Or at least that’s what many of the fans at JetBlue Park will be talking about. It’s a nice little storyline. It conjures up warm-and-fuzzy memories of Boston Strong, The Bearded Boys of Summer and the 617 jersey at the finish line of the Boston Marathon. And it contributed mightily to the game selling out as quickly as any game other than the Yankees and Phillies dates.
But you won’t hear Red Sox manager John Farrell or the players mentioning it.
They’re more worried about the present moment, which this morning meant optioning pitcher Allen Webster and catcher Christian Vazquez to Triple-A Pawtucket and reassigning shortstop Deven Marrero to minor-league camp.
“We’re thinking about being good today,” Farrell said. “Some of those words -- ‘defend’ and ‘repeat’ -- that looks back. Our mindset is, we have to go out and win. Whatever happens after that, if it ends up being something even more unique than a year ago, so be it.
“But there’s no focus or lost energy. We’ve got two weeks and a lot of work yet to do, the way things have gone. We’re getting our team together, and it feels like things are coming together. But we still have some work to do.”
His message to the team?
“Whether it’s from the first day of camp and what we’ve discussed or what’s been in conversation throughout the course of the entire offseason, that’s over,” he said.
The closest Farrell wants to go in getting nostalgic is discussing chemistry. It was phenomenal last year, and he said he expects it to be good again this year because of the high number of returning players.
“There’s a known commodity in our clubhouse,” he said. “Guys know one another. They’ve met challenges together. They’re good teammates and they buy into a team concept. It’s all focused on what we do to win today. And the more simplified and direct our mindset and approach is, then the personal agendas and egos kind of get checked and get put aside, and we’re about taking care of business today. I think it’s as consistent as last year.”
He believes it’s all about selecting the right players and then clearly outlining expectations.
“You’ve got to do your homework and due diligence about finding the right people that fit what you’re trying to establish and put together,” he said. “What Ben [Cherington] did with the roster last year, that’s where all this started. He selected the right people. And in combination with a committed coaching staff that was on board and on the same page with everything that we did when we walked onto the field ... it was a combination of all those factors that led to that team unity.”
Roster moves: Farrell talked about the three players involved in Monday’s moves.
On Webster: “I thought his spring training this year was more impressive than a year ago, when he was the talk of our camp. We’re seeing a guy who’s maturing on the mound -- the use of his two-seamer particularly, and the number of strikes in the bottom of the strike zone has been very encouraging.”
On Vazquez: “[I was impressed with] the progression with the bat, his willingness to go the other way with some base hits. He’s starting to impact the baseball a little more on some advantage counts. He has the ability to shut down a running game with the way he defends and the way he throws.”
On Marrero: “A well above-average defender. Last year, he had limited exposure to us while he was in big-league camp. This year, he’s a very good defender right now. And I think he’s settling into an approach at the plate that is not only consistent, but one that works best for him. He does have a tendency to tinker with things. He’s always searching for what the right feel is. But we’ve seen him the last five, six days really impact the baseball to the pull side.”
Papi plodding: After nine games, David Ortiz has two hits and is batting .080. Not that Farrell is concerned.
“More than anything, if we can get to roughly 50 at-bats in camp, that’s the goal,” he said. “Enough pitches where he’s seeing pitches, getting his timing down. And that’s a round number. That’s not to say we’re holding steadfast to that number. Last spring, he didn’t have any at-bats. And I think he was pretty good last year. So David is getting in shape to start the year.”
Day off: Will Middlebrooks (hyperextended finger) took batting practice and went through pre-game infield practice, but will not play Monday. “It’s the throwing where he feels it, more so than swinging the bat,” Farrell said.
Sizemore update: Grady Sizemore will start in center field Monday. Farrell said he could go back-to-back later this week with a minor-league game on Wednesday and a night game Thursday against the Yankees.
Here are Monday's lineups (1 p.m. start, on ESPN):
1. Grady Sizemore, CF
2. Shane Victorino, RF
3. Dustin Pedroia, 2B
4. David Ortiz, DH
5. Mike Napoli, 1B
6. Daniel Nava, LF
7. Xander Bogaerts, SS
8. A.J. Pierzynski, C
9. Brock Holt, 3B
SP -- John Lackey, RHP
Also scheduled to pitch: Rubby De La Rosa, Edward Mujica, Junichi Tazawa and Koji Uehara.
1. Kolten Wong, 2B
2. Jon Jay, LF
3. Daniel Descalso, 3B
4. Matt Adams, DH
5. Xavier Scruggs, 1B
6. Shane Robinson, RF
7. Peter Bourjos, CF
8. Tony Cruz, C
9. Pete Kozma, SS
SP -- Shelby Miller, RHP
Also scheduled to pitch: Trevor Rosenthal, Tim Cooney, Tyler Lyons, Lee Stoppelman, Dean Kiekhefer and Nick Greenwood.
The result: The half-strength Red Sox were pummeled, 8-4, by the full-strength Rays on a wind-whipped Sunday afternoon before a Charlotte Sports Park record crowd of 7,852. The Red Sox are now 7-10-1. The Rays jumped out to an 8-0 lead behind the hitting of James Loney (3-for-4, double, 4 RBIs) and Ben Zobrist (2-for-3, double, RBI). The Red Sox rallied with two runs in the seventh (both charged to Price after he left) and two in the ninth. Ryan Lavarnway was 2-for-4 with a double and an RBI.
Fortune favors the bald: Price, the 2012 American League Cy Young winner, doesn’t need a bald head to be effective. In two previous spring starts, he had given up just three hits and one run while striking out eight in five innings.
But what the heck. It sure didn’t hurt.
Prior to the game, he was one of two dozen players and staff to have their heads shaved to raise funds and awareness for the Pediatric Cancer Foundation.
“He was pretty good, wasn’t he?” said Red Sox catcher David Ross, who went 0-for-3 against Price. “He was good. That’s why he’s David Price. That’s why he gets all the awards. He’s pretty good.”
He also received some outstanding defensive support. In the fourth, left fielder Logan Forsythe made a spectacular diving catch near the warning track on a hooking drive by Mike Napoli.
Making progress: Red Sox starter Allen Webster took the loss, but he pitched well (four innings, three hits, two earned runs) and was hurt by some shaky defense (errors by Will Middlebrooks and Brock Holt in the second).
