Quick Thoughts on Red Sox Game #1

The good news is that for the first time since 2010 the Red Sox started 1-0.  The better news is that for the first time since 2010 that the Red Sox will not be swept in the first series of the season.  The new look Red Sox offense put a ton of pressure on Yankees ace CC Sabathia and Jon Lester got his first opening day victory in three tries for the Red Sox.  Here are some quick, very premature thoughts on the first game of the season.

  • Lester was sharp in all but 1 inning

    Lester was sharp in all but 1 inning

    Jon Lester looked sharp in all but 1 inning but that 1 inning is a killer.  Last year the guy would just lose himself at times and that is what led to his downfall.  It happened again in the 4th inning but luckily he got it back in the 5th to finish out the start and get the win.  Lester needs to eliminate that problem inning because the bottom line is he’s piling up too many damn pitches early in the game.  He can’t rely on the bullpen all season long to clean up his messes.

  • All that being said above the Red Sox bullpen did a hell of a job cleaning up his mess.  It was an interesting strategy by Farrell to use virtually everyone but it worked out today.  Andrew Miller showed how maddening he can be by walking the first two and striking out the next two.  Bailey and Hanrahan both had some extra juice on their fastballs today, they may have been saving that stuff for the regular season.  If the guys in the back end pitch like they did today this team will be tough to beat with a lead late in games.
  • Jonny Gomes celebrate his hustle run in the 7th

    Jonny Gomes celebrate his hustle run in the 9th

    The Red Sox offense did work without Napoli or Middlebrooks doing anything.  Crazy as it sounds I’m not rushing Papi back because Jonny Gomes is a gamer.  That was a great hustle play to score on Ellsbury’s infield single in the 9th.

  • It was nice to see the Red Sox get back to basics overall.  There was no half-assing on the base paths.  Iglesias did what he had to do to get on base with a bunt single and two infield hits.  Bradley walked 3 times, which is as many times as Crawford walked ALL SEASON last year.  They worked Sabathia early and drove up the pitch count and he only lasted 5 innings.  This is the kind of thing that you saw night in and night out during the Francona years and hopefully it’s a sign of things to come this season.
  • I can’t believe I saw Jarrod Saltalamacchia walk 3 times in the same baseball game.  I’ll wait and see if it was just an aberration or if he has finally learned how to take pitches.
  • Jackass

    Jackass

    It was a great start for the Red Sox no doubt but there is one thing that can’t be denied – the Yankees lineup sucks.  Every time they started a rally they’d have a scrub like Lyle Overbay or Jayson Nix come up (or is it Lance Nix?  I’m not even sure which one it was.)  Guys like Vernon Wells, Travis Hafner, even Ichiro, these guys haven’t been any good in years and they are relying on them in key spots.  You could see that Youk strike out against Bailey in the 7th coming from a mile away.  Like we haven’t had that scouting report on him for a decade.  And he’s their clean-up hitter right now.

  • Joba Chamberlain looks like a jackass with his porn stache.
  • The thing that I hate about opening day is they play the first game and you are all pumped up for baseball to be back and then they don’t play again for another day and a half.  We’ll see if the Red Sox can make it 2 for 2 Wednesday night in the Bronx.

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Red Sox Manager Search Will Be Different From Last Year

In something totally different in Red Sox Nation the Sox will be looking for the 2nd new manager in as many years.  After Terry Francona’s 8 successful years at the helm in Boston Bobby Valentine barely made it through the one.  So it’s back to the drawing board.  While the Red Sox will look to several of the managers that they did the last time around they will be taking a wholly different approach in the winter of 2012.

Valentine was a disaster in his year at the helm

The structure of the team is entirely different this time around.  Last year, in the wake of the September collapse and all that went down behind the scenes, the Sox were looking for someone stern and experienced who could keep the big contracts and big ego guys in line.  They looked early at some up-and-coming guys with less experience but they clearly valued someone who had been in a major league dugout before and narrowed the field down to Valentine and Tigers 3rd base coach and former Pirates and White Sox manager Gene Lamont.  Valentine won out in the end and as we saw the results were an utter disaster.  He attempted to overcompensate for the coddling ways of his predecessor and wound up alienating many members of the team before the season was even off the ground.  He never developed a great relationship with his coaching staff, even the ones that he chose himself.  In the end Bobby V. wasn’t the right guy for the job.

