By Matt Straub
The Northeast has just gone through one of the longest, snowiest winters in memory so we are more ready for baseball than perhaps anyone in the country. Peaking the excitement even more is the potential success coming for all the local teams, which makes opening day even more exciting.
The Boston Red Sox head into 2015 hoping to bounce back from a terrible 2014 season, and they seem to have the offensive firepower to at least make a run at it. I don’t believe they have the pitching or the reliable depth to pull it off, but at the very least this year will be much, much better than last season. So let’s break down the first series against the Philadelphia Phillies, an interleague opener which shouldn’t be allowed but is what we’re stuck with.
Boston Red Sox (Last year: 71-91, last place AL East)
vs. Philadelphia Phillies (Last year: 73-89, last place NL East)
Monday, 3 p.m.
Clay Buchholz (Career: 66-44, 3.92 ERA) vs. Cole Hamels (Career: 108-83, 3.27)
Wednesday, 7 p.m.
Rick Porcello (76-63, 4.30) vs. Aaron Harang (122-128, 4.21)
Thursday, 7:05 p.m.
Justin Masterson (60-72, 4.24) vs. David Buchanan (6-8, 3.75)
Both teams could use some. Each is coming off a putrid 2014 season. The Red Sox, however, went out and added some big name players to the team such as Pablo Sandoval, Hanley Ramirez, and a new pitching rotation. The Phillies began selling off their roster this winter and would love to continue the process before July. Hamels might end up in Boston before the year’s end, and if they could get someone to take Ryan Howard, the Phillies would move him today. There’s hope in Boston, but there’s nothing to look forward to in Philadelphia.
Three Red Sox Storylines
1. Boston is going to try and make the playoffs without a true ace on the roster. If their theory works and getting a solid outing every day instead of an occasional great outing once every five days works, the Red Sox should have a consistent rotation capable of winning every game. I think they’ll end up losing most of the games in which they face aces, however, which is an impossible path to success. The opening matchup is a perfect example. Boston will be an underdog too often this year to truly contend.
2. On the bright side, this offense should be fun to watch. If Shane Victorino is healthy, Boston has seven guys who can beat the opposing pitcher. The catching situation is troublesome with Christian Vasquez out for the year, but the Red Sox were set to carry his weak bat anyway. If the pitchers are even decent, this offense could steal quite a few games this year.
3. The bullpen, once a strength for the Red Sox, is full of question marks heading into the year, with or without a healthy Koji Uehara. There are new faces who are unproven against the rigors of the AL East and others like Alexi Ogando who must stay healthy. With a rotation not capable of much more than keeping the Red Sox in the game, the bullpen will be crucial to the team’s success, which seems scary right now.
Three Phillies To Know
1. Cole Hamels wants to play for a contender and might do enough whining to get himself traded soon. Much of the talk has had him going to Boston, but the Red Sox didn’t pay Jon Lester, so it’s hard to imagine them trading players for Hamels unless they’re in the wild card race in July and get desperate to avoid missing the playoffs again.
2. Jonathan Papelbon is someone the Red Sox will remember, and he’ll be motivated to beat his old team, with whom he had a messy divorce, if he gets the chance to shut the door in the ninth inning. He might not have many leads to protect, and he too could be in a new uniform by summer.
3. Freddy Galvis is taking over for Jimmy Rollins at short, and has looked good this spring. If his bat continues to develop, he could be a bright spot in what should be a lousy year in Philadelphia.
With Opening Day ruined by a stupid interleague series, Red Sox fans don’t have to wait long for a series with true juice, as they go from Philadelphia to the Bronx for a weekend set with the Yankees.