“I like that he has a two-seamer now that’s really, really sinking well,” Ross said. “And he’s starting to pitch with it. We didn’t even use the breaking ball or slider that much. We went with sinker/changeup. I think he’s going to be really special here soon. You’re going to hear some things out of him.”
Webster said he’s improved this spring because he’s not trying to overpower hitters with a four-seamer.
“Mainly, this spring I’ve been working on my mechanics, staying back, not drifting forward and being able to repeat the two-seam down the middle,” Webster said. “I’m making good progress.
“Today was one of the first days I was out there and I wasn’t thinking about [mechanics] at all. I was just out there throwing and they were going down in the zone. I’m real happy with it.”
On the other hand: The game got out of control when Drake Britton replaced Webster in the fifth after Webster walked leadoff batter Ryan Hanigan. Britton gave up three hits and served up a wild pitch in the fifth, then gave up another three runs in the sixth before he was lifted with two outs.
“As much as it sucks to go through an outing like that, it’s good as well,” Britton said. “Gives me discipline to do the things I need to work on and the things I’ve got to do to get myself ready for the season.”
Truncated day: After sitting out two games with a hyperextended finger, Middlebrooks started at third base but lasted just two innings, going 0-for-1.
Middlebrooks felt some discomfort during pregame infield work and decided not to push it too hard.
“I got out there just to feel things out,” he said. “It’s still a little sore. We talked about it and said, ‘Now is not the time to grind through things. Let’s just get it where it needs to be and we’ll be fine from there.’”
Breaking it down behind the plate: Manager John Farrell said that when team officials discussed a free-agent contract with A.J. Pierzynski in the offseason, they made it clear to Pierzynski that they viewed Ross as more than a traditional backup catcher in terms of games played.
At least for now, Farrell said Ross will not necessarily be the catcher every time Jon Lester starts, even though that worked well in the postseason.
“You look always for the best combination, but you don’t want it to become where you’re married to it,” Farrell said. “Then you become inflexible to other options and matchups that that might be advantageous. David Ross is going to catch all our starters.”
He said the beauty of Ross’ defensive prowess is his ability to frame pitches and get the borderline strike call from umpires.
“He’ll position himself behind the plate to give the umpire a little bit different view, so there are times when he’s going away from a righthander and he’ll angle his body a little bit differently to allow that umpire to see over his shoulder a little bit more,” Farrell said. “And he’s able to get some called strikes out there where maybe the guy that blocks him off [creates] the dark area out there and the umpire can lose the flight of the ball. So his framing ability is well above average.”
Roster cuts: Farrell said additional roster cuts could be made before Tuesday’s game in Tampa against the Yankees. “With minor-league games beginning and their season fast approaching, there’s some guys in camp that we’ve got to start getting at-bats on the other side, as well as innings pitched,” he said. “There’s some guys who need to go get ready for their season.”
JBJ report: Jackie Bradley Jr. was 1-for-3 with a double and a strikeout.
“I thought Jackie’s at-bats were very good today,” Farrell said. “He stayed on some fastballs away from him and he laid off some tough pitches in, even after he gets hit in his first at-bat.”
Before the game, Farrell talked about what he wants to see from JBJ the rest of the spring: “Quality at-bats. That’s not hinged to a batting average. That’s just putting up quality at-bats as consistently as possible. Defensively, there’s nothing to suggest he needs development or that area of the game. We’re confident in him. But it’s quality at-bats, getting on base and finding the spots to be a little more aggressive on the basepaths. Just using his skill set.”
X file: Xander Bogaerts did not make the trip. Farrell suggested that while it’s possible that a “demanding spring training” has affected his hitting (.130), he likes what he’s seeing. He said that there was a moment during Saturday night’s game when both he and infield coach Brian Butterfield watched Bogaerts in the field and knew that the work has paid off.
“It’s not that we’re doing things extremely or altogether different than the minor leagues are, but there’s a lot of expectations on him,” Farrell said. “He does not take anything for granted, so in all the work sessions that he’s in, he’s full go. I’m not going to say that’s taking away from his at-bats, but he has had a demanding spring training and one that we feel like he needs. But at the same time, you watch his body language, and he’s much more free and relaxed because of all the work and all the conversations that have gone into the position.”
The dot, dot, dots: John Lackey goes against the Cardinals in Monday’s 1:05 p.m. game at JetBlue Park (televised on ESPN), backed by Rubby De La Rosa, Edward Mujica, Junichi Tazawa and Koji Uehara. Shelby Miller starts for the Cardinals. ... Felix Doubront will start on Tuesday in Tampa against the Yankees, backed by Brandon Workman, Dalier Hinojosa, Tommy Layne and Rich Hill. Michael Pineda starts for the Yankees. ... The Red Sox came into Sunday’s game tied with the Nationals with 19 home runs -- two more than they had in the entire spring a year ago. ... Sunday’s game was the fifth of seven Red Sox spring training games to feature instant replay. ... A group from the Jimmy Fund is in Fort Myers for the weekend. They watched Saturday’s game and took batting practice Sunday morning at JetBlue Park.
The Rays don’t sell out very often -- just 20 of the previous 87 games since they moved their spring base here in 2009. But they don’t play the Red Sox every day, and Red Sox fans travel well -- even when they know they won’t see Big Papi & Company.
The Red Sox have brought four potential regulars: Jackie Bradley Jr., David Ross, Mike Napoli and Will Middlebrooks.
Ross is batting second, which manager John Farrell explained this way: “This is a matter of getting him the greatest number of at-bats we can get with catching six innings. Certainly that’s not his normal spot in the lineup. We figure he’s probably going to handle (starter Allen) Webster and (Drake) Britton today. And we’re trying to get him at least three at-bats.”
Middlebrooks, who has missed the past two games with a hyperextended finger, was not in the original lineup, which featured Brock Holt at third and Deven Marrero at shortstop. But Farrell said Middlebrooks reported that he felt good, so he’ll start at third.
“He swung in the cage before we left,” Farrell said. “Right after getting examined, he said he’s good to go. It’s encouraging. Glad he’s back in there.”
Grady’s good: Farrell said Grady Sizemore didn’t show up on today’s medical report. “I know he was seen briefly in the training room, so we fully expected him to come in this morning with the normal spring training morning-after-night-game,” Farrell said. “So nothing out of the ordinary.”
Bad news for Iggy: Former Red Sox shortstop Jose Iglesias has significant injuries to both shins that are expected to keep him out at least until the All-Star break and could force him to miss most or all of this season.
