The Boston Red Sox will be represented by four players in the upcoming World Baseball Classic. Shane Victorino and Alfredo Aceves will be joined by minor leaguers Xander Bogaerts and Jose de La Torre. All four are on the provisional rosters. The final rosters are due in February.
Victorino will represent Team USA. The Hawaii native is in his first year with Boston, and looks to be starting in right field. It was a forgettable 2012 for Victorino, who managed to hit just .255. More concerning was the fact that it was a contract year, usually a player's best, considering the amount of money potentially on the line.
Playing in the WBC could prove to be a confidence boost for Victorino. Getting into a handful of games before spring training begins could give him some much-needed confidence booster to bring to his new team.
Victorino did play in the WBC in 2009. He finished that season with a .292 BA and a .358 OBP, so the extra games obviously didn't negatively affect him. Maybe it will be the same this year.
Aceves, who is suiting up for Mexico, is a different story. Since he is relied on for his pitching by the Red Sox, his is a more complex case. Boston has a rough history with pitchers coming back from the WBC. Mike Timlin had one of his worst seasons in Boston following the 2006 tournament. He finished the year with a 4.36 ERA, and a whopping 1.69 WHIP, the highest for him since 2000. In 2009, Daisuke Matsuzaka went 3-0 with a 2.35 ERA for Japan in the WBC. That same year he only started 12 games for Boston, finishing with a 5.76 ERA. Matsuzaka missed the majority of the year with what Boston called "weakness" due to extensive pitching in the WBC.
It's understandable that the Red Sox could be a little hesitant to see Aceves working in the WBC. If there is any silver lining, it's that Aceves won't be asked to be the closer or the setup man this year. However, he'll still be relied upon in the bullpen, so expect some folks in Boston to be a bit anxious during the tournament.
The WBC is great for Bogaerts (Netherlands) and De La Torre (Puerto Rico). Both are expected to start in the minors, and both have a possible future in Boston. So why not get some extra work in before the season begins?
De La Torre threw well last season, splitting time between Akron, Columbus, and Pawtucket. He had a respectable 2.80 ERA in 74 innings of work. De La Torre is projected to work out of the bullpen; that will help add to his already solid depth.
There will always be some level of hesitation about having a pitcher go in the WBC. Anything that alters the normal order of a pitcher's training regime can be a disruption (as Boston has seen with Matsuzaka). However, De La Torre is young and probably won't be asked to throw an inordinate number of innings. It also helps that Boston isn't expected to rely on him this season.
The WBC could be huge for Bogaerts. The number-one rated prospect for Boston will have an opportunity to show his stuff on a national stage. While Jose Iglesias has received most of the attention as the Sox's potential future shortstop, Bogaerts has simply outplayed him. Iglesias does have the better glove, but there's no comparison at the plate. Bogaerts hit .307 between Salem and Portland last year, with 20 HRs and 81 RBI. Very good numbers for only playing in 127 games. Meanwhile, Iglesias is a career .135 hitter. That won't work in the bigs.
The WBC is an important platform for Bogaerts to not only face high-level competition, but to also show Red Sox Nation what kind of player he can be. He is also just 20 years old. He is certainly young enough to overcome any possible injury. Bogaerts will be fun to watch.
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.