This seems like a good time to take a break from making hotel reservations for the coming season …
• Spring training has a chance to be colossally uneventful for the Red Sox, which is a good thing unless you’re a beat writer looking for a story. Barring injury, virtually every spot on the roster is accounted for. In theory, Jed Lowrie could push Marco Scutaro but that’s about it. Even all the bullpen spots are pretty much taken.
How Josh Beckett looks may be the biggest story as his return to form is the key to the 2011 Red Sox. But it’s more how he looks and how his ball moves, not how many outs he gets. Beckett had solid numbers last spring (19.1 IP, 17 H, 5 BB, 22 K) and pitched poorly once the games counted.
• Felix Doubront is intriguing. Remember how the Yankees used to use Ramiro Mendoza? Doubront could be that kind of pitcher, a reliever with starter-type stuff who can go two innings.
He could well become a starter down the road. But with all five starters under contract through the end of 2012, it would be hard to waste Doubront’s talent in Pawtucket. Lefties who aren’t afraid to throw a fastball over the plate are a precious commodity.
• Brandon Jacobs, an outfielder who played for Lowell last season, was headed to Auburn on a football scholarship before the Red Sox selected him in the 2009 draft and paid him $750,000 to play baseball.
Jacobs was a running back and could have been in the BCS title game last night. Peter Gammons has a look at Jacobs on MLB.com.
• If you’re thinking of taking a road trip with the Red Sox, now is the time to book a hotel and get tickets. Team web sites will have ticket info and you can find hotels close to most parks.
A few suggestions: Baltimore, Seattle, Minnesota and Toronto are great places to visit. You can find places to eat, drink and stay right around the ballparks. Cleveland is underrated and you can see the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame.
You can hop a train and see games in New York or Philadelphia very easily. Don’t rent a car in those cities, take public transportation.
Oh, and don’t go to Oakland. Well, unless you can go see a Giants game, too. Then it would be worth suffering through a game at Oakland’s awful stadium.
• Congrats to Hazel Mae, who got married over the weekend. The former NESN personality now works for MLB Network.
• Ryan Kalish looked very good in the majors last season. But he had only 143 at-bats in Pawtucket and the Red Sox want him to finish that stage of his development before coming up to stay.
It makes more sense, at least for a while, for Kalish to play every day in Pawtucket than ride the bench as the fifth outfielder in the majors. His time is coming and that will be 2012 when he takes over for J.D. Drew in right field.
• Prediction: Mike Cameron hits 15-20 homers and drives in 60-70 runs. He’s going to get a lot of at-bats.
• Bud Selig has decided that any playoff expansion or additional use of instant replay won’t be enacted until 2012 at the earliest.
• This is the final offseason the Red Sox plan to make major improvements to Fenway Park. So now the countdown is on. Will the old ballyard last 20 more years or 50 more?
• It’s Jan. 11 and Carl Pavano, Rafael Soriano, Vladimir Guerrero, Jim Thome, Brian Fuentes, Manny Ramirez, Johnny Damon, Grant Balfour and Jon Rauch are still out there. Some agents, particularly Sam and Seth Levinson, were smart to make early deals for their clients.
• The Yankees rotation right now: CC Sabathia, Phil Hughes, A.J. Burnett, Ivan Nova and TBA. Andy Pettitte has a lot of leverage if he wants to pitch again. You have to think they have some kind of move to make.
• Don’t be surprised if Toronto becomes a legitimate contender this season. They have pitching, power and John Farrell will be a good manager.
• The 9-year-old girl killed in Arizona, Christina-Taylor Green, was the granddaughter of veteran manager and executive Dallas Green and the daughter of John Green, a Dodgers scout. What a tragic story. Hopefully people on both sides of the political aisle and those who comment on politics will dial back the harsh rhetoric. The climate in our country has become poisoned and we have to work as one to change that.
Whether Jared Loughner was influenced by it or not, politicians and pundits who resort to violent metaphors should be shunned. It’s not necessary and we’re a better people than that. Or we should be.
Some non-baseball thoughts:
• Love what the Patriots have done. But I’m not packing for the Super Bowl just yet. The Colts had the ball and were driving for the winning score in the final minutes on Nov. 21 and the same was true of the Packers on Dec. 19.
The Pats made big defensive plays to end those games, but they are vulnerable. If the Jets run the ball, control the clock and force a turnover or two, that game could be dangerously close, if not a loss.
• Rex Ryan is solid gold for sportswriters. All coaches and managers should be so unfiltered. It makes it fun. But trying to tweak Tom Brady is silly. Brady is going to the Hall of Fame with Gisele Bundchen on his arm and several hundred million in the bank. You think he cares what Rex says?
• If you get a chance, go see the play “Lombardi” on Broadway as the performances are excellent. Dan Lauria (the father on “The Wonder Years”) plays Lombardi and Judith Light (from “Who’s The Boss”) plays Marie Lombardi. The run was extended until June.
• The new show “Shameless” on Showtime has a chance.
• Cam Newton will get the JaMarcus Russell comparison thrown at him. He’s a much better athlete than Russell ever hoped to be, but I’m not sure he has all the throws needed to be a good NFL quarterback. That ball he fired at the feet of an open receiver in the end zone last night was telling.
• Caught a Celtics game in person last week. It was surprising how much love Shaq gets from the crowd, especially when compared to Paul Pierce and other players who have actually accomplished something in Boston.
Piece has an old man’s game. He’s thick, strong and he knows all the angles and tricks. It’s fun to watch him.
• Saw “The Fighter” and liked it a lot. “Black Swan” was really well done and makes you think. Hoping to catch “True Grit” this weekend.
• Verizon getting the iPhone is the best news of 2011 so far.
• Jason Aldean, Josh Beckett’s buddy, has two singles in the iTunes Top 60. Some bands to check out: Cage The Elephant, The Downtown Fiction and My Darkest Days.
• Yes, snow is a huge pain in the backside and requires you making some adjustments. But let’s dial back the hysteria. It’s January and we live in New England. Occasionally it snows. The TV people make it sound like the spaceships from “Independence Day” are hovering over Boston Common.
Vacation is over and I’ll be at some Red Sox events in the coming days, so stay tuned for reports here and in the paper. Baseball will be here before you know it.