Farrell said the team was aware of shin-split problems before he was traded to the Tigers last season.
“We had to monitor it,” he said. “There were some games where we had to get him off his feet because he felt some pain and some soreness there. But to see what’s come out with the report, I feel sorry for the kid. He’s an exciting player. He’s fun to watch and was a great kid to have on the team.”
Comparing Marrero to Iglesias, Farrell said: “In some ways, they’re very comparable. Iggy had a little bit more of a flair to him. Not in a bad way, but a flair that was his person at shortstop. You appreciate that. But I think they’re equal in defensive capability.”
Here are today's lineups:
1. Jackie Bradley Jr., CF
2. David Ross, C
3. Mike Carp, LF
4. Mike Napoli, 1B
5. Will Middlebrooks, 3B
6. Corey Brown, RF
7. Ryan Lavarnway, DH
8. Brock Holt, 2B
9. Jonathan Herrera, SS
SP – Allen Webster, RHP
Also scheduled to pitch: Drake Britton, Rich Hill, Francisco Cordero, Brayan Villarreal.
1. David DeJesus, CF
2. Ben Zobrist, 2B
3. Evan Longoria, 3B
4. James Loney, 1B
5. Yunel Escobar, SS
6. Matt Joyce, RF
7. Wilson Betemit, DH
8. Logan Forsythe, LF
9. Ryan Hanigan, C
SP – David Price, LHP
Also scheduled to pitch: Heath Bell, Mark Lowe, Juan Sandoval
Locking horns: Phillies lefty Cliff Lee is a famously quick worker. For Lester, getting locked into this duel wasn't such a bad thing.
"You find yourself sometimes trying to match his rhythm and tempo, and it's one of those deals [where] he's special because of that," Lester said. "I don't think anybody can replicate that. It's his style, and it's worked for him for a long time. But you have to sometimes go out there and go, 'Slow down. You don't have to be Cliff Lee and go that fast.' But at the same time, it helps you speed up, too. It's fun to watch a guy like that, especially how well he throws strikes."
In his second start of the spring, Lester was almost as good as in the first. He threw strikes on 44 of his 68 pitches, giving up just two hits -- a single to Ben Revere to lead off the game and a run-scoring double to Marlon Byrd two batters later.
"That first inning kind of killed me," he said. "I would've liked to have gone into the fifth and saved some pitches there, but all in all, the biggest thing is getting up and down, getting to your pitch count and staying healthy. Those are our goals in spring training. And just keep working on fastball command, and the other pitches off of that will take care of themselves."
Lester said he feels a lot better this spring because he's not immersed in mechanics, as he was last spring. Everything is more natural.
"You're not going out there every pitch, analyzing mechanics: 'Why did I throw that ball downhill? Why did I miss?'" he said. "It's just more of getting back to being a pitcher and focusing on getting the hitter out, whoever that may be. When you're able to do that, your mind is on the right thing. You're not sitting out there, worrying about your leg kick and worrying where your hands are.
"This is obviously a different point for me than last year. My bullpen work has been a lot more crisp and I've gotten a lot more out of it. This year in games I'm working on commanding the baseball, as opposed to a bunch of other things going through your head."
Manager John Farrell said Lester continues to "show good power through the strike zone."
Bad day for Badenhop: The pitching duel was doused when Badenhop entered in the fifth with the Phillies leading 1-0. Cesar Hernandez hit a one-out single, went to third on a single by Wil Nieves and scored on a double by Revere. Jimmy Rollins drove in Nieves on a groundout and Byrd followed with a run-scoring single.
Badenhop had previously pitched three scoreless innings in three appearances.
"I'm not getting tricked up there," he said. "I'm seeing every pitch. I'm not guessing. I'm letting my eyes and hands work together."
He said he's not going to divulge everything about his approach, but he is doing a better job of recognizing his strengths and weaknesses.
"Let's say a guy has a good sinker," he said. "He's going to throw that sinker, and a lot of times it's going to be for effect. It's not going to be a strike. It's going to look like a strike and end up being off the plate. You try to eliminate that. Same with a guy who's got a good cutter. He's not going to throw many for strikes. They're for swing-and-misses. It's an 'out' pitch. Knowing a guy's 'out' pitch -- how he gets guys out -- and just laying off it."
He said he was overaggressive last year-not necessarily trying to hit home runs, but trying to hit the ball hard.
"There wasn't much thought process that went into my approach," he said. "I don't think I was consistent with my approach. It was more or less going up trying to hit the ball hard. And you can't do that at this level. You have to have a plan, because the pitchers have a plan.
"I learned a lot more last year than I did in my first year when I hit .290. That's just part of growing as a player. I talked to Pedey [Dustin Pedroia], all these guys in here. They said, 'We've all been through it. We've all struggled. At this level, that's going to happen at one point or another.' There's a slight few guys it never happens to, and those guys you see on a plaque in Cooperstown. But even those guys, look at David [Ortiz]. As great as he is, he's had months where he didn't do well. It's just part of the game. Those pitchers are out there for a reason. You just try to stay as consistent as you can."
He credits Pedroia for sharpening his approach in offseason conversations.
"All of you guys know how confident he is," he said of the second baseman, who's listed generously at 5-foot-8. "He's 5-foot-1, and he's the most confident guy in here. You can trick yourself. You really can. It's such a mental game. As much as it is physical, it is a mental game. You may have only 70 percent to give out there, but I feel like you can trick yourself on a daily basis. Getting yourself ready to play, getting in the right state of mind, because you're not always going to feel good. He knows how to get himself ready for the game every day.
"That guy works harder than anyone I've ever been around. He's here at 3:30 every morning watching video. Is he nuts? Maybe a little. But he's great for us and he's great for this team and this organization."
Going deep: Farrell, asked if the team's home-run surge (18, second-best in baseball going into the game) was due to hitters getting the green light or some other factor, quipped, "We don't have a home-run sign. They're going up to put their best swing, their 'A' swing, on pitches they have in the strike zone, and some have traveled out of the ballpark."
Nothing more than caution: The Red Sox have been cautious with pitcher Craig Breslow in the wake of his increased workload last season. Although he still has not made an appearance, Farrell said he is in good position.
"He had a very good bullpen yesterday," Farrell said. "We're anticipating he'll see hitters by the second half of this week and soon to be in a game."
Breslow didn't pitch in spring training last year due to shoulder inflammation, but had a 1.81 ERA in 61 appearances.
