Of Rocco and Smoltz .. and a Penny for my thoughts
Finally, the 2009 Red Sox have begun to take shape with the only real ambiguity now whether Jason Varitek or someone else splits catching duties with Josh Bard.
Let’s start with the feel-good story of the day, the official news that the Red Sox have signed Rocco Baldelli, the pride of Cumberland, R.I. Well, let’s see, the Red Sox were looking for a fourth outfielder with pop in his bat and the ability to play all three OF positions. Enter Rocco, who does all those things. The difference is that Baldelli, when right, is a starting-caliber player. And given that J.D. Drew will probably miss three weeks to a month at some point during the year — no knock, J.D., that’s just who you are! — it is very valuable depth.
Obviously Baldelli’s health is an issue, but it sounds like progress has been made in determining why he was experiencing such excessive fatigue and how to combat it. If he stays on the field, this is a terrific signing. Baldelli and Theo Epstein will talk about the signing later today, prior to the Boston Baseball Writers Dinner.
Now, to John Smoltz. The veteran righty has long been one of my favorite pitchers to watch because, much like guys like Curt Schilling and David Wells, no stage is too big for him. Smoltz craves the big moment. Though the Red Sox obviously came through with a far better financial offer than the Braves, I wouldn’t be surprised if the allure of winning for a big market team had just as much to do with this highly-competitive athlete finishing his career somewhere other than Atlanta.
As for Mr. Brad Penny, if I had said a year ago or even two years ago, who would you rather have as your No. 4 starter, Penny or Burnett, I think a lot of you would have said Penny. He has always had tremendous stuff, but last year he obviously had arm problems and might have even clashed with management a little. If that was just his one down year — kind of like the one Mike Lowell had for the Marlins in 2005 — this could be one of the best signings of the winter, considering the price.
Now, Theo figures to spend his remaining weeks before Spring Training trying to find a catcher, or just keeping the old one. Personally, I hope they can keep Varitek. I think he means a lot to that team, both from a stability standpoint and with game preparation. But I do think Jason would need to come to grips with the fact that Josh Bard is going to pinch-hit for him quite a bit, and that he figures to get closer to 90 or 100 starts than the 120 he’s been accustomed to.
All for now. Talk to you in a bit. I’ll be live from the Writers Dinner tonight.