COMMENTARY | The Boston Red Sox are off and running this spring. While quite a few players are off to successful starts, others have been slower out of the gate. And others are inevitably dealing with the injury bug.
As with any other team, the Red Sox have their fair share of questions going into April.
Here's a look at the top three:Who will replace David Ortiz at DH? The inflammation in David Ortiz's heel will more than likely force him to start the season on the disabled list. Manager John Farrell told the media he expects a bit of a rotation to take Ortiz's place while he is injured.
The obvious choice would be Mike Napoli. The first baseman has dealt with injuries over the past few seasons, and being the DH would put less stress on his body. However, Boston is encouraged at how Napoli has played in the field this spring. He has also had a measure of good health. Don't be surprised if Napoli gets more time at his position than at DH.
Ryan Lavarnway, Mike Carp and Lyle Overbay are all possibilities as well, though none have impressed so far. The three have combined for just one HR and 13 RBIs. There are still a few weeks left of spring training for one to possibly emerge as a frontrunner.
This intriguing scenario could involve Jonny Gomes. Expected to be the starter in left field, Gomes could be shifted to the DH role if the Sox plan to start the season with Jackie Bradley Jr. in Boston. Bradley is making a very strong case to be part of the team, having some of the best offensive numbers on the team so far. He can also play any outfield position. While this scenario seems to be a long shot, the probability may rise if Ortiz's injury continues to be a major concern a few weeks from now.
Is the starting rotation deep enough? This is the 60-thousand-dollar question. The Red Sox enter 2013 with just five healthy, legitimate starters. That's asking a lot, especially from five guys who have dealt with injury and ineffectiveness.
Jon Lester has struggled recently. His ERA and WHIP have gone up over the past two years while his strikeout total has dropped. Still expected to be the No. 1 1 guy, Lester has had a confident spring, creating some optimism around the team. Lester has been a Cy Young candidate in the past. It is certainly possible for him to turn it back on.
Clay Buchholz battled both injuries and ineffectiveness last season. He has been absolutely lights-out this spring, not allowing a run in over 8 innings of work. Injuries have really derailed his career since being a Cy Young candidate in 2010. A healthy season could get him back on track.
Ryan Dempster has also performed well in Grapefruit League action. The first-year Red Sox pitcher struggled last season in the American League with the Texas Rangers. Boston is hoping Dempster gets back to his National League ways that suited him well for years in Chicago.
John Lackey comes back from Tommy John and has had mixed results in March. Lackey will be an important factor this season. He has yet to perform well for Boston with two years still on his contract. Lackey won't be relied upon as a top-of-the-line starter this year, which may help his confidence and performance.
Felix Doubront is the wild card. And with the injury to Franklin Morales, he is safely in line for the final spot in the rotation. He didn't come in the best shape, but he has been respectable in his outings so far. Doubront ran out of gas early last year, so his stamina needs to improve greatly.
Outside of these five there's not much to talk about. The Red Sox could always make a move or bring up a prospect, but none are quite ready to compete. Boston is truly rolling the dice at this position.
Is Joel Hanrahan going to fill the closer void? Hanrahan has been downright horrendous. In six spring appearances, the Red Sox's new closer has an ERA of 13.50 with a WHIP of 3.25. This isn't exactly the start that any Boston fan wants to see.
The Red Sox have struggled to fill the role of closer since Jonathan Papelbon left. Andrew Bailey and Mark Melancon both failed at their attempts last year, while Alfredo Aceves blew eight saves.
Hanrahan has only thrown four innings, so this is a bit of an overreaction. But with a team already dealing with injuries and a thin rotation, Hanrahan will have the weight of New England on his shoulders to start the season.
Chris Sedenka is a Yahoo! Contributor in Sports covering the Boston Red Sox. You can listen to his daily radio show on 96.3FM in Portland, ME or at thebigjab.com. He is also the voice of the Maine Red Claws of the NBA D-League.
You can follow Chris on Twitter @ChrisSedenka.
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