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Going nine with the Sox ...

Posted by Christopher L. Gasper, Globe Staff  March 2, 2010 01:14 PM

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300dicek.jpgFORT MYERS, Fla. -- As the Red Sox wrapped up the first phase of spring training today and departed the Player Development Complex for City of Palms Park, one has to wonder why the truck transporting the equipment down Edison Avenue has a sign saying, "Place your ad here." Why isn't it being sponsored by JetBlue like the fabled truck that left Fenway?

Here are nine other thoughts, observations and opinions from a near fortnight in Fort Myers:

1. As the rotation turns -- The Red Sox keep saying the pitching rotation will work out, but the math doesn't. They have six full-time starters for five spots. One proud and accomplished pitcher, Tim Wakefield or Daisuke Matsuzaka (left), is going to be peeved that he won't be in the rotation to start the season. Wakefield has made it clear he expects to be in the starting five if healthy, and Matsuzaka being bumped could be an international incident. The Sox aren't just being careful with Matsuzaka and his tweaked back to maintain his health. They're trying to buy as much time as possible.

2. Iglesias a showman -- Shortstop prospect Jose Iglesias is the real deal. He has folks flocking to watch him take infield every day. Lou Merloni, who knows a thing or two about major league infield play, left the Sox clubhouse one day and said, "I'm going to watch the Show." He meant watching the 20-year-old Cuban wunderkind flashing the leather at short.

3. Power on --  Jacoby Ellsbury is going to hit double-digit home runs this year. Think 14 or 15. In his first two full big league seasons (2008 and 2009), Ellsbury went yard eight times and nine times, respectively. He looks more filled out this year. Ellsbury remains steadfast that he won't try to hit home runs, which would be a mistake. However, he feels he has more pop than he has shown.

4. Catching on  -- For those who have their doubts about Victor Martinez starting the season as the everyday catcher, understand that nobody is putting in more time or working harder than Martinez in this camp. It seems like he's always coming and going -- from the batting cage or the weight room or conditioning or a meeting. Martinez will probably never be viewed in Boston as Jason Varitek's equal when it comes to managing a game behind the plate, but it won't be for lack of effort.

5. Lining up on defense -- The Sox position players are already sick of all the talk about the perceived weakness of the lineup and perception of the team relying on "run prevention." They don't think run production is going to be a major issue. The Sox were third in baseball last season in runs per game (5.38), behind the Yankees and the Angels. They don't have Jason Bay and his 36 home runs, but less power doesn't automatically translate to a lot fewer runs. "I think for us hitting-wise if guys get on base that's the whole key, getting on base," said Kevin Youkilis. "There are enough guys in the lineup. We got guys that are hitting seventh and sixth that would be hitting third and fourth in maybe some other lineups. It's a good lineup I think."

6. Protective order -- David Ortiz came to camp in shape and with a purpose. He's never going to be a 50-homer guy again, but as bad as last season was the first two months (one home run and 18 runs batted in during his first 46 games) he still was nearly a 30-homer, 100 RBI guy. That's good enough. But ever since the trade of Manny Ramirez, Ortiz has expressed concerns about protection in the lineup. He did so again here. Last season when Big Papi rediscovered his stroke, he had Bay batting behind him. A perceived lack of protection could mentally mess with Ortiz.

7. Bronx Boomers -- I'm less concerned about the age of some of the Sox' newbies -- Mike Cameron (37), Marco Scutaro (34), Adrian Beltre (turns 31 on April 7) -- when I look at the Yankees. The Bronx Bombers are aging faster than the Baby Boom generation. Mariano Rivera (40), Jorge Posada (38) and Andy Pettitte (37) are all baseball senior citizens. Derek Jeter is 35. Even Alex Rodriguez is 34. You tend to think of A.J. Burnett as a young flamethrower, but he's 33.

8. Bridging the gap -- Much has been made of the metaphorical bridge to 2012, but there is real reason to be excited about the future of the Red Sox. Casey Kelly, 20, will be younger than some of the Northeastern University batters he faces tomorrow but has presence, poise and a command of his pitches beyond his years. Lars Anderson serves as a cautionary tale for "can't miss" Sox prospects and their rapid development, but Kelly looks like he could be the righthanded Jon Lester. Rhode Island's Ryan Westmoreland, the organization's top prospect according to Baseball America, isn't even 20 years old yet, but boasts the body of a major league outfielder.

9. Around the horn -- Sights and sounds of spring training: the elderly fans who repeatedly called out for an autograph from Jeremy Hermida, but kept calling him "Hermidia" and wondering why he wasn't coming over. ... A few of the lighter moments with Francona, like when he said playfully that closer Jonathan Papelbon was scheduled to work in Thursday's game against the Twins because he was "saving him for the Mayor's Cup." ...Dustin Pedroia's boundless energy and daily antics. 
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The word

Christopher L. Gasper riffs on the news

Dearth

...That's what the Patriots have when it comes to picks in the 2013 NFL Draft, which starts Thursday. After all those years of stockpiling picks the way a survivalist does non-perishables the Patriots have just five picks in this year's draft, thanks to Band-aid trades for Albert Haynesworth, Chad Ochocinco and Aqib Talib. Five picks would be the fewest draft picks in franchise history. (Part of that is attributable to the trimming of the draft to just seven rounds in 1994). Further complicating matters is that two of the Patriots' greatest needs are at wide receiver and cornerback, positions where they have sustained draft droughts. With that in mind, I'm convinced the Patriots are going trade back out of the first round of a quanity-over-quality draft where you're just as likely to pick a Pro Bowl player in the second and third round as you are in the first round.

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