Fast forward to 2012 and it’s a whole different ballgame for Valentine’s future replacement.  Gone is 71 and 1/4 million dollars from the Red Sox 2013 payroll with the subtractions of Kevin Youkilis, Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford and Nick Punto.  The big egos and big contracts have been reduced to John Lackey and, well, John Lackey.  Two of their three remaining productive hitters from last year’s lineup, David Ortiz and Cody Ross, have expiring contracts.  It’s a totally different landscape for the next Red Sox manager and one could make the argument that this situation is a much better situation for an up-and-comer to enter than the one that faced the new manager last season.  And for that reason the names that were not good enough for the Red Sox last season may look a lot more attractive this time around.

Alomar lost out to Francona in Cleveland but could be the right guy in Boston

Of the 4 guys that the Red Sox interviewed last season only 1, Cubs manager Dale Sveum, is not available.  Phillies bench coach Pete Mackanin has been fired and doesn’t seem like he’ll be in the mix this time around.  That leaves two guys – Indians bench coach Sandy Alomar Jr. and Blue Jays first base coach Torey Lovullo.  You could make a serious argument that those 2 guys are 2 of the top 3 on the Red Sox list for their next manager.  Alomar lost out on the Indians job to Francona and looks to be the next big managerial candidate in the majors.  If not Boston he’s expected to be a contender for possible openings in Miami and Toronto.  Then there is Lovullo who spent a year as manager of the Pawtucket Red Sox.  With a younger generation of players coming up for the Sox it would be to Lovullo’s benefit to have familiarity with the Red Sox’ minor league system.

There are other names in the mix, chief among them former Sox pitching coach and current Blue Jays manager John Farrell.  I’d expect the Red Sox will spend the early part of next week surveying the situation with Farrell and the Blue Jays before deciding whether that avenue is one worth pursuing.  I don’t expect them to dance around with the Blue Jays for too long before moving on Farrell or simply moving on.  There are some pros and cons to bringing Farrell back but I’d rather get into that when its clear that he’s an actual candidate.  Of course there are other names being thrown around, perhaps former Sox players Mike Lowell or Bill Mueller.  Maybe Marlins bench coach Joey Cora who should be about ready to step out of Ozzie Guillen’s shadow after spending 9 seasons as his #2.  His brother Alex played in Boston for four years.

The picture should get a lot clearer early next week.  After all unlike last season when in late August replacing Terry Francona would have thought to be unheard of, the Sox brass has probably been looking to the future since as far back as July.  Either way remember the names Lovullo and Alomar.  They may have not had enough experience for management last year but the dynamic of the team has changed and Ben Cherington may see one of these two guys as the right man for the job this time around.

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Whatever Happened To “Red Sox Baseball”

Saltalamacchia is a great clubhouse guy but just doesn’t seem to be a great organizational fit

I’ve been watching the Red Sox struggle through the 2012 season and i can’t help but wonder what happened to the “Red Sox Baseball” that GM Theo Esptein implemented in the early part of the last decade that helped the Red Sox win two World Championships.  No, I’m not talking about that silly cosmetic stuff that anonymous sources report about what’s going on off the field.  I’m talking about what they do on the field, more specifically at the plate.  The Red Sox don’t take pitches anymore.  They don’t talk walks anymore.  They don’t make pitchers work hard anymore.  They often have poor at-bats, mostly from the bottom of the order.  Why did the Red Sox stop bringing in players with high OBP rates?

John Henry bought the Red Sox with an obsession with Oakland GM Billy Beane’s “moneyball” philosophy.  When he couldn’t secure Beane’s services he turned to another young moneyball disciple in Theo Esptein.  The Red Sox built the 2004 roster on players that walked.  Kevin Millar, David Ortiz, Bill Mueller, and Mark Bellhorn were all acquired before the 2003 or 2004 seasons and they all had one thing in common – they got on base.  The Red Sox built their 2007 roster by drafting players like Dustin Pedroia and supplementing the roster with guys like Mike Lowell and J.D. Drew who all got on base.  Now they have a bottom of the lineup that consistently have 3 or 4 pitch at-bats and leaves the pitcher fresh for the top of the order the 2nd and 3rd times around.  Guys like Mike Aviles and Jarrod Saltalamacchia are the opposite of the prototype moneyball type hitters.  Here’s a look at the OBPs for the starting lineups in the World Series winning years of 2004 and 2007.

