sox choose not to extend him. However, the team will have to think long and hard before they decide to give up on a 29-year old with All-Star and MVP-type skills. Ellsbury's injury history has limited him on the field, but if he can bounce back this season. the Red Sox may be more open to an extension. As it stands now, Cherington did not comment on the possibility of a deal with Ellsbury.
The most talked about topic for the Red Sox this offseason was Mike Napoli and his three-year deal turned one-year deal. Avascular necrosis found in Napoli's hip cost him two guaranteed years and a lot of money, but Napoli is moving forward. He is looking forward to proving himself on the field. Sperier says an MRI on Napoli's hip shows that the joint has not deteriorated any since the problem was first discovered. This is promising news for Boston and the first baseman slugger.
Napoli has been a productive hitter throughout his career even while putting up low batting averages at times. Napoli had a break out season in 2011 when he hit .320/.414/.631 with 30 home runs. Interestingly, he did not make the All-Star team that year, but he did last season while going on to hit a much lower, .227/.343/.469. Napoli's power has always been there, but the Texas Rangers let him walk via free agency because they did not want to sign him to a multi-year deal. The Red Sox were initially willing to do so, but with the hip injury, Boston will wait and see how Napoli handles the injury before making decision beyond 2013.
Big Papi's Achilles
Another major injury concern for the Boston Red Sox happens to reside with their long-term designated hitter David Ortiz. Ortiz suffered an injury to his achilles that limited him for most of the second half of last season. Prior to the injury, Ortiz was on pace to have a huge year. He hit .318/.415/.611 with 23 home runs in just 90 games last season.
The Red Sox gave him a two-year deal this offseason in hopes that he could replicate last year's production over a full season. Speier reported that Ben Cherington thinks Ortiz is in great shape this spring. Ortiz has already been taking some ground balls at first base and hitting in the cage. He will be a big part of any success the Red Sox have this season.