|Red Sox 2003 Preview||| Print ||
Written by Jonathan Leshanski (Contact & Archive) on January 11, 2003
2nd AL East -10.5 Games back.
Home: Fenway Park
The perennial second place finishers in the AL east are once again looking a bit underwhelming. The major pieces are unchanged in Pedro Martinez, Derek Lowe, Nomar Garciaparra and Manny Ramirez. However there have been several additions which make their offense stronger and their bullpen better, but will that be enough to raise their game to the next level?
The Heart of Red Sox Pitching rests squarely on the shoulders of the inevitably DL Bound Pedro Martinez. Pedro is without a question one of the most talented pitchers in the game, but his annual trips to the DL might as well be scheduled in advance. After Pedro comes Derek Lowe who has been able to shoulder much of the load for the Sox over the past two seasons and seems to just be getting better. Third in the rotation is John Burkett who should be again be an adequate number three starter. Casey Fossum and Tim Wakefield who are both going to have to rise and handle the strain of being the numbers four and five pitchers. Age may be a factor here, only Lowe(29) and Fossum(25) are under 30.
The bullpen has been significantly upgraded although some of the inning eaters seem a little questionable. The loss of closer Ugueth Urbina to free agency may have some interesting consequences as the Bosox seem to be determined to take a committee approach to closing. The new middle relief staff of Ryan Rupe, Chad Fox, Ramiro Medoza, Mike Timlin, Willie Banks and their two rule V pitchers Javier Lopez and Matt White, will compliment last year’s acquisition Alan Embree. One of these pitchers, most likely Mendoza will have to really step up if (or should I say when,) Pedro or one of the other starters goes down.
The Sox may really be building something here. The addition of Jeremy Giambi adds some pop to the lineup. The other major addition is Todd Walker. Walker should be a productive table setter, which the Sox desperately needed, and should see some good pitches with of Nomar and Manny Ramirez behind him.
The biggest question here is defensive. As it stands now, Jeremy Giambi is slated to be at first base despite his glaring defensive weaknesses. It also means that Benny Agbayani, acquired last year as a role player, may end up as a regular outfielder. However if the Sox can sign another first baseman Giambi will probably be bumped to the outfield with Trot Nixon and Johnny Damon, or move to DH. This will also dictate if Manny Ramirez will play left field, or DH, and if Benny Agbayani will go back to being just a role player.
Johnny Damon (CF)
Todd Walker (2B)
Nomar Garciaparra (SS)
Manny Ramirez (DH)
Jeremy Giambi (1B)
Shea Hildabrand (3B)
Jason Varitek (C)
General Manager Theo Epstein is looking to add a few more pieces before the season begins. One more solid starting pitcher would be the biggest thing he could add, but another big bat in the outfield, or at first base would be a huge plus and could help make this team a real contender.
When asked if I think this Red Sox team is a competitive one, I’d say yes. However they are fragile and still not as good overall as the Yankees, because of starting pitching. As the team looks right now I think they will finish second. My real worry is for their pitching, one major injury will place them far behind the New York Yankees, and not too far away from finishing behind the Toronto Blue Jays in the AL east. Still they have a shot at the wild card and could easily be a surprise if the A’s, Mariners or Angels stumble.