Coming into spring training, there were two question marks on the 12-man pitching staff. The first involved John Danks, whose ability to rebound from subscapularis surgery wouldn't be taken for granted. His availability called the second spot -- the last bullpen job -- into question, since it could force a potential long-relief candidate into the rotation as a short-term fix.
Right now, it seems like those questions have been answered before March.
Danks, who has qualified his enthusiasm on the advisement of his counselors early on, stepped up with the bold proclamation: "I have no doubt I'll be on the Opening Day roster."
Now, I have some doubts that he'll be able to hold that rotation spot if he gets it. But as long as he's penciled in, that seems to resolve the other potential vacancy, because Robin Ventura said it's "highly unlikely" that Hector Santiago would start the season in Charlotte's rotation. The Sox are going to stretch him out to be aligned closely with Danks' throwing schedule during the spring, but if he's not needed for a rotation spot at the start of the season, they're confident that his versatility will allow him to remain stretchable from a long-relief spot.
If Danks and Santiago are on the 25-man roster at the same time, that basically seals the pitching staff:
- Starters: Danks, Chris Sale, Jake Peavy, Gavin Floyd, Jose Quintana
- Bullpen: Santiago, Nate Jones, Matt Lindstrom, Jesse Crain, Matt Thornton, Donnie Veal, Addison Reed.
The LOOGY role is the only other role that hasn't been officially settled, because Veal hasn't been assured the spot, and Leyson Septimo is out of options. But apparently Septimo slipped and hurt himself while fielding a bunt in the ninth inning of Monday's game, so that long shot might be even more unlikely if there are any lingering effects.
With Conor Gillaspie wearing the right hats for the last bench spot, it's down to Hector Gimenez staking claim to the backup catcher job over Bryan Anderson. And there's still more than a month left on the spring schedule.
When it comes to monitoring roles, we're left to watch...
Players attempting to avoid injury
Before Septimo left Monday's game, Dayan Viciedo also exited early after taking a fastball to the elbow area. He said it hit him on the muscle, which meant it "really hurt," but he doesn't anticipate it being a problem. Viciedo is no stranger to painful spring HBPs -- he broke his thumb during what was shaping up to be an impressive audition in 2011, and it altered his trajectory considerably.
Players jockeying for position underneath the 25-man roster
The action here isn't nearly as gripping. You have your depth battles (Jordan Danks losing ground to Blake Tekotte; Dylan Axelrod holding serve), your potential second-half additions (Carlos Sanchez, Jared Mitchell), and a bunch of prospects who are looking to make fine first impressions.
We talked about Erik Johnson and Scott Snodgress yesterday, and Don Cooper likes what he saw from both of them, too. Then again, he kinda likes what he's seen from everybody (even Zach Stewart!). His reserved his harshest criticism for Brian Omogrosso, and even then:
‘‘Did a great job for us last year. [On Saturday against the Dodgers], he got the first two guys out, then threw a 3-2 changeup up 7-0. That’s rousing the baseball gods to wake up. He did something he shouldn’t have done, but he got out of it.’’
We don't know what he thinks of Andre Rienzo, and that one would be interesting. Rienzo didn't retire any of the five batters he faced (double, walk, walk, single, double). He also threw a wild pitch, and Tyler Flowers saved another. Perhaps he was distracted by the Japanese media, who came to watch him in anticipation of his start for Team Brazil against Japan in the World Baseball Classic on Saturday.