Damon was the prototypical moneyball lead-off hitter

2004:

C Jason Varitek .390, 1B Kevin Millar .383, 2b Mark Bellhorn .373, SS Orlando Cabrera .320, 3B Bill Mueller .365, LF Manny Ramirez .397, CF Johnny Damon .380, RF Trot Nixon .377, DH David Ortiz .380

2007:

C Jason Varitek .367, 1B Kevin Youkilis .390, 2B Dustin Pedroia .380, SS Julio Lugo, .294, 3B Mike Lowell .378, LF Manny Ramirez .388, CF Coco Crisp, .330, RF J.D. Drew .373, DH David Ortiz .445

Now let’s take a look at the OBP numbers for the starting lineup so far this season:

C Jarrod Saltalamacchia .282, 1B Adrian Gonzalez, .352, 2B Dustin Pedroia, .336, SS Mike Aviles .285, 3B Will Middlebrooks .325, LF Carl Crawford .308, CF Jacoby Ellsbury .309, RF Cody Ross .337, DH David Ortiz .414

The differences are astounding.  In 2004 and 2007 only 1 player in the Sox starting lineup, Julio Lugo, had an OBP under .300 and he was at .294.  This year they have 2, Saltalamacchia and Aviles, and both are .285 or under.  Lugo, Orlando Cabrera, and Coco Crisp were the only 3 guys in those two seasons to have a OBP of .330 or lower.  Only 4 guys in the Red Sox starting lineup this season – their 3 best hitters, Gonzalez, Pedroia, Ross and Ortiz – are over the .330 mark.  Jacoby Ellsbury’s .309 OBP is a horrible number for a lead-off hitter and pales in comparison to the .380 OBP of 2004 lead-off man Johnny Damon.  Bill Mueller’s .365 OBP was 2nd lowest in the Red Sox starting lineup in 2004.  He’d have the second highest in this year’s lineup.

It’s clear what the Red Sox need to do.  They need to re-acquire players who takes pitches and get on base.  They need to rebuild the roster with the 2004 version as a guideline.  When Theo Epstein took over in 2002 he envisioned a 100 million dollar player development machine.  Now it’s just a 100 million dollar mess.  For the Red Sox to get back into the post-season they need to simply get back to Red Sox baseball.  Judging by the numbers above it doesn’t seem like a guy like Mike Aviles, Jarrod Saltalamacchia or even Jacoby Ellsbury would fit into that plan.  They need to get rid of the guys who don’t get on base and replace him with guys who do.

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Crawford Trade Rumors Seem Bogus

Bob Nightengale of the USA Today sent the baseball world abuzz earlier today when he posted an article stating that the Red Sox and Marlins have had discussions about pulling off a blockbuster trade.  In the trade Carl Crawford and a prospect, presumably a high level starting pitcher would go to the Marlins in exchange for third baseman Hanley Ramirez, the former Red Sox prospect who was traded for Josh Beckett back in 2006, and former closer Heath Bell, who just signed a 3 year 27 million dollar contract prior to this season.  It’s worth noting that Nightengale reports that the Marlins have approached the Red Sox with the offer.

Don’t expect to see Carl Crawford taking his talents to South Beach anytime soon

Having said that I see several reasons why the Red Sox wouldn’t do this deal.  First off they have no definitive need to move Crawford.  With Jacoby Ellsbury’s long term status with the team in question as he approaches free agency it doesn’t seem prudent to move Crawford at this point.  Then there is the players that the Red Sox would get in return.  First off – despite being in desperate need of a closer in the off-season the Sox passed on Bell.  In Miami Bell has already lost his closers role and has a 6.48 ERA out of the Miami bullpen.  Considering that the Sox have one of the best bullpen ERA in the majors since they blew a 9 run lead to the Yankees in April it would seem that acquiring Bell would actually make the bullpen worse.  Not to mention paying him another $18 million in guaranteed money in 2013 and 2014.  Regarding Hanley Ramirez, sure he is a great talent and he may need a change of scenery to resurrect his career but I don’t think he makes sense either. The Sox have Will Middlebrooks, Jose Iglesias, and Xander Boegarts to play the left side of the infield.  Acquiring Ramirez would block two of those guys from making it to the majors.  It’s unlikely that it will be Middlebrooks, who was all but crowned the third baseman of the future when Kevin Youkilis was moved to facilitate more playing time for him, which means Hanley would move back to shortstop where his defensive play is sure to decline as he ages.  Neither player seems like a particularly great fit for the Red Sox.

