COMMENTARY | Today is Valentine's Day, which means candy and flowers are being given across the nation. However, Valentine's Day is not reserved for just your beau or belle. Everyone deserves gifts on such a revered holiday. So, here is a list of gifts (some about the love, some about the tough love) for Boston's players that could help them this spring.
Jacoby Ellsbury: A New Contract
The outfielder is hoping a $100 million contract will be in his future. Ellsbury could also use a full season of good health to ensure a significant pay raise. When he's been healthy he has been one of the best outfielders in the game.
Mike Napoli: Tom Emanski Defense Drills Video
The new first basemen for the Red Sox better be ready to play above expectations at his position. He will undoubtedly be compared right away to Gold Glovers Adrian Gonzalez and Kevin Youkilis. Fair? No. Realistic? Yes.
John Lackey: Support
He has a 5.21 career ERA in Boston. He was part of Beer and Chickengate. He's not one to admit much guilt. Needless to say, Lackey isn't very popular in Boston. He now comes back from Tommy John surgery and looks to turn it all around. Good luck, John.
The time is now for Pedroia and Ortiz to become the leaders of the Red Sox. With his all-out play and witty banter, Pedroia is the perfect candidate to be the face of this franchise. Meanwhile, Ortiz has the seniority and enjoys being the spokesperson for the team. Ortiz does need to stop complaining about the past and focus his energy and skills to lead the team.
Will Middlebrooks: The World
The corner infielder was punishing American League pitching before breaking a bone in his right hand last August. Middlebrooks finished with 15 HRs and 54 RBIs in just 75 games last season, so expectations will be high to start the season. This kid could be special.
If Iglesias has any chance to stick around in the majors, he needs to learn how to hit. He is a career .135 batter in Boston. It's a small sample-size, but his 2012 Triple-A average (.266) doesn't make anyone feel better. This will be a pressure-packed spring for Iglesias.
Jarod Saltalamacchia: An Easier Last Name to Spell
Okay, maybe that one is for the writers. This last name is a bear!
Jon Lester: A Restart
Lester has the right stuff. In fact Lester has been an ace in the past. But the lefty has struggled over the past year and a half, prompting many critics to question if he'll ever find the goods again. 2013 is a new year for Lester, and he has a chance to find that quality again. Boston will need it if they have any chance to reach the playoffs.
Clay Buchholz: A decent start
Buchholz was plagued with a dreadful start last season. His ERA was above 7.00 through his first 10 starts. Just when Buchholz started turning it around, he was sidelined with an injury. He returned and battled through the rest of the season. However, it felt that he really never got it going. A decent start to the season could make a world of difference to a pitcher who was a Cy Young candidate three years ago.
Shane Victorino: On-base percentage
The 2012 season was very forgettable for Victorino. Typically a contract year is a player's best. For Victorino, it was a train wreck. He won't be asked to do as much as what he did in Philadelphia, but Victorino is still expected to be consistently on base. He will hopefully be a decent backup leadoff guy as well.
Jonny Gomes: Regular Action
Gomes has been a role player throughout the majority of his career. Could this finally be his chance to get regular reps? Possibly. With a lack of depth in the outfield, Gomes will have an opportunity. However, he will have to learn to hit right handed pitching if he wants to be an everyday starter. His career .224 hitter against righties simply isn't good enough.
Ryan Kalish: A New Body
Life can be a cruel beast. Kalish broke on to the scene in 2010, and seemed to be poised to fight for a regular spot with the Sox. However, he was sidelined for significant time in both 2011 and 2012. Then this past January, Kalish underwent shoulder surgery and is expected to miss even more time this season. What once looked like a promising career has turned into a sob story.
Andrew Bailey: A new team?
He was brought in to close games. He has already lost his job closing games. Could Bailey be trade bait? Does Bailey want to be trade bait?
Pedro Ciriaco: 162 Games Against the Yankees
The infielder is a Yankee killer. Ciriaco has a career .415 BA against New York, with a whopping 1.002 OPS. That's a pretty remarkable number considering Ciriaco isn't a power hitter. Some guys just know how to perform against their nemesis, and Ciriaco is that player. The man has ice in his veins.
Daniel Bard: Command
Since failing to make it as a starter early in 2012, Bard has completely derailed. He had a whopping 7.05 ERA back in Triple-A, with a WHIP of 1.875. Bard did get the call back up to Boston, but struggled in his attempt to shift back to a reliever. Spring will be unquestionably important for Bard, who isn't guaranteed a spot in a deep bullpen. Bard can be very effective if he finds his command. If not, there's no telling what the future may hold.
Stephen Drew: A Different Last Name
Seems harsh, but it's the truth. The majority of Red Sox Nation hears the name Drew and automatically conjures up images of Stephen's lackluster brother J.D., who was excessively overpaid during his time with Boston. Stephen signed a rather large contract as well. He would be best served to get off to a strong start.
Mauro Gomez: A Chance
Many Boston fans probably know very little about Gomez who debuted last season. However, he finished with a respectable .275 BA and 17 RBIs. Gomez isn't a Gold Glove candidate, but can hold his own. Is he an everyday player? No. But Gomez should get a chance to platoon.
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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