Mr. Negativity goes pessimistic on Red Sox spring training

LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 27: Pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez #57 of the Boston Red Sox pitches in the first inning of Game Four of the 2018 World Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium on October 27, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 27: Pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez #57 of the Boston Red Sox pitches in the first inning of Game Four of the 2018 World Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium on October 27, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images) /

Spring training for the Boston Red Sox fan base is one of optimism, but with four players I have a tinge of pessimism that is of concern.

Spring is viewed as a rebirth by nature with early flowers poking up through the muck, snow (hopefully) gone, daylight longer, and for baseball, that means spring training and going long on optimism. Every team, or I should say about six teams, have expectations of putting the Red Sox to rest and raising a World Series banner elsewhere other than Title Town Boston.

Spring training is baseball camp and the optimism comes down to players, especially players who have serious or semi-serious question marks attached to their future. With a broad brush approach, the health outlook invariably takes a positive slant.  Why take a negative? But I will. I am pessimistic on four players despite all the glowing reports I expect to see.

Pablo Sandoval arrived in spring training circa 2017 in pristine shape. The Panda responded with an excellent spring hitting .338 with five home runs.  As the cliché goes, “hope springs eternal.” Just how did that work out? Sandoval hit just .212 and was released. A morbid cost that is still on the books. Beware of spring and the prophecies!

Eduardo Rodriguez is physically gifted and physically cursed. Nature has gifted the lefty with the ability to be quite proficient in the skill of tossing a baseball.  That talent is undeniable. The soon to be 26-year-old went 13-5 in 2018, but the clinker is 129.2 innings pitched. But, hey, E-Rod is now in great shape (like Panda). This, of course, usually follows with stories – healthy or not – of players wishing to stay in Boston until the next ice age.

The reality check is Rodriguez manages to get quirky injuries – twisting a knee in a baseball pothole. Check. Tripping over a scurrying base runner and get an ankle injury. Check. Then the assorted nicks and dents. But is he primed for the long-predicted “Big Year?” I will wait this one out as Rodriguez will somehow find a way to become Joe Btfsplk.

Next up on the spring training triage is Dustin Pedroia. There is zero doubt about Pedroia’s status in all things Red Sox. Is he as good as Bobby Doerr? Maybe yes and maybe no, but he can be mentioned in the same illustrious pantheon on great second basemen. And Pedroia – lest we forget – is a lifetime .300 hitter. Never give up on Pedey!

This is crying out reality check no matter how much blather circulates around Pedroia. The fact is his knee injuries are now patch him up, wind him up, and watch him go. At 35 years of age, you could well be looking at another connection to Doerr.  Doerr gave it up after an All-Star season thanks to a crippling back injury. The “Debbie Downer” in me says Pedroia is toast. The hopeful me has on my rose-colored glasses and wants another All-Star season.

Rafael Devers could eventually lead the American League in home runs.  I see power similar to the great Mo Vaughn. In his first season and a half with Boston, Vaughn slammed 21 home runs. Devers did that total last season, but Devers also hit a paltry .240. And maybe his fielding average was the same? Can Devers take it to the next level? The smart money says yes, but I have doubts.

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Devers, under the auspicious of the Red Sox, has intensified his training regimen.  Quite frankly, Devers has looked like David Letterman’s “Fat tub of goo” directed towards a physically robust Terry Forster. Devers’ conditioning may decide if he is either Joe Foy or Mike Lowell as his career goes forward or even backwards. With Devers in shape a failure to improve may just be a prospect overrated and another entry into the what could have been ledger.

The “Show me the money” awaits lefty Chris Sale who may be on the cusp of a David Price type contract, but Sale has some issues that could surface in 2019 as they did in 2018. When Sale is on the mound few can match up to this Randy Johnson clone. The Red Sox with a Sale banging out 200 innings would be a formidable presence in the American League East and a playoff favorite.

The reality check here is wear and tear on Sale who is getting a baseball stitch away from 1,500 career innings. Sale’s pitching style has often raised the issue that he may eventually be faced with some significant surgical intervention and 2018 may have cemented that prognosis. Two visits to the DL and both over a bum shoulder. I am pessimistic on Sale and his immediate future.

The 2019 spring training will give insight into just how question marks are answered or even not answered. There are certainly several other players who could impact as a negative or positive.  Is Steven Wright capable? Will Marco Hernandez return to help shore up the utility group? Plenty more to keep an eye on.

Next. Five bold predictions for the 2019 season. dark

Despite my rancid negativity on the aforementioned players, the real reality is if things don’t change it will merely reflect 2018 when they won the division, playoffs, and World Series. Likewise, I would expect some form of baseball karma that gives a thumbs up to one or more. Just who will be noted by August.