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Roche: Red Sox Lineup, Rotation Taking Shape With Opening Day 3 Weeks Away

BOSTON (CBS) -- Ready or not, baseball is coming.

We're just three short weeks away from Opening Day, and today we get a glimpse of what the Red Sox lineup could look like come March 31 in Baltimore.

Jon Lester will toe the rubber against the Rays at JetBlue Park, his first start of the spring, and Shane Victorino is in the lineup for the first time, batting sixth and playing right field.

"We're starting to get what shapes up to be our regular roster back on the field," manager John Farrell told reporters Monday morning from Fort Myers. "And as we talked about yesterday, this next turn through the rotation we'll have all of our projected starters on the mound. I think the more we get that continuity from the starting staff, as we'll achieve here in spring training, I think it sets the tone for everything else."

Here are a few notes and observations with opening day right around the corner:

-- Farrell announced that Boston's rotation to start the year will go Jon Lester-John Lackey-Felix Doubront-Jake Peavy-Clay Buchholz.

Lester and Lackey look like they're ready to keep grinding away while Doubront is quickly becoming a "should I take him in my fantasy draft" kind of guy. The lefty has shown glimpses that he could be a top of the rotation guy, which would be a huge boost for the organization as they bridge between vets and all of their up-and-comers.

Buchholz was impressive on Sunday, but is still being brought along slowly with all parties hoping he'll finally be able to make 25-30 starts this season. Buchholz has such good stuff that he can contend for a Cy Young if he can just get out there consistently. By starting him in that five-spot, Farrell and the team hope they can work in a few days off early in the season.

-- Much of the hype coming into last season surrounded Farrell and how he would be able to fix Lester and Buchholz. He certainly did a good job, but if you ask those two, they both give a lot of the credit to pitching coach Juan Nieves. Lester has constantly gushed about just how much of a difference-maker Nieves is with the staff.

-- When you hear the names Grady Sizemore, and to a lesser degree, Stephen Drew, keep in mind just how hard it is for young players to 1) blossom into consistent every-day big leaguers, and 2) do it here in Boston. Jackie Bradley Jr. and Xander Bogaerts have shown the ability to play on the big league level, but we've all seen how hard it is to do it every day.

Coming off a World Series title there is a tremendous pressure on the front office to keep the winning ball rolling (ticket sales/TV ratings), so you don't want to ruin these kids. Ask any pitcher how important consistent, steady defense is and they light up. It means a lot. That's why Drew was so highly thought of. He was that "sure thing" in a position where you need it.

The same goes for center field. Sizemore can help Bradley in so many ways, and I think that's why Ben Cherington will find a veteran shortstop/infielder at some point to help the left side of the infield.

-- With that said, my biggest concern right now as we sit in early March is the defense on the left side of the infield.

-- If John Lackey continues to look the way he does so far, the only thing that will keep him from winning 15-20 games is the bullpen.

-- I loved the job the front office and coaching staff did with Jarrod Saltalamacchia from the day he arrived to the day he departed for Miami. Christian Vazquez is next in line, so get David Ross, Jason Varitek, Dana Levangie, etc. with him and he has a chance to be special.

Although, an immersion in the "Gary Tuck" school would have been a huge help too.

-- Words cannot express how badly I feel for a Rich Hill and his family.

-- I'm curious to see what the ceiling is on Daniel Nava.

-- I agree with Nick Cafardo and from sources around David Ortiz, that the Sox DH has zero concerns about getting another year added to his contract.

-- Also, would you extend Jonny Gomes a year right now, too?

-- The more I think about it, the more I would rip up the final year on Jon Lester's contract and give him a five-year deal at $21-25 million per season with vesting options for a sixth and seventh year. He is that ace the Sox can lean on while some of these young guns develop at the big league level.

-- I thought John Henry tweeted what a lot of baseball fans wondered when the Marlins protested the Sox line-up sent to Jupiter last week.
Henry gets upset when someone utters the words "revenue sharing". He feels (and rightly so) that it's not right that for years the large market teams, such as the Red Sox and Yankees, have put millions of dollars into the pockets of small market teams, and that revenue hasn't been put into payroll.

It's simply not fair to the fans of these small market teams.

-- I've had three fantasy baseball drafts so far and I have teams that aren't loaded with superstars; just solid top to bottom. I think it's a strange year for fantasy with so many question marks -- Pujols, Hamilton, Mauer, Cruz, Teixeira, Ellsbury, Cano (Safeco vs Yankee stadium), and Sabathia, just to name a few.

-- Keep on grinding......better weather has to get here soon enough.

Follow WBZ-TV's Dan Roche on Twitter @RochieWBZ.


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