JBJ report: Jackie Bradley Jr. was given the night off as Grady Sizemore started in center field. Bradley is hitting . 167 in 30 at-bats, with a double, triple and four RBI.
Sizemore played eight innings and went 1-for-4. Farrell said he had no issues with his knees, "got down the line with good energy" and took "another positive step."
Farrell said the goal ultimately is to spend less time worrying about his physical well-being and more about evaluating his skills, but they're not there yet.
"I don't know that we completely separate the two at this point, given what he's come through," he said. "I think each day he walks onto the field, he's answering the physical side of it. Given all he's come through, we have to continue to monitor that as we go forward-much like we would monitor any other physical issue with another guy."
X file: Xander Bogaerts was 0-for-3 with a strikeout and is now hitting .130 in 23 at-bats, but Farrell believes he's headed for a big year.
"The beauty of it is he hasn't taken anything for granted," Farrell said. "Just by reading his comments, he's hopeful to make the team. Well, damn, so am I. But you know what? The work he's done with Butter [infield coach Brian Butterfield] ... we feel very comfortable with him at shortstop. He has a chance to be an outstanding one."
The dot, dot, dots: Allen Webster starts for the Red Sox in Sunday's 1:05 p.m. game against the Rays in Port Charlotte. Also scheduled to pitch for the Red Sox: Drake Britton, Rich Hill, Francisco Cordero and Brayan Villareal. David Price starts for the Rays. ... John Lackey goes against the Cardinals in Monday's 1:05 p.m. game at JetBlue Park (televised on ESPN), backed by Edward Mujica, Junichi Tazawa, Koji Uehara and Andrew Miller. Shelby Miller starts for the Cardinals.
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Boston Red Sox prospect Jon Denney likely will not engage in on-field activities as the organization constructs a program to help him in the wake of Thursday's arrest on a misdemeanor charge of driving with a suspended license, general manager Ben Cherington said before Saturday night's game.
"We certainly take the incident seriously," Cherington said. "As we would with any other players, we're trying to address his needs and help him any way we can. Certainly, he has some work to do."
Cherington said the organization was not aware of any issues Denney had when it selected the 19-year-old catcher in the third round of last year's draft, but this is Denney's second incident in the past three months. He was arrested on Dec. 7, 2013, in Washington County, Ark., for disorderly conduct, minor in possession of alcohol and littering after police said they witnessed Denney throwing a bottle of Malibu Black Rum into oncoming traffic.
Cherington said Denney, ranked by SoxProspects.com as the organization's No. 32 prospect, had been curtailed during spring training by a minor wrist issue.
He said that in the two days since the arrest, the club has been gathering information and interviewing Denney, trying to ascertain what happened and what needs to be done from this point on. He declined to say whether professional counseling will be part of the program.
"We have resources available both within the team and outside the team that can be used that aren't necessarily employed by the Red Sox," Cherington said. "I think we have all the resources that he needs to help him. We're just in the middle of putting that program together. He's showed remorse. He needs to fulfill the expectation we have for him and complete that program. I can't say anything more than that. We'll just have to see how that goes."
Manager John Farrell said that Sizemore -- who is hitting .308 in 13 at-bats after missing the past two seasons -- will not only start tonight against the Phillies at JetBlue Park, but will play seven or eight innings, possibly the entire game.
Where does that leave Jackie Bradley Jr. in the battle for the starting center field spot?
Farrell said he isn't ruling out the idea of carrying both Bradley Jr. and Sizemore on the roster.
"The one thing we've benefited from is a deep and talented roster," he said. "Early in the season, you want as many of those players as you can. And if that causes decisions one way or the other to keep as many good players as you have, that's something we'll arrive at as we break camp here."
Patience is the key. No decisions have to be made right now.
"We wanted to take a look at spring training itself, and let's see how things unfolded, because before games were played or we even got on the field, we didn't know how he was going to respond to day-to-day volume," Farrell said. "And it's been favorable. His timing at the plate has looked very good. He might say otherwise just based on his own comfort level. But just looking at him, it doesn't look like he's missed two years."
Flyin' Hawaiian is back: Shane Victorino, who had discomfort in his right thumb and took batting practice Friday in Fort Myers while the team was in Dunedin, will start tonight in right field. Farrell said Victorino will get three at-bats and play five innings.
No worries: Will Middlebrooks is off for the second straight game, but Farrell he's just resting a right middle finger that was hyperextended when he stole second against the Twins on Thursday. He is expected to be back in the lineup Sunday against the Rays, or Monday at the latest.
Rotation: Jon Lester, who starts tonight, is scheduled to go again when the Yankees come to town Thursday.
Farrell on the battle for the utility spot: "There's a competition going on. Both (Jonathan) Herrera and (Brock) Holt ... those two guys have the versatility you need at the position. The ability to play shortstop is the preference on the defensive side of things. And that's why as we've gotten those guys on the field, we've tried to get a number of innings played on the left side of the infield. We think they're both capable at second base. So that's the evaluation going forward. Both have shown well so far."
Here are today's lineups:
1. Grady Sizemore, CF
2. Shane Victorino, RF
3. Dustin Pedroia, 2B
4. David Ortiz, DH
5. Jonny Gomes, LF
6. Daniel Nava, 1B
7. Xander Bogaerts, SS
8. A.J. Pierzynski, C
9. Brandon Snyder, 3B
SP -- Jon Lester, LHP
Also scheduled to pitch: Burke Badenhop, Edward Mujica
1. Ben Revere, CF
2. Jimmy Rollins, SS
3. Marlon Byrd, LF
4. Domonic Brown, LF
5. Darin Ruf, 1B
6. Bobby Abreu, DH
7. Kevin Frandsen, 3B
8. Cesar Hernandez, 2B
9. Wil Nieves, C
SP - Cliff Lee
Becoming Buchholz: It's still the middle of March, but Red Sox pitching is shaping into a mirror of the 2013 campaign. A day after Jake Peavy registered a solid appearance in his first spring outing, Buchholz breezed through his scheduled four innings of work with hardly a scratch.
"From the first time out until now, I've been able to get better as far as the innings progression," said Buchholz, who tossed one inning in his first appearance and three innings on March 9 against the Pirates. "I think I was efficient with the command of the two-seam and four-seam fastball today. I was able, a couple times when I fell behind, to come back and pound the strike zone."
After surrendering two consecutive singles to start the first inning, Buchholz kept the sheet clean the rest of his 55-pitch outing. One of the singles resulted in Jose Reyes being thrown out at second as he tried to stretch his line drive to right fielder Corey Brown into a double.
