Spring fling

Doesn’t it just get you all tingly?

I don’t know about you, but after reading today’s Red Sox notebook, I’m not sure if there’s any bit of information that can negatively affect me for the remainder of my waking hours. In a move that is sure to awaken Boston baseball geeks to some lively spring training breakdown, Red Sox manager Terry Francona listed his starting lineups for tomorrow’s exhibition openers against Boston College and Northeastern, which means we’re literally just hours away from actual, real, honest-to-goodness, live baseball.

Kind of.

It might be just a pair of exhibition games against collegians more apt to be star struck than focused, but it will be at least some level of competition for the champs of hardball. Josh Beckett will get the opportunity to blow away the BC kids, while prospect Justin Masterson will hurl against Northeastern students not much younger than his 23 years.

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The spring training game schedule officially gets underway, which mercifully means no more talk of PFP and bullpen sessions. More significantly, it signifies that we’re less than one month from the season opener on March 25. In Japan. At 6 a.m. Nifty. The Boston Red Sox, catering to their fans since 2002.
But that’s a debate for another time. Today is too much of an anticipatory celebration seeing as we’re about to get deep into what is remarkably a sold-out spring schedule at City of Palms Park. It’s really out of control. There are no tickets available for either contest tomorrow on MLB partner in crime Stubhub.com, but you can pony up for of other games along the way. How about $1,800 for a lower reserved seat in Tampa on March 17 when the Red Sox face the Yankees? In fact, the cheapest ticket available for that day on Stubhub is $105. For an exhibition game. But you do get to see the Sox in green hats, so I suppose you have that going for you. Only on St. Patrick’s Day. And when Red Auerbach dies.
It amazes me the furor that Red Sox fans have created for tickets to games in which Keith Ginter and Brandon Moss are going to see most of the playing time. Some might argue that they’re scoping out the prospects, which is all nice and fair, but don’t we have five months to do that in Portland and Pawtucket for just a few bucks here and there? Paying upwards of $150 for a spring training ticket? I can’t see it. Heck, I can barely make it through a televised spring outing, never mind sacrificing weekly grocery money to attend one.
In any case, this week marks the first chance Red Sox fans will get to try and iron out any lingering mysteries that remain on this team. That is to say, not many. We wonder if anyone wants Coco Crisp, and how much they want him. We’ll debate whether J.D. Drew and Julio Lugo can make Theo Epstein look any better after last season’s less-than-stellar introductory campaigns. We’ll overreact greatly to every single struggle a pitcher has, and debate how many at-bats Sean Casey gets if Kevin Youkilis commits more than one error at first base. Maybe Argenis Diaz will start popping a bunch of home runs, and we’ll start realistically discussing whether he should supplant Alex Cora as a bench player.
As spring wears on, and there’s less and less to talk about, our minds will start to wander. Maybe Tim Wakefield has a 7.87 ERA for the spring, and you think the Sox are better off without him. It’s possible David Ortiz won’t hit a home run all spring, leading you to be overly concerned about that knee. If the Sox are 4-12 at some point, plenty are going to seriously reconsider whether it was a good idea to hand all that cash to Francona.
Of course, none of it matters.
The results of the spring games mean little for any player outside of Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, Bartolo Colon, David Aardsma, and the scant few others who have a chance at breaking camp with the team come the end of next month. Barring injury or trade, there isn’t much room on this Boston roster for too many extras. Last year’s Opening Day roster consisted of Joel Pineiro, Brendan Donnelly, JC Romero, and Wily Mo Pena. A year later it will consist mostly of the same personnel from the one that paraded around Coors Field with the World Series trophy last October.
There isn’t much for anyone prove. There isn’t very much for anyone to lose.
And so, the most uneventful spring training in the history of Boston continues.
Sure, maybe Julian Tavarez can liven things up by tossing an opponent or two to the ground, but beyond that there promises to be very little intrigue where the games are concerned. That has to be doubly frustrating for the likes of Brandon Moss, Craig Hansen, and David Pauley, who in any other year would in all likelihood be battling for a major league job.
A year ago we were seriously having debates as to whether or not Devern Hansack would make a good closer. This year, we’ve got the Buchholz-Lester-Colon triumvirate and little else to heatedly discuss. At least until real baseball comes back to us.
We get closer tomorrow when the college kids take a break from the um…books, to take on the world champs. I’ll be reciting the batting orders for the remainder of the day in preparation.