Going up with talented youngsters
Strong points: The Red Sox have pitching and defense, maybe not of championship caliber, but plenty good enough. Big Don Schwall (24) won 15 games and Bill Monbouquette (25) won 14 games last year. Tracy Stallard had an unimpressive 2-7 record, but he was pitching well toward the end of the season. At 24, he may be ready to win. Gene Conley makes an acceptable fourth starter. The Red Sox infield is sound. Pete Runnels presents a small target at first base but fields the position capably. Chuck Schilling is a wizard at making the double play, an art the Red Sox have always managed to botch in the past. Frank Malzone at third is no longer the pre-1960 model, but there are still few better. At shortstop the Red Sox have Ed Bressoud, via Houston and San Francisco. Bressoud replaces Don Buddin, who was booed right out of Boston. No matter what Bressoud does, and it doesn't figure to be much, Red Sox fans will consider it an improvement. The Red Sox outfield of Carl Yastrzemski in left field, Gary Geiger in center and either Carroll Hardy or Lou Clinton in right is fast, especially when Hardy is playing.
Weak spots: It wasn't too long ago that the Red Sox could make brave pitchers cower al the sight of a lineup that included hitters like Williams, Wertz and Jensen. These men are gone now and the Sox start the season with hitters who may not be able to reach that short left-field wall. The team's best hitters, Runnels (.317) and Yastrzemski (.266 but strong second half), are left-handed and don't hit home runs anyway. Malzone, Clinton and Catcher Jim Pagliaroni are right-handed and should hit a few, but not many. Last year the Red Sox hit fewer home runs than any team in the league if you don't count Kansas City (few do). Red Sox runs will come hard again this year.
The big ifs: The Sox are young. Last year four rookies made the team—Schwall, Yastrzemski, Schilling and Pagliaroni. Much of the Red Sox fortunes in 1962 depend on the development of these four players. Much will also depend on several new men who are coming along this year.
Rookies and new faces: Out of the Don Schwall mold come two more fine-looking pitchers: Dick Radatz, 25, and Dave Busby, 20. Radatz was an outstanding relief pitcher with Seattle last year. Busby, who was 21-7 with Waterloo, may be a year away, but then that's what everyone said about Schwall last spring. Right-handed power hitter Bob Tillman, 25, will be a reserve catcher.
OUTLOOK: The Red Sox have what the sociologists call "upward mobility." They will be fighting for the first division this year and have a rosy chance.
The bunt's the thing
Gary Geiger, the Red Sox' slender center fielder, hit 18 home runs last year and drove in 64 runs. That was more homers and RBIs than Geiger had ever had. But people were grumbling. Geiger's batting average, they noted, had dropped 70 points because he had suddenly started swinging for the fences.
Geiger admits he swung all-out a few times—when he should have been bunting instead. "The year before," he said, "I beat out 13 or 14 bunts. That's one big reason why I hit .300. It made a difference of about 25 points on my average. But last year I beat out only two or three. I got in a hot streak in late June, early July and started hitting the long ball. I forgot about bunting."
This year Geiger will let Roger Maris play low-average, high-homer baseball. He'll try to bunt his way into the big money.
Earl Wilson is a right-handed pitcher. He is big, strong and very wild. He has been up to the Red Sox twice, but wildness sent him back each time. Wilson is up for another try this year; he is fitted out with glasses and restocked with confidence. He feels he should make it, and if not this year, well then, the year after that.
"I'm pretty touchy about it," he said. "Sometimes I've felt like packing up and going home. Actually, I've been wild two ways—wild like when you throw all over the place and wild like when you just miss. I think I got the wildness beat now."
Wilson's control has been pretty bad in the past, and from San Jose to Montgomery to Minneapolis to Boston to Seattle people have been telling him how to make it better. Some places the word has been "release the ball sooner (or later)," other places "tell the catcher to give you a lower target," others "move to this (or that) side of the rubber," still others "try it without a windup" (that worked fine one winter but come spring he couldn't get anybody out). This year, at Pitching Coach Sal Maglie's suggestion, Wilson is throwing three-quarter arm rather than straight overarm and releasing the ball a bit later. The idea is to get his pitches down into the strike zone. Wilson is pleased with the results, and so are the batters: in his first six innings of exhibition work, they clipped him for 14 hits.
Johnny Pesky, who managed Wilson at Seattle last year, has said that if Earl would just rear back and fire the ball he'd be all right. Wilson is not so sure. "I've always tried to throw too hard," he said. "When I do that I start walking guys, and then I think, 'Get that ball over.' So I take a little off the pitches, and boom-boom—I'm finished."
Wilson is only 26, and he's down to one option with the Red Sox. This spring Boston writers were calling this his now-or-never year. Wilson does not agree, and if he is sent to the minors again he will keep up the struggle. "I don't think I'm just a wild pitcher," he said. "I feel that finding my control is a matter of some one little thing. If I can pitch regular, I think I can find that thing. If not, I can't tell what will happen. I might hit anybody around."
BEST OF THE SOX pitchers is 6-foot-6 Don Schwall, who came out of the minors last May to win 15 games and become Rookie of the Year.