With the offseason quickly fading, the Red Sox have brought in outfielders Jonny Gomes and Shane Victorino to replace Carl Crawford and Cody Ross. Victorino should play every day in right, but that's not the case for Gomes in front of the Green Monster, leaving in-house options Ryan Kalish and Daniel Nava with a real opportunity heading into Spring Training.
On a freezing cold Wednesday in Boston, Kalish and Nava both said they were aware they have a chance to earn significant playing time in 2013, with an emphasis on "earn."
"I thought about it a little bit, but at the same time, you don't want to look too far ahead," said Kalish, who along with Gomes, Nava and David Ross served Dunkin' Donuts around the city in a morning promotion. "And it's there, like you said, but you got to get there first. I'm just trying to get my body right still and get my swing down still."
Toward the end of last season, Nava took grounders at first base at the behest of former Boston utility man Nick Punto, whom Nava recalled saying, "Hey, man, if I can play first base, you might as well take some [grounders] just in case." Nava said the team hasn't talked to him about playing first, but he'd be happy to try if it gets him in the lineup.
"No one has talked about that at all, so it hasn't been brought up," Nava said. "I'd be open to playing wherever they want me to play."
Kalish said he feels even stronger than he did nearly two months ago, when he met with reporters at Fenway for a holiday event. Still, as Kalish has said for some time, there's a reality that he'll have to play with pain, at least for a bit. How much that pain hinders Kalish could well be the difference in his season.
"I feel real strong as far as all my body goes," said Kalish, who came back last season from neck and shoulder surgeries in 2011.
Swinging a bat right now is a little bit more of a challenge, and it has its ups and downs, said Kalish.
"There's a point where you play with your pain and you know you're good and be able to give what you have, but if it gets to a point where it's too much, it's too much -- and that's performance based."
As much as Nava's and Kalish's own performances will be a factor, so too will Gomes'. The Sox didn't ink Gomes to a two-year, $10 million contract to ride the bench, but he's said from the day he was signed that how much time he sees will be dependent on his performance. Gomes has played 120 games or more just twice in his 10-year career, in 2010 and '11 with the Reds.
"My goal right now and my goal throughout the year is to be ready for 162 games, to be ready when my number's called," Gomes said. "This is a results-driven industry. I understand that and I understand putting the hottest hand out there gives us the best chance to win, which is our goal. Do I want to play? Yeah. Do I want to play every single day? Yeah. If I were to pick a record to beat, it'd be Cal Ripken Jr. Obviously that's out of the question, but I'm an everyday guy and want to play every day."
Of course, if the Red Sox go out and trade for an outfielder, the dynamic changes.
Nava, a switch-hitter, said he's been working particularly hard on his right-handed swing. He hit .185 off lefties in 81 at-bats last season. Neither he nor Kalish have been told much by the team about their potential roles entering the season.
"No one's mentioned anything, but I think that's because there's a lot of things -- [the Mike] Napoli contract, a bunch of other things [going on] -- but I'm aware of the situation," said Nava. "In the same sense, I still got to go out there and perform and do my job, and we'll see what happens."