To me, the stats for players, the regulars, the starting lineup, are just not that important in spring training. Whether good or bad they don’t count, period. Many fans and some media get concerned when a player does not have a good spring. It’s a whole different atmosphere than regular season games. Even though players want to do well in any situation, real or not real, they know they’re just trying to get ready for the season. Sure it’s nice to have a good spring but they’ve had good seasons before and know they can do it again.
It’s totally different for prospects and veterans trying to make the team. The prospect wants to show everyone he has the talent to be a big leaguer. If he hits or pitches well and his stats are good everyone will be impressed. If not, well, he’s only a kid and will improve with experience.
For the veterans it’s do or die. There is no room for failure. Every at bat or pitch is a pressure situation. He’s got to be successful every time he gets a chance to play or he’s gone. I had that experience in my last spring training with the Sox. It’s no fun.
The best example I ever saw of a young player making the team in spring training was Tony Conigliaro. It was back in the day when we had spring training in Scottsdale, Arizona. Tony, a local kid from Swampscott MA, got the opportunity to get in a regular game after an injury to one of the starting outfielders. From that day on Tony hit more home runs and line drive hits than all the regulars combined. He hit one home run over the 30 foot centerfield fence some 435 feet away off Gary Bell of the Cleveland Indians. He was so good (and only 19 years old) the Red Sox decided to take him to Boston. Tony hit every veteran pitcher and some who became Hall of Famers such as Juan Marichal and Gaylord Perry that spring. It was the best exhibition of hitting ever seen in spring training.
The 2018 Red Sox have a player who is ready to make this team and can contribute both in the field and at the plate. That player is Blake Swihart. He can catch and play the outfield. He can pinch hit when needed and he’s a good teammate. My only concern is that he doesn’t get enough playing time to get in a groove but he should make this team. After all, there’s never enough quality depth for any team trying to get to the World Series.
Feature Photo Courtesy of Boston Globe