"From there on out, I felt pretty comfortable about moving the fastball around the strike zone," said Buchholz, who threw 35 strikes. "Going through some [trouble] and giving up some hard contact and being able to pitch around and get through it, it's a good step."
While Buchholz said he was pleased with where his velocity is at this point in the spring, the righty would like to refine his changeup.
"The changeup's the one pitch I haven't quite got a grasp on," said Buchholz, who threw four of them against the Blue Jays. "It's better that it's down than up, but I haven't really gotten a feel for it yet and that's a pitch I use a lot. I wanted to work on it a little bit more today, but when you spike it in the dirt, it's a pitch you don't want to keep throwing up there. As long as I'm throwing my fastballs over, I can work on [the changeup] and it's something I will improve on the side."
John Farrell said Buchholz is in line to make four more spring starts before the team breaks camp. The Red Sox skipper is pleased with Buchholz's overall foundation.
"He had three very good pitches working for him: his curveball, cutter and fastball," Farrell said. "I thought he had better stuff than he did five days ago. His velocity is starting to climb a bit, later action to his secondary pitches. Overall, he looks very comfortable with good stuff."
In terms of his righty's velocity, Farrell said he is pleased with how it's progressing.
"I'm not going to say I'm surprised, but it's very encouraging," Farrell said. "The last time out, it was 89, 91 mph. Today, he was 91, 92 mph pretty consistently. It shows the arm strength is building. In a matter of five days, there's been a sizable step forward to the action of all his pitches. More than anything, he's comfortable in his delivery. He's moving in the right direction."
Shane sits, then takes BP: Following Friday's contest, Farrell confirmed the fact that Shane Victorino did not play in a minor league game back in Fort Myers after "feeling discomfort" in his surgically repaired thumb. According to Red Sox media relations, though, the training staff said Victorino participated in batting practice in the cage back at the Fort.
Farrell anticipates Victorino being back in the lineup against the Philadelphia Phillies in Saturday night's game at JetBlue Park. This is the first issue with the right thumb for Victorino, who Farrell said exited the game against the Minnesota Twins on Thursday and mentioned some pain.
"He came out of the game the other day, and he felt a zinger in there," Farrell said. "It's hard for me to say what it is."
"It was tough, but it was good," said Hill, who tossed a perfect inning with one strikeout.
Hill, who threw 25 pitches in a simulated game a few days ago, was visibly emotional when discussing his outing Friday.
"At one point, you're out there -- I remember it was a 3-2 count -- and before it was like, you have to make a pitch here, you have to make a pitch," Hill said. "Then it just comes to you where you're just, you're playing baseball. This isn't something you were dealing with ... a few weeks ago. So, it was kind of a sense of ease to go out there and play the game the way we were meant to play it as kids. The emotions and the feelings out there today, that was really in that one sense. You see a black and white line there, where in years past, instead of just going out there and having fun, there would sometimes be overwhelming pressure to perform. That's where a lot of the emotions came through. The core level of the game."
Farrell was happy to see the southpaw back on the mound, more so from an emotional first step than anything. But the Red Sox manager knows both he and Hill have a job to do. "He's done everything he can to get back in the game," Farrell said. "We're going to reserve any type of judgment on him in terms of a game until he gets out there a bit more."
Hill, who allowed 27 earned runs in 38 ⅔ relief innings with the Cleveland Indians last year, is considered a solid option for a relief spot. Before the 2013 campaign, Hill posted a 1.14 ERA in 31 ⅔ innings in parts of three seasons with the Sox.
JBJ report: Jackie Bradley Jr., starting in center field, went 0-for-3 and is now batting .167 for the spring.
X file: Xander Bogaerts did not make the trip to Dunedin.
The dot, dot, dots: Jon Lester starts Saturday night against the Phillies at JetBlue Park. Other pitchers scheduled to make an appearance include Chris Capuano, Burke Badenhop, Andrew Miller and Edward Mujica. ... The Red Sox finished fifth in the latest rankings of fan involvement by TicketCity, a website that uses several different variables to identify fan involvement from data measured off the 2013 season before July 30. The algorithm is designed based on average total attendance, average home attendance, average home game ticket price, percentage of stadium capacity filled at home, Facebook likes and "talking about," and Twitter following. The San Francisco Giants ranked first.
Boston Red Sox minor leaguer Jonathan Denney was arrested early Thursday in Fort Myers, Fla., on the misdemeanor charge of driving with a suspended license.
The 19-year-old catcher was booked after being pulled over twice by police in a span of just over two hours in the Fort Myers Beach area, according to the arrest report obtained from Lee County Sheriff's Office.
Denney was first cited at 11:57 p.m., after his black Ford Raptor fishtailed as he sped away from a stop sign. At that time, he gave the officer his passport along with a paper license from his home state of Arkansas that indicated he was restricted to driving only for business and in case of emergency due to a previous DUI.
When asked by the officer what he was doing in the area, Denney replied that he was "partying and looking to get some p----," the report stated. A criminal citation was issued and Denney called for a friend to drive him home.
About two hours later, Denney was spotted getting into his truck and was pulled over shortly after. When police asked him why he was driving, he said he was giving a female in the truck a ride. According to the report, Denney then "became belligerent and started cussing" at police.
He told police "he was a Boston Red Sox player" and "made more money than we would ever see," the officer wrote in the report. After being handcuffed, Denney said he would be "out in no time because of who he played for and that he made $3 million a year," according to the report.
Denney posted $500 bail and was released Thursday. He is due in court on March 31.
In the aftermath of pitcher Ervin Santana and outfielder Nelson Cruz signing one-year contracts to get to spring training camps, agent Scott Boras said that shortstop Stephen Drew and Kendrys Morales -- the only qualifying-offer free agents left on the market -- do not plan to lower their sights to sign quick deals and are willing to wait until June to find homes if necessary.
Drew, the starting shortstop on Boston's 2013 championship team, and Morales, who hit 23 homers and drove in 80 runs as Seattle's main designated hitter last season, remain unemployed four months after rejecting $14.1 million qualifying offers from their teams. Both players continue to work out six days a week at Boras' sports training institute in South Florida, where they are conducting what Boras calls an "intense spring training" under the guidance of former big leaguer Alex Ochoa.
