THIS STORY HAS BEEN FORMATTED FOR EASY PRINTING

Random thoughts from spring training

By Peter Abraham
Globe Staff / March 20, 2012
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A few more random thoughts from spring training:

* It's wholly unfair to Alfredo Aceves, who deserves a chance to start. But I can't picture how the Red Sox bullpen is good enough without him in it.

* Andrew Bailey will be just fine and perhaps Daniel Bard will evolve into a suitable starting pitcher. But the straight line to success in 2012 would have been to make Bard the closer, a role he had been groomed for and would be excellent at, and use the trade chips to land a No. 4 starter type.

Bard is going to have issues with his pitch count because he gives up a ton of foul balls, an issue that dogged him at times last season. Once a hitter sees him 2-3 times, it could get worse. He needs to find a pitch, probably his two-seam fastball, that can reliably create contract.

Bard is a smart guy and will figure it out. The question is how long that will take.

* That a player is out of options should not necessarily make him a better candidate for the roster. So guys like Andrew Miller, Matt Albers, Felix Doubront and Michael Bowden are so wonderful that it would be preferable to give them a spot they may not deserve rather than expose them to waivers?

The idea is to win games, not stockpile marginal talent. You want players who kick down the door, not sneak in through the back.

That said, Doubront and Bowden do look better and even the confounding Miller showed flashes of perhaps being a helpful reliever. But make them earn it.

* Marco Scutaro is 3 for 23 in Rockies camp. Spring training statistics are meaningless, but it speaks to the bigger picture that far too much was made of the Red Sox giving away a 36-year-old shortstop.

But there is the matter of the $4 million saved in that deal as yet spent. Hopefully that is earmarked for mid-season improvement, not the vault.

* By the time the season is done, bet you Mike Aviles has started 20 games in right field. If Jose Iglesias can't crack the lineup by the All-Star break, they have to start questioning the $8 million they dropped on him. Here's thinking he does and Aviles plays a lot of right.

* Is there some compelling reason Kelly Shoppach is the backup catcher instead of Ryan Lavarnway? Perhaps Lavarnway needs a little polish, but he's a serviceable catcher and a very dangerous hitter.

* Clay Buchholz is the key to the season. If he gives the Sox 180-plus solid innings, they can get away with three good starters and whatever else happens. If he can't, they could be an 85-win team. Buchholz is every bit as talented as Josh Beckett and Jon Lester, maybe more so.

* Bobby Valentine's track record suggests he finds value in players who have been previously overlooked. It'll be interesting to see who those players are. One guess is Jason Repko.

* Baseball is getting more like the NFL. The Red Sox now have an "administrative assistant to the manager." It says so right on page 52 of the media guide. Zack Minasian is his name.

Minasian is the former clubhouse manager of the Rangers. He spent 21 years in Texas before getting fired in 2009. His son, Zack, is the professional scouting director of the Brewers. Like Valentine, the elder Minasian is a Tommy Lasorda crony. He looks a little like Frank Vincent, the actor who always plays Mob guys.

Basically, he's Bobby's own personal clubbie. Joe Torre used to have one, too. It's the new thing.

* Call me corny, but I consider it a good sign that all the Red Sox now stand in a straight line in front of their dugout for the National Anthem instead of having two or three players standing wherever they felt like and the rest in the clubhouse discussing the newest models of Louis Vuitton luggage or whatever.

If they're going to play the Anthem, you should get out there and stand in a line and look a team.

* A dozen years of covering spring training has cured me of ever wanting to retire to Florida. An armadillo jumped out in front of me the other night and I nearly started running like it was a grizzly bear. We barely had squirrels in New Bedford, forget whatever armadillos are.

* A new manager is always a big story and when that new manager is Valentine, it's even bigger. He has a personality, unlike many of his counterparts and says quotable things. But I feel for Terry Francona, whose methods worked just fine for a long time and helped produce two championships? Yes, Valentine has a lot of energy and is trying some new things. But Francona didn't pull up a beach chair and suck down Mai-Tais when he ran spring training.

For a lot of reasons, the Red Sox needed a change and so did Tito. Hopefully it works out for everybody.

And you know what? If the Red Sox have a day for Tim Wakefield and one for Jason Varitek this season, they should have one for Francona, too. He deserves a chance to be cheered at Fenway as much as anybody else, probably more.

Francona did something no Red Sox manager since 1918 did. That should not be forgotten.

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