The Boston Red Sox are set to begin their on-field activities on Friday at Fenway Park and while they aren’t favorites to be playing in October, if a few things can go their way then we might be getting a surprise this fall.
Bounce Back for Benintendi?
One of the big X-factors this season that not many people are talking about is Andrew Benintendi‘s impact in the lead-off spot.
Last season Benintendi had a down year after being very impactful in 2018. He hit just .266 with an increase of 30 strikeouts from his 2018 campaign in a year that he would love to forget.
If he can be a productive lead-off hitter in front of Rafael Devers, Xander Bogaerts, J.D. Martinez, and Alex Verdugo, then it will start to add up to more runs on the board, which is certainly going to be needed with the uncertainty in Boston’s depleted rotation.
Will Eduardo Rodriquez and Nathan Eovaldi step up?
Chris Sale is out for the season with Tommy John surgery, David Price is with Mookie Betts in Los Angeles, and Rick Porcello is with the New York Mets. You don’t need me to tell you that those are three key arms absent from the starting rotation this season so it is on the shoulders of Rodriguez and Eovaldi to step up.
Eduardo Rodriguez took a big step forward in 2019, as he reached 200 innings for the first time in his career and Boston is going to need that durability from him if they have any chance to stay in the race come September.
The same goes for Nathan Eovaldi, who received a huge contract from Dave Dombrowski for his performance in the 2018 postseason run but then didn’t perform up to expectations in 2019.
He got hurt yet again and struggles so much that the Red Sox at one point tried to have Eovaldi come out of the bullpen as a reliever for 11 games and that didn’t work out well either.
All Boston needs out of him this season is to go out there and give them quality innings and go at least five to six innings into the game so that the bullpen can be saved for the next three days when Martin Perez, Ryan Weber, and the openers pitch.
The Mystery of Ryan Weber and the Opener
I think that Ryan Weber and the “opener” will be the biggest X-factor in this unique season because we don’t know what we are going to get out of them.
Weber is so interesting to me because he started games for a little bit at the end of last year and the Red Sox liked what they saw in him in Spring Training before the shut down so they want to give him a chance to be the 4th man in the rotation.
If he can just keep the games close enough and keep the Red Sox lineup at least in striking distance then I think he will be a success this year. The only thing that frightens me is he gave up 11 runs in eight games against the AL East last season including a four-run outing vs Baltimore. And the East is not getting easier this season when you take into consideration he is going to face offenses like Washington, Atlanta, Philadelphia, and New York in the National League East, so it’s definitely concerning.
Finally, the opener is going to be very intriguing in terms of seeing how Ron Roenicke will mix and match against opposing lineups. If they can limit the early runs in the first and second innings so they can get into the third and fourth inning then that is all Red Sox fans can hope for.
(Photo: Michael Reeves/Getty Images)
You can follow Ben on Twitter @benfaddenmlb for all your Red Sox content this upcoming season!