Boras said he continues to have active dialogue with teams on both players, including discussions about potential multiyear contracts. One scenario under consideration, he said, is for Drew and Morales to sign after the June draft, when they will no longer be burdened by draft-pick compensation.
"The system they've been dealt has basically prevented them from free agency," Boras said. "They want to make sure about their next step, whatever that will be. It means either signing a long-term contract now -- and we're still taking offers on those -- or a number of other prospects that could occur after the season starts or in June, after the draft happens.
Victorino sends caution up I-75: Reverberations rumbled through Dunedin when word got passed on to the media contingent that Shane Victorino did not play in the scheduled minor league game back in Fort Myers due to "feeling something in his thumb," according to Red Sox media relations. Victorino did take batting practice, though.
The Red Sox media relations staff said Farrell would make a comment on Victorino's health following the contest against the Blue Jays.
Surprise, surprise: Mike Napoli was a last-minute addition to the seemingly days-long trip from Fort Myers to Dunedin as spring baseball starts to ramp up toward Opening Day. John Farrell said Napoli wanted to start getting in consecutive days of work at first base.
"He felt like he wanted a little more regular repetition," Farrell said. "Tomorrow, he'll be off and be able to go back-to-back again."
When asked if there were any health issues regarding his hip, Farrell emphasized there is no "extra attention" to it for health reasons. Last January, Napoli was diagnosed with avascular necrosis (AVN) -- a degenerative hip condition that the 32-year-old has been able to manage with osteoporosis medication.
"Physically, he feels great," Farrell said.
While the health discovery played a role in his contract with the Sox before the start of the 2013 campaign (dropped from the original three-year, $39 million deal into a one-year deal worth $5 million plus incentives that boosted it to $13 million), the condition had no ill effect on his game. Napoli finished the regular season with 23 home runs and 92 RBIs with a .259 average and a .482 slugging percentage.
Better yet, he started a career-high 123 games at first and played a total of 131 contests there, committing just six errors.
"I think he will be better," Farrell said. "Now, how that plays out in some of those measurements. But the work that [Sox infield and third-base coach Brian Butterfield] has done with him, the athleticism that Mike shows. He's got soft hands. And I think just another year under his belt at the position just adds for greater comfort and he's turned himself into a hell of a first baseman."
1. Jackie Bradley Jr., CF
2. Jonathan Herrera, 3B
3. Mike Carp, DH
4. Mike Napoli, 1B
5. Jonny Gomes, LF
6. Corey Brown, Rf
7. Ryan Lavarnway, C
8. Brock Holt, SS
9. Mike McCoy, 2B
SP -- Clay Buchholz, SP
Also scheduled to pitch: RHP Rubby De La Rosa, LHP Tommy Layne, LHP Jose Mijares, RHP Brayan Villarreal, LHP Rich HIll
1. Jose Reyes, SS
2. Melky Cabrera, LF
3. Jose Bautista, RF
4. Colby Rasmus, CF
5. Dioner Navarro, C
6. Dan Johnson, 1B
7. Ryan Goins, SS
8. Chris Getz, 2B
9. Munenori Kawasaki, 3B
SP -- Drew Hutchison, RHP
You're an idiot, Schoenfield. Of course they're important. Go back to your day job.
OK, maybe there's a better way to rephrase that question. Which team has the best five core players? And is that a good indicator for reaching the postseason?
Let's do this. Using Baseball-Reference WAR as our baseline for determining a team's five best players, here are the top 10 teams in 2013 ranked by the combined WAR of their core five:
1. Detroit Tigers: 28.9
Miguel Cabrera, Max Scherzer, Anibal Sanchez, Justin Verlander, Doug Fister
2. Boston Red Sox: 27.2
Dustin Pedroia, Shane Victorino, Jacoby Ellsbury, David Ortiz, Clay Buchholz
3. Los Angeles Dodgers: 26.3
Clayton Kershaw, Hanley Ramirez, Yasiel Puig, Juan Uribe, Adrian Gonzalez
4. Pittsburgh Pirates: 25.1
Andrew McCutchen, Starling Marte, Russell Martin, Neil Walker, Pedro Alvarez
5. St. Louis Cardinals: 24.6
Matt Carpenter, Adam Wainwright, Yadier Molina, Shelby Miller, Matt Holliday
6. Colorado Rockies: 24.2
Jhoulys Chacin, Troy Tulowitzki, Carlos Gonzalez, Jorge De La Rosa, Nolan Arenado
7. Texas Rangers: 24.1
Yu Darvish, Adrian Beltre, Ian Kinsler, Elvis Andrus, Craig Gentry
8. Cincinnati Reds: 22.6
Joey Votto, Jay Bruce, Shin-Soo Choo, Mat Latos, Homer Bailey
9. Atlanta Braves: 22.4
Andrelton Simmons, Freddie Freeman, Jason Heyward, Craig Kimbrel, Kris Medlen
10. Oakland Athletics: 22.2
Josh Donaldson, Bartolo Colon, Coco Crisp, Josh Reddick, Jed Lowrie
Maybe it's not too surprising that eight of those 10 teams made the playoffs. You don't make the playoffs without a solid core of excellent players. The two playoff teams not in the top 10 were the Rays, with 21.6 WAR from their top five guys (13th), and the Indians with 21.5 (14th). So, yes, stars are important.
However, it's also worth noting that most teams rated very similarly in the combined WAR from their best five players, at least in 2013: 17 teams ranked between the 22.6 WAR of the Reds and the 18.8 of the Orioles. That’s less than a four-win difference, not that four wins isn't important, but also a signal that roster spots six through 25 are often the difference between making the playoffs or heading on a fishing trip in October.
Another way to spin that is to look at the teams that received highest percentage of their overall team WAR from their five best players:
1. Astros: 153 percent
2. Phillies: 110 percent
3. Mets: 95 percent
4. Mariners: 90 percent
5. White Sox: 86 percent
6. Marlins: 84 percent
7. Brewers: 78 percent
8. Twins: 74 percent
9. Diamondbacks: 73 percent
10. Rockies: 72 percent
Yes, you're reading that correctly: The Astros and Phillies received more value from their top five players than they did from their entire rosters -- meaning, the rest of their rosters behind their core five were below replacement.
The main thing to take away from these "imbalanced" teams: None of them had a winning record (the Diamondbacks finished .500). The rest of the roster matters. Take a team like the Mariners. Led by Hisashi Iwakuma and Felix Hernandez, the 21.1 WAR from their top five players was on par with Rays, Indians; the rest of the roster was, collectively, horrible. Robinson Cano brings more star power to Seattle but doesn't solve the team's biggest issue, the lack of quality depth.
