Today, Sean discusses the competition for the fifth starter spot, Bartolo Colon's role in the rotation and Jonathan Papelbon's contract dispute. Click the play button below to see and hear the show; we'll post a transcript of Sean's comments later.
The fifth starter competition: Is it a competition? "Certainly the first four spots are accounted for, with Beckett, Matsuzaka, Lester and Wakefield. With the fifth spot, you'd have to figure that Clay Buchholz is the odds-on favorite to win that. It would be a natural progression for him, having made a few starts last year, including the no-hitter of course against Baltimore. He did not pitch particularly well in his first outing [of spring training], sort of piggy-backing on Tim Wakefield Sunday afternoon, had a rough first inning in which he allowed four runs, and then settled down and came out and got the side in order in the second inning. So, I think they were happy to see some adjustments. I would say that, while Tavarez and Kyle Snyder remain sort of on the periphery of any sort of competition for the number-five spot, it really is Buchholz, with Colon maybe coming up fast on the rails, given how impressive he's been. We have not seen him in a game situation yet, but they like his arm strength, they like the way he looks so far. We'll know a lot more tomorrow, after his second bullpen session. Following that is either a third bullpen or a live batting practice session, and then they determine when his first game is -- it will probably around the 15th. It's hard to imagine that he could be ready to start the season, and we don't know whether he's going to go to Japan to continue to make some progress, or get left back in Florida to stretch out his arm, but he would seem to be Buchholz's principal competition for that fifth spot, and again, it could be that Buchholz starts the year as the number five, and if he struggles at all, then they have some depth in Colon to make some changes."
Could Colon be a reliever? "I don't see ... there hasn't been any mention of that. In fact, Colon really sort of chafed last year in September, when Mike Scioscia attempted to use him out of the bullpen; he does not like pitching in that role. I'm fairly certain that there was some agreement when he signed his deal here that he would not be asked to pitch out of relief. I think it's starter or bust for him.
Why not just give Papelbon the money? "I think it sets a precedent of sorts for them, where every second- and third-year player who is not yet eligible for salary arbitration could come in and point to Papelbon's more than doubling his salary from $425,500 to 900,000 from his second to third year, and that happens a few times, and it starts adding up to possibly some money. The fact of the matter is that major-league players for the first three years of their big-league careers, the teams have the hammer. They have the power, because players have no leverage or arbitration rights, and after the third year the pendulum swings over dramatically in the players' favor. ... Prior to [years] four, five and six they have the rights to go to arbitration, which owners and executives claim artificially escalates salaraies at a rate higher than should be, and then after six years there's the prospect of free agency. The Red Sox are actually fairly generous with their 0-3 players. You look at what Florida has done with Hanley Ramirez -- here is a guy who had an MVP-caliber year the last couple of years, in two years of service time he's established himself as one of the best young shortstops in the game, and he got renewed at about $440,000 over the weekend. That's $60,000 more than the minimum. The Red Sox will not do that with Jonathan Papelbon, but nor will they give him Ryan Howard-like money, I don't think."
HISTORY LESSON: Once upon a time, Bartolo Colon was a flashpoint in Red Sox Nation. It was the winter of 2002-03, the Red Sox were looking to upgrade their starting pitching, and Colon -- coming off a 20-8, 2.93 season with the Expos -- was available. (cbc.ca) But Colon was a year from free agency and the new Sox GM, Theo Epstein, was reluctant to take on an $8.25 million salary with no guarantee the team would be able to retain him in 2004 and beyond. In the public forums this eventually morphed into "Theo is so stupid he won't trade Casey Fossum for Bartolo Colon" (Fossum was part of the package the Sox and Expos discussed for Colon), especially when Epstein defended the move with such phrases as "cost certainties" . . . something we'd never heard out of the mouth of Pinky Higgins. At-the-time TV broadcaster Sean McDonough probably ensured his eventual departure when, in the midst of an anti-new-ownership rant on Mike and The Mad Dog, he opined that "If you've got a 5-game winner versus a 20-game winner -- you make the trade.'' (Boston Dirt Dogs) Vox populi was effectively represented by a letter-writer to the Journal in January 2003: "Not trading Casey Fossum for Colon is typical Red Sox thinking. After seeing Epstein play guitar at a Boston benefit this week, he might deserve as much media attention for that as being the Sox general manager. One song I know he won't be playing this year is 'We are the Champions.' ''
It's now five years and two World Series titles later. Fossum eventually was traded as part of the deal for Curt Schilling, without whom it's safe to say at least one, and maybe both, of those flags wouldn't be flying over Fenway Park. "Typical Red Sox thinking" has taken on an entirely different meaning. (bizofbaseall.com) And, irony of ironies, Bartolo Colon is here anyway, finally. Sean McAdam reports on Colon's bullpen session yesterday, which went better than the Sox anticipated and has them thinking he may be the top-three bargain Baseball Prospectus predicted he'd be this winter.
CARS AND COLA: When the Red Sox removed the Coke bottles from the left-field light towers, they said Coca-Cola had other Fenway marketing strategies they would announce soon. Yesterday, they announced them. (Boston Globe) (Click the picture for a full view.) And if you're not yet sick of all the corporate synergy, maybe this will do it: A Red Sox special edition of Volvo's C30 two-door hatchback. (Boston Globe)
PICKING UP RIGHT WHERE WE LEFT OFF: When last we saw Mike Mussina, he was struggling through a dismal second half of the season. Yesterday he was just as bad in his first exhibition performance. (New York Post)
YOU SAY TOMATO, I SAY TO-MAHT-O: Michael Salfino -- the main writer on projo.com's Fantasy Sports Blog -- is bucking conventional wisdom concerning the Mets' Carlos Delgado. He thinks Delgado may have something left. (sny.tv)
I SAY POTATO, YOU SAY PO-TAHT-O: One day after the Philadelphia Inquirer's Jim Salisbury wrote that Cole Hamels had no reason to be upset with the Phillies' renewing his contract at $500,000, his Inquirer colleague, Bob Ford, blasted the Phils for being cheap with Hamels.
GODSPEED: Rhode Island's Davey Lopes, now the Phillies' first-base coach, was diagnosed with prostate cancer. (Philadelphia Inquirer) Thankfully, he's expected to make a full recovery and has told some of the Phils' players he'll be back in six weeks.
THE GREAT WHITE NORTH: And it especially feels that way to the newest Blue Jay, Scott Rolen, since Tony La Russa is now in another country. (New York Times)
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