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No walk in the park

Posted by Maureen Mullen February 5, 2009 05:56 AM

Now that catcher Jason Varitek has been re-signed, the Red Sox have their roster set in time for pitchers and catchers to report to spring training in Fort Myers, Fla., on Feb. 12. Although the roster will likely undergo some changes before Opening Day — the arrival of a power bat and the departure of a relief pitcher are among the possibilities — the main pieces are in place.

The question is, how does the Sox roster stack up in the American League East? Three major league scouts from teams outside of the division offer their takes:

Scout 1
“I’ve got my doubts a little bit about the Red Sox, just because of all the questions. The health of [third baseman Mike] Lowell. Is [Jed] Lowrie really a bona fide shortstop on a championship club? The catching situation — you’re not getting much offensive output there. [David Ortiz] is diminished, I think. They’re getting long in the tooth overall, except for [second baseman Dustin] Pedroia, and I don’t know if he can duplicate what he did [in 2008]. I hate to sound negative, but they might have enough to beat Toronto, and then again they may not. And the Yankees spent half a billion dollars to win it. So I can’t see Boston being the favorite right now in the division.

“I guess you’d have to like the Yankees. I don’t think Tampa Bay’s a fluke. It’s as competitive a division as there is in baseball, because Toronto’s no slouch. I don’t see Boston winning, not with that club right there. Just too many question marks. Lowell’s very solid if he’s healthy, but he was so broken down at the end, and it’s probably not fair, he’s probably better than that. But, as long as [pitchers Josh] Beckett and [Jon] Lester are healthy, that might be as good a 1-2 as anybody’s got. And then that guy at the end, [Jonathan] Papelbon, as long as he’s there they’ve got a chance. But I’m not as excited about the club as I would have been two years ago or even last year. I think they’ll come in third. They could win 88 games and come in third. It’s not going to be easy for them.”

Scout 2
“That’s going to be an interesting division this year. The Blue Jays will compete. They’re going to miss the big right-hander, [A.J.] Burnett, but they’ll compete. The Yankees are going to be good. They’re still going to have to swing the bats, but they got rotation help and bullpen help. So, they’re going to be fine. Boston has a lot of question marks. They signed a lot of guys, but a lot of them have health issues. So it’ll be interesting to see what happens with those guys.”

Scout 3
“The Yankees have bolstered their club quite a bit with a lot of money. I was thinking when I looked at Boston’s club that they could use another power guy, and I figure if Lowell wasn’t going to be able to come back, then [Kevin] Youkilis would be playing third base and they’d need a first baseman. [Mark] Kotsay did a good job for them last year. If Ortiz isn’t healthy, they’re going to be in tough shape, because to me he’s the offensive catalyst on that club now that Manny’s gone, and you’ve got to have somebody to pick up the slack.

“It’s going to be a tough race again. I don’t hear anybody talking about Tampa Bay much, but they’re going to have a good ballclub again. Boston’s going to be good if they come up with another hitter. The Yankees have improved their club. I would say it’s going to be the same type of race it was last year, a three-way job, and Boston will be right in there if they can get some power. But it all comes down to injuries. You get a couple of main guys injured and you’re behind the eight ball in a hurry. So, they’ve got two guys who are borderline being in or out of the lineup, the DH and the third baseman. That’s two power positions right there. If they don’t have someone who can step right in, then they could be in trouble.”

Maureen Mullen covers the Red Sox for OT and can be reached at mmullen@globe.com

1 comments so far...
  1. Maureen, this is valuable information, thank you.

    I agree with the scouts, that as constituted this is not an AL East division winning team. The lineup is obviously the biggest question mark.

    And as for the Devil Rays, people are overlooking the huge improvement in outfield defense last season and how much of an impact that has in general on the success of pitchers. They're definitely not a fluke team.

    I like the Sox for third, barring a major trade or crazy NYY and TB injuries.

    Posted by Boston Dan February 6, 09 02:19 PM
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