What about 2014? Here are my top 10 core fives heading into the season:
1. Los Angeles Dodgers
Clayton Kershaw, Hanley Ramirez, Yasiel Puig, Zack Greinke, Adrian Gonzalez
This group could be even better than it was in 2013 with full seasons from Ramirez and Puig. Greinke was so dominant over his final 16 starts (1.57 ERA) that he’s a reasonable Cy Young candidate behind his best-starter-in-baseball teammate. The fifth player on the list could be Gonzalez or Matt Kemp or even third starter Hyun-Jin Ryu.
2. Detroit Tigers
Miguel Cabrera, Max Scherzer, Justin Verlander, Anibal Sanchez, Ian Kinsler
You have the reigning two-time MVP and then two Cy Young winners and then last year's American League ERA champ in Sanchez. Kinsler will have to prove that his offensive game translates from Texas to Detroit, but his all-around game has been valuable in recent seasons.
3. Texas Rangers
Yu Darvish, Adrian Beltre, Shin-Soo Choo, Elvis Andrus, Prince Fielder
A little bit of everything: An ace pitcher, power and defense from Beltre, slick defense and speed from Andrus and two left-handed batters who get on base. The additions of Choo and Fielder help bring some lefty balance to the Rangers lineup and lead to more runs for a lineup that slipped a bit last season.
4. Pittsburgh Pirates
Andrew McCutchen, Starling Marte, Gerrit Cole, Russell Martin, Pedro Alvarez
My underrated core five. I like McCutchen to repeat his MVP season (in numbers, at least, if not in hardware), Marte and Martin to excel on defense and do just enough at the plate, Alvarez to slam 30-something homers again and Cole to become a breakout star in his sophomore season.
5. St. Louis Cardinals
Adam Wainwright, Matt Carpenter, Yadier Molina, Michael Wacha, Matt Holliday
What makes the Cardinals impressive is that this core could also include Shelby Miller or Allen Craig.
6. Tampa Bay Rays
Evan Longoria, David Price, Wil Myers, Ben Zobrist, Alex Cobb
Price, Myers and Cobb didn't spend the entire season on the active roster (Price and Cobb missed time with minor injuries while Myers began the year in Triple-A), so odds are strong this group could outperform last year, especially if Myers blossoms in his sophomore campaign.
7. Washington Nationals
Bryce Harper, Jordan Zimmerman, Stephen Strasburg, Ian Desmond, Ryan Zimmerman
If you want slightly off-the-radar awards picks, how about Harper for MVP and Zimmermann for Cy Young?
8. Atlanta Braves
Andrelton Simmons, Freddie Freeman, Jason Heyward, Julio Teheran, Craig Kimbrel
Kimbrel, who turns 26 in May, is the oldest player in the group.
9. Milwaukee Brewers
Ryan Braun, Carlos Gomez, Jonathan Lucroy, Jean Segura, Yovani Gallardo
A little weak in the pitching department, but Braun should return to his MVP-caliber play and Gomez was MVP-caliber in 2013. Lucroy produces at the plate and is one of the best pitch-framers in the business. Segura is an exciting plug who has to prove his second-half slump in 2013 was simply fatigue.
10. Boston Red Sox
Dustin Pedroia, David Ortiz, Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, Shane Victorino
A good bet to regress, as a large portion of Victorino's value came from his outstanding defense and Big Papi will get old one of these years.
Jake’s journey: Peavy, who cut his left index finger with a fishing knife on March 1, gave up two hits and one run in three innings, walking two and striking out two.
Peavy got off to a rough start, surrendering a single to leadoff hitter Aaron Hicks and then a one-out, line-drive hit-and-run single to Joe Mauer that sent Hicks to third. But he struck out Josh Willingham and then retired Oswaldo Arcia on a lazy fly ball to right fielder Victorino.
And after that, he allowed just two baserunners -- on walks to Jason Kubel in the second and Willingham to lead off the fourth, after which he exited the game.
“I’ve been battling my finger issue,” Peavy said, “so early in camp, I hadn’t been able to use all my pitches as maybe the other guys had. So to get to my first start, get in a game and be able to use everything game speed and to have really the feel I had for my off-speed pitches, I was pleasantly surprised. Good first step. Got a long way to go, though.”
Peavy seemed particularly pleased with his split-finger fastball, which he had never used before coming to camp this spring. He had a pretty accomplished teacher -- closer Koji Uehara.
“He showed me how he holds it,” Peavy said. “Other than that, not much he can do. He can try to tell me some things he thinks about. It’s not going to be a Koji Uehara split-finger. Don’t get me wrong, by any means. But why would you not try to see if you can expand your game? It’s something I feel like we’re going to use a good bit and have as a weapon. If you can’t work on it here, where are you going to work on it? So we certainly did that today.”
When he got ahead in the count on Willingham in the fourth, he experimented with five splitters. He ended up walking Willingham, but wasn’t deterred.
“I was working on a little bit of everything,” he said. “There’s a lot I’ve got to work on, but I feel today was an encouraging first step -- a step in the right direction.”
Asked if Peavy’s split-finger is viable, manager John Farrell said, “It’s viable because he’s using it. To what effectiveness remains to be seen, but he’s such a good athlete. He can manipulate the baseball well. If it’s another weapon for him against some left-handers, I know it’s something he’ll use.”
The Red Sox are excited to see what Peavy can do in an entire season for them. Acquired before the non-waiver trade deadline last July, the 32-year-old Peavy pitched just 10 games in the regular season, going 4-1 with a 4.04 ERA -- well above his career 3.51 ERA.
“Jake Peavy’s been in the big leagues a long time,” Farrell said. “And yet, because he broke in at age 20, this is a guy who is still relatively young. You would anticipate a lot of pitching life left in him. Because of the number of innings pitched over long career, sure, there’s going to be adjustments required as they get deeper into their career. But this is a smart guy. He’s very athletic. We are going to need him to be a main contributor in the rotation.”
Peavy, asked if he has a big year left in him, said, “Absolutely. I expect to be as good as I’ve ever been. I expect a lot out of myself. I understand I go about things a tad bit differently, but it’s not that I feel like I’m to the point where I think some people may think I am. I certainly have some time in the big leagues. There’s some wear and tear in my body. I’m not blind to that fact.
