Ben Cherington isn't pressured by center field battle or outfield roster spots

Mike Petraglia
February 24, 2015 - 11:44 am
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- The way Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington sees it, the wealth of candidates for the team's center field starting job is a good thing. He made that much clear Tuesday when he said he could envision a scenario where every outfielder remains on the organizational roster by the time the team heads north for Philadelphia and opening day April 6. He also made it clear that he really, really thinks the world of one of the three candidates for center field, Mookie Betts. Cherington was asked about the rumored interest of the Phillies in acquiring either Betts or Blake Swihart should the Red Sox come calling for lefty ace Cole Hamels. Cherington stopped short of calling Betts untouchable but barely. "We think he's an exceptionally talented young player, does a lot of things well and obviously has shown an ability to make adjustments quickly and has an aptitude and gives us a chance to help us win games for a long time," Cherington said. "That's kind of player we want on our side. I don't get into the whole untouchable [not] untouchable thing. I'm not even sure what it means. We know what we think he can be and we're really happy he's here, and we expect him to be here." With the addition of Hanley Ramirez and the return of Shane Victorino, the Red Sox also have a potential glut of outfielders. Three of them, Betts, Rusney Castillo and Jackie Bradley Jr. (whom John Farrell called the best defensive center fielder in the game) will battle for the center field job. Victorino comes in as the right fielder with Daniel Nava and Brock Holt as possibilities. Ramirez will play left. Take away Holt, a utility player, and that's still six outfielders. But Cherington said all of them could still be in the organization come Opening Day. "Good chance. One of the things that we knew needed to be better was the total output from the outfield, better in 2015," Cherington said. "And in order to win more games, we knew we needed to get more out of the outfield, the whole [also] but the outfield was certainly one area. In order to do that, you need talent to do that and when there have been opportunities to acquire talent, we've pursued it, and if that means there's some competitive aspect to spring training, or even early in the season, for playing time and that type of thing, then that's part of it. We have a short-term focus right now in terms of what has to happen the rest of February and what has to happen in March to give our team the best chance to be successful starting in April, and that's what we're focused on. "We'll learn a lot more as we get through spring and we'll know where everyone is as we get towards the end of March. Certainly, there's a scenario where everyone that's here now will be in the organization when we go to Philly." Castillo only got the chance to play in 10 games, racking up 40 plate appearances, in September. Not a problem according to Cherington. "We're not concerned," Cherington said. "That is not an element we're concerned with right now. He did everything we asked him to do, from the day we signed him. From going to minor leagues and then the big leagues and then Arizona and Puerto Rico and everything in between. He's done everything we've asked him to do. He's in a position now where he comes to spring training, and as we met with him and told him, just be a baseball player. Try to get into some sort of baseball normalcy now. I don't expect the number of at-bats he's had over the last 10 months or whatever to be a factor. "We're short-term focused. That normalcy is going to play out in spring training first. We think he's got a chance to be a really good major league player and we're happy he's here."