I am sure that the Marlins approached the Red Sox about this deal and why not?  They would get rid of a mistake contract (Bell) and an unhappy player (Ramirez) for Carl Crawford and a prospect pitcher which they desperately need (all 5 of their current starters are slated to hit free agency by the end of next season).  The problem is it takes two to make a trade and this is a trade I can’t imagine that the Red Sox would be eager to make.

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Random Red Sox Notes

A couple random Red Sox thoughts on a hot day in Boston…

  • Aaron Cook has been a find for Ben Cherington

    Theo Epstein seemed to make a million “low-risk, high-reward” pitcher signings when he was with the club and Ben Cherington followed suit before this season.  He may have found a diamond in the rough in Aaron Cook.  After gashing his leg in his first start and going on the disabled list Cook has come back and made 4 starts.  In those 4 starts he has given up 5 earned runs, struck out 2 and walked 1 batter.  He’s had 7 swings and misses.  Despite what the nerds over at sons of Sam Horn might tell you, Cook isn’t just lucky.  His sinker has been as good as I’ve seen since his return.  A good biting sinker will force balls into the ground off contact and balls hit like that generally find a glove in the infield.  He’s currently got a 3.38 ERA which is 2nd lowest among Sox starters who have made at least 5 starts behind only Franklin Morales.

  • Just when you thought that the Red Sox were finally going to be healthy David Ortiz pulled up lam while running around the bases after Adrian Gonzalez’ home run.  Hopefully Papi just needs a few days rest and will be back in the lineup soon.  The initial prognosis seems promising.
  • A-Gon seems to have his swing and his confidence back

    Adrian Gonzalez seems to have finally found his swing.  After hovering in the .260 range for the first three months of the season A-Gon now has his average up to .288.  He now has 50 RBI on the season.  A-Gon seems primed for a big offensive run here in the next few weeks.  Maybe that will quiet a few of his idiotic critics.

  • Carl Crawford made his season debut last night.  He did what they want him to do, getting on-base twice and scoring both times.  His lead-off walk in the 8th inning was the catalyst for the game-winning rally.  He’s never been a big walk guy, even in Tampa, but he had an OBP over .400 during his rehab stint.  Maybe he worked with the coaching staff to improve his plate discipline during his rehab.  Either way a productive Crawford will equal a lot more runs for the Red Sox so here’s hoping it continues.
  • Ryan Dempster?  No thanks Theo.
  • I hate to say this because Jarrod Saltalamacchia had a tremendous first half of the year but he just looks spent out there now.  If they can find a taker for Kelly Shoppach (and they probably can) then they should pull the trigger and bring Ryan Lavarnway up to work an even platoon with Salty.
  • Hopefully I’m not the only one who is sick of Kevin Youkilis.  He needs to GTFA.
  • If you’re going to the game tonight stay hydrated.

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Red Sox Trade Kevin Youkilis To White Sox

Kevin Youkilis has been traded to the Chicago White Sox for minor league pitcher Zach Stewart and utility player Brent Lillibridge.

Youkilis played parts of 9 seasons with the Sox

Youkilis spent parts of 9 seasons with the Red Sox.  He hit a home run in his first game with the Sox against the Blue Jays in Toronto in 2004.  He was a part of two World Champion Red Sox teams in 2004 and 2007.  He’s hit 133 home runs with the Red Sox and driven in 563 runs.  He ammased 959 hits for the Sox, 388 of them of the extra base variety.  He played Gold Glove defense at first base in 2007 and was a solid third baseman for the better part of his career.  Youk moved from third to first after the 2005 season to accomodate the newly acquired Mike Lowell and stayed there for 5 seasons and when the Sox acquired Adrian Gonzalez to play first he moved back to third without complaint.