“At the same time, I’m 32 years old, and I feel like I can be a big part of a championship club and win games on a consistent basis. That’s what it comes down to. Really, I’m not worried about anything else other than staying on the field and seeing how many games I can win for the Boston Red Sox.”
Peavy said he’s made up all the lost time and is not behind in any aspect.
“I’m going to stay away from knives,” he said, “and I’ll see you on Opening Day.”
Breakout: Pedroia went 2-for-3, including a liner up the middle in the third inning.
“He stayed behind the ball little bit better today,” Farrell said. “Wasn’t as jumpy. Used his hands much more freely. That’s more reminiscent of what we’re used to seeing with Dustin.”
Pedroia had been scuffling a bit at the plate -- with just two hits in 19 at-bats going into the game -- but Farrell said he has seen better bat speed than he saw last year, when Pedroia played with a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his left thumb.
“You see the bat travel through the zone much more aggressively,” Farrell said. “There’s more freedom. Even in his BP, you see the ability to get to his pull side more readily. So yeah, you see the freedom in the swing pretty clear. He’s just trying to get his timing down.”
Farrell said the there is “nothing of concern” about Pedroia’s recovery from November surgery, saying there has been no delay in his progress and he’s “just getting back in the flow of things.”
Flyin’ Hawaiian: Victorino, who had played in just one game and had just one at-bat as he worked on core issues with his body, was 2-for-3 with an RBI. “He came through today fine,” Farrell said. “He’s going to get some at-bats tomorrow. He’s responding to the volume of work we’re gradually ramping up, so it’s good to have him back in the lineup.”
Not Miller time: Andrew Miller replaced Peavy in the fourth and managed to get just one out, surrendering a double, a single and a walk. He was charged with two runs. “Just erratic command again,” Farrell said. “He had been making really steady progress. The last three times out, you could see the timing and delivery becoming more consistent. Today, he yanked a couple of balls and just didn’t settle into the inning to execute consistent strikes.”
JBJ report: Jackie Bradley Jr., starting in center field while Grady Sizemore played in a minor league game against the Twins, went 0-for-3 and left runners on first and third in the third inning with a flyout to right field. Sizemore, meanwhile, started in center field, played five innings and went 1-for-2 with a walk.
X file: Bogaerts was 0-for-2 with a walk and a run scored.
The dot, dot, dots: Clay Buchholz starts for the Red Sox Friday in Dunedin against the Blue Jays, backed up by Rubby De La Rosa, Tommy Layne, Jose Mijares, Rich Hill and Bryan Villareal. Jon Lester goes Saturday night against the Phillies at JetBlue Park ... Thursday’s game was Boston’s fourth with the use of instant replay. After a review, Mike Napoli’s sixth-inning shot was ruled a foul ball. Future replay games are Sunday at the Rays, Wednesday vs. the Pirates and March 13 vs. the Rays. ... Going into the game, the Red Sox led the Grapefruit League with 18 home runs -- one more than they had in their 35-game schedule last spring. Of their 53 runs, 24 had come via homers. ... The Red Sox are now 1-2 in the Chairman’s Cup series with the Twins.
Boston's minor league depth at catcher improved in 2013, and some of the team's possible future backstops have already impressed even more so far this spring. Given that both A.J. Pierzynski and David Ross are both 37 years old and on one-year deals, the future for Boston's catching prospects may come sooner than later. While it's never a slam dunk, the door for the starting and/or backup catching jobs for 2015 is open for these prospects to earn.
For more prospect news and analysis, check out SoxProspects.com.
POTENTIAL MAJOR LEAGUE STARTERS
Blake Swihart, 21, was in camp with the big club (he was sent down Thursday), and is expected to start the 2014 season with Double-A Portland. Drafted in the first round of the 2011 draft, the Red Sox gave Swihart a $2.5 million bonus to buy him out of his commitment to the University of Texas. In his first full pro season in 2012, he hit .262/.307/.395 with Low-A Greenville. In 2013, the switch hitter batted .298/.366/.428 for High-A Salem. An athletic backstop, Swihart projects as a good contact hitter with average power, good instincts and decent speed. He has very impressive all-around defensive tools, and was named the Red Sox Minor League Defensive Player of the Year in 2013. However, due to his smaller frame, it's unclear whether he'll be able to endure the rigors of catching every day over the long term. He's athletic enough to move to second base or third base if need be. Overall, he has the skills to develop into an All-Star catcher, but he's still a year or two away from being major league ready.
POTENTIAL MAJOR LEAGUE BACKUPS
Dan Butler, 27, is expected to split time with Vazquez behind the dish in Pawtucket to start the year. An undrafted free agent out of the University of Arizona in 2009, Butler made substantial strides over the past five seasons. Already on Boston's 40-man roster, he may be the leading backup catching option for the big club if a short-term injury arises, which in and of itself is a remarkable accomplishment for an undrafted free agent. An above-average defensive catcher, Butler has made some improvements in the area of game calling, and at this point seemingly just needs to familiarize himself better with the major league staff. On offense, he has a patient approach and fringe-average power. He should have a solid career as a backup at the major league level, although he might get a better chance with a second-division club over the long term, especially if Swihart and Vazquez continue to develop as expected.
Jon Denney, 19, was selected in the third round (No. 81 overall) of the 2013 draft, after initially being projected as a first-round pick. The Red Sox gave him an $875,000 signing bonus to buy him out of his commitment to the University of Arkansas. An athletic catcher with solid power potential, Denney projects to be an average hitter, but his defense lags behind at this point. He has a strong arm and adequate agility. He made his professional debut with the Rookie-Level GCL Red Sox in 2013, hitting just .203/.379/.243 in 26 games. He should start 2014 in either Low-A Greenville or Short-A Lowell. Overall, Denney is still several years away, and has lots of development time ahead of him.
Others to Watch: Two other young catchers to keep an eye on are Jhon Nunez, a 19-year-old Venezuelan switch-hitting backstop who is expected to play for the GCL Red Sox in 2014, and Samuel Miranda, another Venezuelan prospect who signed on his 16th birthday this past August. He'll play for the Rookie-Level DSL Red Sox in 2014.
Which franchise will be the one to beat in five years? We published our Future Power Rankings today, and while Eric Karabell weren't on the committee for those rankings, we do have something to say about them, including which team should be No. 1, wondering if the Cubs should have been ranked higher than the Red Sox and whether our beloved Phillies and Mariners are properly ranked.