There will be opportunity for others to step up in Ortiz’s absence. It could create a roster spot for a veteran such as Lyle Overbay or Mike Carp. Overbay, hitting .261 with no homers and four RBIs in 23 at-bats, is an experienced major league first baseman, and his presence on the roster could allow the Sox to use Napoli as the designated hitter the first month.
Two DH candidates, Ryan Lavarnway (.167) and Mauro Gomez (.160), have struggled throughout camp.
“It’s safe to say we don’t have another David Ortiz to occupy that slot,” Farrell said. “So we’ll look to see where are the best matchups and how do we balance Mike Napoli playing every day? Everything projects where he would be fine, but we all have to consider that.”
Overbay has an out in his contract, and with the Yankees searching for a temporary replacement for the injured Mark Teixeira, Overbay’s lefthanded bat could be an attractive option for New York if Overbay is not given assurances he will stay with the Sox.
Carp was acquired from Seattle and homered Monday vs. the Marlins, but he is hitting .217 with 10 strikeouts in 23 at-bats. The Sox will have to make another decision if Carp continues to struggle, though he does provide first base/left field protection.
Center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury hasn’t found his stroke yet – with a .200 average — but there’s no concern there. Nor is there with Jonny Gomes (.217) in left.
Newcomer Shane Victorino, who will start as the right fielder, was 0 for 11 while in camp and is 1 for 6 with three strikeouts for the United States in the World Baseball Classic. Since Victorino has experience playing center field, the team doesn’t necessarily have to carry a pure center fielder as the fourth outfielder.
Sweeney is probably ahead in the battle for that spot for now, but don’t dismiss Daniel Nava and/or Mitch Maier, the former Royal. He has played all three outfield positions and so far has hit well in camp. Nava is lumped in with Overbay and Carp in the competition for the first base/outfielder role.
The relievers have struggled in the first half of camp, though Joel Hanrahan, with his 13.50 ERA, has begun to pitch better. Andrew Bailey, the supplanted closer and still subject of trade rumors, also has started to pitch better lately.
The injury bug has hit two lefties who it was thought could be big pieces in the bullpen – Craig Breslow (shoulder) and Franklin Morales (back), both expected to start the season on the disabled list.
More than halfway through spring training, though, if the starting pitching continues to improve, that could soften the blow of losing Ortiz.
Nick Cafardo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.