11/4/2013 4:48 P.M. ET
Middlebrooks considered a third baseman by Sox
By Jason Mastrodonato / MLB.com
BOSTON -- Assuming Stephen Drew returns to the Red Sox in 2014 to play shortstop, and assuming Xander Bogaerts continues to progress at third base, Will Middlebrooks could ostensibly be the odd man out in Boston's infield.
While there are plenty of decisions to be made before making that conclusion, Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington was asked whether Middlebrooks could fit in at first base, also assuming free agent Mike Napoli signs elsewhere.
But the Red Sox still view Middlebrooks, who has been subject to trade rumors early this offseason, as a third baseman.
"You get to the offseason, and you're talking about a young player who, 15 months ago, was sort of taking the league by storm," Cherington said. "A lot of people including us were talking about him as one of the better young third basemen in the league. I don't think that changes just because he has a bit of a down period. He went through some lumps this year. He went back to Triple-A as a lot of good young players have had to do in their careers. He came back and played very well down the stretch, played much better.
"We got into the playoffs and we had another young player [Bogaerts] who was hot, and so he earned playing time. We're happy we have both of them. Having a young third baseman with Will's ability, power, athleticism, ability on both sides of the ball is a really important thing for the organization. I think you only consider moving someone like that off a spot if it's driven by the need of the team. We're not there yet. We see Will as a third baseman, and that's what he'll be focused on this offseason."
Middlebrooks hit 15 homers with a .288 average and .835 OPS in 267 at-bats in 2012, though his slow start in '13 was followed by a demotion to Triple-A Pawtucket. He returned to the Majors in August and looked much better, hitting eight homers with a .276 average and an .805 OPS in 145 second-half at-bats.
Red Sox happy to have abundance of pitching
BOSTON -- The Red Sox's starting rotation was glue in the postseason.
While the Sox were unsure what to expect out of Jake Peavy with his new arm slot and Clay Buchholz with decreased velocity, Boston's starters still posted a 3.29 ERA over 16 postseason starts, third best out of the 10 teams that participated in the playoffs.
In need of only four starters, Felix Doubront and Ryan Dempster were sent to the bullpen.
So what might happen next year, when the Red Sox will again have six experienced Major League starting pitchers under contract?
"Leading into Spring Training, we certainly subscribe to never having enough pitching," said general manager Ben Cherington. "Not knowing what could unfold next year early on if injuries start to hit, I've been in situations in the past where you can get a rash of them quickly. To be able to sustain that, we're always looking to maintain a full pipeline of arms coming through."
Jon Lester, John Lackey, Buchholz, Peavy, Doubront and Dempster leave the Red Sox stacked at the position, and the team's high priority on starting-pitching depth leaves it unlikely to trade a starter.
"If that means guys that have already debuted here and pitched successfully even for short stints, if they begin the year in Triple-A, that means we're stronger on the mound," Cherington said. "I just know going back to some of the conversations before the Trade Deadline, we wanted to preserve every arm and not give any arms up for that very reason. Nothing has changed as we approach that."
On top of a loaded staff at the Major League level, the Sox have an equally potent pool of pitching prospects in the Minors. Allen Webster, Rubby De La Rosa, Henry Owens, Trey Ball, Matt Barnes and Anthony Ranaudo headline the list.
Brandon Workman and Drake Britton, who made the leap from Double-A to the Majors over the course of the 2013 season, have roles to be determined as well. Both were starters in the Minors but eventually settled into bullpen roles with the Red Sox.
"Brandon is a little bit unique in his situation, because he did both for us," said manager John Farrell. "If we were to poll 10 people within the organization, there might be a split camp on what role he's best served at. But the fact is he had success at both. As we look at improving the pitching staff, that also includes the six starters that Ben has already mentioned, you could see [Workman] occupying a spot in the bullpen. In the event of unforeseen injury, he's a guy I personally feel very comfortable with him stepping into the rotation."
Boston likes results of Gomes-Nava platoon
BOSTON -- Jonny Gomes and Daniel Nava combined to form a winning combination. The Red Sox are planning to keep it going in 2014.
Gomes, who has predominantly performed better against left-handed pitching throughout his career, actually posted a higher average against right-handers in 2013, eventually earning the nod ahead of Nava against both lefties and righties in the postseason. But, as his career splits indicate, Gomes may still be best suited for a platoon situation, especially when combined with Nava, who hit .322 with an .894 OPS against right-handers.
"I think the one thing that we can look back on this year is we probably allowed guys to have success by taking advantage of their strengths," said manager John Farrell. "I know you can make the argument that [Gomes] performed better against righties this year than in years past, but when you look at the combination of what he and Daniel Nava did in left field, I want to say it was about 110 RBIs, it was close to 30 home runs, it was over 50 doubles. I think that combination was extremely productive."
While the Red Sox still have to figure out what center field, third base, first base, shortstop and catcher will look like in 2014, left field should be set.
"Depending on what the entire roster looks like when we get to Spring Training, that will have a lot to do with the workload of every guy on this team," Farrell said. "The one thing that we are sure of is that Jonny Gomes did exactly what we hoped for him to do when he came here."
President Obama extends congratulations to Farrell
BOSTON -- President Barack Obama was in Boston to speak on healthcare reform before the decisive Game 6 of the World Series last Wednesday. On Monday, he called manager John Farrell.
"I'm sure customary to past winners during his administration, he called to congratulate," Farrell said. "And hopefully there's a chance somewhere around Opening Day next year when we open up in Baltimore that we might be able to swing by [the White House] and say hello."
Boston opens the season in Baltimore on March 31.
President Obama noted the great job that Farrell did in his first year managing the team, remarked on the incredible pitching performance by closer Koji Uehara and extended his congratulations to David Ortiz on being named the World Series MVP, according to a team press release.
The Red Sox were also invited to the White House, as they were the year following their World Series titles in 2004 and '07.