Sports Illustrated baseball writer Tom Verducci was a guest of the Dennis & Callahan show Friday morning to talk about the Red Sox' prospects for 2010. "I like what they did here, but what people have to remember is that this is Plan B. They went to this because they had to go to this," Verducci said of Boston's focus on pitching and defense. "I think they didn't have a choice. I don't think they sat down and said, 'Let's switch gears here, guys, and now we think that defense wins games.' I think they had to do it. In that sense, it was a very smart thing to do, They are going to be a very good defensive team, there's not doubt about that, it will help them a lot.
"The downside is they're very vulnerable against right-handed pitching, and I don't think they're going to be much better as a team that hits on the road. They're probably a middle-of-the-pack offensive team, which could be good enough if their pitching holds up and their defense is as good as we think. But any right-handed power pitching, sinker, slider-type pitchers, I think that's a problem for the Red Sox," he added, noting that Tampa Bay's pitching staff is a "bad, bad matchup for the Red Sox."
Verducci said right now he gives the pitching edge to the Yankees, although the Red Sox staff has the potential to be "dynamic." The key, he said, is "You've got to stay away as much as you can from getting down into that inventory where you're running out your No. 7, 8, 9 starters. That's going to catch up to you, especially in the American League East." Verducci also warned that the Rays should bounce back from a disappointing 2009. "We spend a lot of time talking about the Yankees and Red Sox, but I can tell you there's a lot of people who think the best team down here in Florida right now, at least the way they look on the field in spring training, are the Tampa Bay Rays. Do not discount them from this discussion, either."
Regarding Mike Lowell, Verducci said he expects the veteran to stay and try to contribute. "If he buys into that, I think they have a very valuable guy coming off their bench," Verduci said. "I don't know whether he's there mentally or not. That's a very tough downshift for any guy who's been playing as an everyday player."
Looking around Major League Baseball, commenting on the recent rumor that the Phillies were exploring the possibility of trying to trade Ryan Howard for Cardinals slugger Albert Pujols, Verducci said the trade would make no sense for the Cardinals, especially considering the way Pujols is viewed in St. Louis. "I think he's the most popular Cardinal since Stan Musial," Verducci said.
Regarding the revelation that Rangers manager Ron Washington used cocaine last year, Verducci said: "It's shocking. It doesn't make any sense. I don't know who's buying the story that it's the first time he tried it."
To hear the interview, click on the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.
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