By Aaron Jackson
Spring is in the air! Though it didn’t feel like it last week, this weekend and today certainly make you feel like you’ll be mowing the grass sooner than later. Plus spring training is underway for the Boston Red Sox, and while it makes us feel better about winter ending, it typically is quite boring otherwise. For those that want to still pay attention though here are five storylines (other than the mainstream ones) to watch in Florida.
- What do the Red Sox do with Rusney Castillo? There was once a time Sox fans were giddy over the prospect of this guy signing a deal with Boston worth $72.5 million. He looked like he might be a future all-star for years to come. Unfortunately the only all-star teams he will be sniffing in the near future are the ones in AAA. With the Sox outfield pretty much set already, what happens if Castillo plays well? Do they stash him in the minors and hope he stays happy? Or do they jump ship and trade him at the first sign of a comeback? My money is on the latter, though at 30 years old my guess is teams won’t be too interested by a decent spring.
- Will last year’s spring training Phenom Sam Travis do it again this year? A year ago Travis was tearing the cover off the ball and his ACL and missed the entire season. Now back and healthy, what would this guy have to do in the spring to win an opening day roster spot? Would it take an injury to either Mitch Moreland or Hanley Ramirez to open that window? I’m excited to see this guy back into the fold for Boston.
- Who will get this year’s first attempt at the 8th inning out of the bullpen? Tyler Thornburg is the shiny new toy, and he certainly has the pitches, but is he capable of handling the pressure of Boston? Will Matt Barnes build off an at times dominant 2016? Will Joe Kelly finally become the bullpen arm he was meant to be? It would seem the 8th inning role is free for the taking as spring begins.
- Is Sandy Leon actually good? Most media outlets will tell you the catcher position is a 3 way race, with Leon, Blake Swihart and Christian Vazquez all vying for two spots. I don’t see it that way. I see it as Swihart and Vazquez fighting for the roster spot, with Leon the main man behind the plate. He certainly proved last year he can perform at a high level, so he has to have the upper hand in management’s eyes this spring. I think it will take a pretty bad spring for him to lose his job.
- Who will this year’s breakout player be? Last year Sam Travis took Red Sox Nation by storm with a fantastic spring. Typically there’s always at least one player who takes their opportunity to shine and dominates. Who will this year’s be? My guess is it won’t be a prospect, but a former major leaguer looking for another chance. Think 2014 Grady Sizemore type situation. I’d throw my money at third baseman Matt Dominguez, a guy that had back to back double digit home run seasons before finding himself out of the majors these last two years.
Aaron Jackson (@AaronRJackson on Twitter) is a co-host on The Drive, weekdays 4pm to 6pm on 92.9fm The Ticket and streaming live at DriveShowMaine.com. Follow The Drive on Twitter, @DriveShowMaine and “Like Us” on Facebook, Drive Show Maine.