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Spring training preview: Infielders

Posted by Peter Abraham, Globe Staff  January 30, 2013 09:30 AM

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Third in a series of spring training roster breakdowns this week. Monday: Starters. Tuesday: Relievers. Today: Infielders. Thursday: Outfielders. Friday: Catchers and DHs.

As the Red Sox prepare for spring training, here is a look at their infielders:

Expected starters: Mike Napoli (1B), Dustin Pedroia (2B), Stephen Drew (SS), Will Middlebrooks (3B).

In the mix: 2B-SS-3B Pedro Ciriaco, 2B-SS Brock Holt, SS Jose Iglesias, 1B Mauro Gomez.

Prospects of note: SS Xander Bogaerts, 1B Travis Shaw.

Organizational depth: 1B Mauro Gomez, SS-2B-3B Jonathan Diaz, 1B Mark Hamilton, UTIL Drew Sutton.

Breakdown: The starters are locked in unless there's some sort of injury. Given the history of this group, that's a real issue. Napoli arrives as a free agent with a bone-deteriorating hip condition that could eventually end his career. Middlebrooks is coming back from a broken hand. Drew missed large chunks of 2011 and '12 with a broken ankle. Pedroia has dealt with injuries large and small the last two years. Ciriaco and Holt could battle for one bench spot. A backup first baseman is needed. Right now, Hamilton and Gomez are it.

What's good: There's power in this group. Napoli could hit 25 homers with his made-for-Fenway swing. Middlebrooks connected 15 times in 267 at-bats last season. Pedroia has 36 homers the last two seasons and Drew hit 48 from 2008-10 ... Middlebrooks is a better defender than he showed last season ... Drew and Napoli have the incentives of one-year contracts ... Pedroia will be much happier playing for John Farrell than he was Bobby Valentine.

What's bad: Napoli is not a particularly good first baseman but should be adequate ... Drew initially will be compared to his brother J.D., who wasn't popular with a segment of the Red Sox fan base ... Middlebrooks had a .325 OBP last season and struck out 70 times in those 267 at-bats. He needs more plate discipline. ... Has the window closed on the defensively gifted Iglesias? With Bogaerts on the way, he needs to have a big season at the plate.

Theme song: "Don't Let Us Get Sick" by Warren Zevon.

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