Youk was always a lightning rod in Boston and around the league as a whole because of the intensity that he played the game with.  He often offended other teams by continually wearing his heart on his sleeve when he was out on the field.  He constantly argued with umpires over balls and strikes, celebrated a big hit, or lashed out at himself in anger when he made an out.  As a matter of fact back in 2008 Youkilis got into an argument with former Sox outfielder Manny Ramirez in the Red Sox dugout because Manny didn’t like how he was slamming his bat and helmet in the dugout in front of the younger players.  Youkilis’ act could certainly have been grating at times but there were times when you could appreciate his old school mentality.

The fact of the matter was that when Youkilis is not going good he is not easily likable with his intense personality and he has not been going good all year.  In a time with so much scrutiny surrounding the Red Sox Youk seemingly has had a giant target on his back.  Many people pointed to him as the leak for a lot of the stories coming out about the goings-on in the Red Sox clubhouse.  The thing is that Youk is breaking down at the age of 33 because he has played with that “balls to the wall” mentality for much of his career.  He has developed hip, groin, and wrist problems that seem to linger with him.  Youk’s attitude could be grating on you as a fan but one thing that you couldn’t question for the past 9 years was his passion and intensity.

As has happened for much of my life and much of the Red Sox history before I was born it seems like the Red Sox will have a less than amiable divorce with one of their former star players.  There is ample evidence that young Will Middlebrooks will make us put Kevin Youkilis in the rear view mirror relatively quickly but the fact will remain that Youk did what he did for the Red Sox for almost 9 full seasons.  Not many Red Sox players in the last 90 years can see that they contributred to 2 Red Sox World Championships but Youkilis can.  That alone should preserve his place in Red Sox history.

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Keep ‘Em or Trade ‘Em – Red Sox infield edition

I’m back from a week of vacation in Miami and the Red Sox have remained stagnant in the standings.  Despite a 4-2 road trip last week they still stand 7.5 games out of first place.  Despite winning 7 of the last 8 series the Red Sox are still at .500, 18 days into June.  Obviously there will be changes to the roster between now and the end of the season whether the Red Sox are in contention or not.  Here is a breakdown on the guys on the roster and whether I think they should stay or go:

Gonzalez is the type of player that you stick with through a slump

1B Adrian Gonzalez – There is no doubt that Adrian Gonzalez is having a difficult year thus far.  His .260/.315/.403 line is ridiculously lower than his career averages.  He is hitting 78 points below his final average from last season.  He is on pace to hit less than 20 home runs for the first time since 2005 when he played in only 43 games for the Rangers.  Clearly Gonzalez is a better player than this.  The big consideration would be the fact that he is only a few months into a 7-year contract extension that he signed last season.  The contract makes him nearly unmovable and if all things were equal I’d keep Gonzalez anyway.  Eventually the old Gonzalez will be back.  He’s the type of hitter that you ride through slumps with like the Sox have done a few times with David Ortiz.  Put him back at 1B full time, try to find a regular spot in the lineup for him and just wait for him to come around.  Hitters like him always do.

Verdict – Keep Him

Pedroia isn’t nor should be going anywhere

2B Dustin Pedroia – Any argument to trade Pedroia seems ludicrous to me.  The best thing that I can come up with is that people have entertained the idea of trading him just to entertain the idea of making a trade.  Even if you could get value for Pedroia you are simply creating another hole in your lineup as there are no prospects near ready to play 2B in the big leagues.  You’d be going with Aviles or Punto if you traded Pedroia.  Pedroia’s been the heart and soul of this team since he’s been called up and he should never put on another uniform at any point in his career.

Verdict – Keep Him, forever

SS Mike Aviles – Aviles is a guy that could generate some interest at the trade deadline since he has played a very good defensive shortstop this season and could help a team in contention in what is a weak position league-wide.  The enticement for the Red Sox for moving Aviles is that they have Cuban youngster Jose Iglesias waiting in the wings.  Iglesias has seemed to turn the corner offensively in the minors.  Aviles was a huge help to the Red Sox lineup early in the season in the lead-off spot when Ellsbury went down but he has barely hit in the lead-off spot of late.  Even if he’s not a starter he’d be a valuable player and with Dustin Pedroia’s health in question it might make more sense to keep him even if you do decide to bring Iglesias up.  Still if another club is offering some good pieces for him it would be hard not to try and make do without him.  The difference between keeping or getting rid of Aviles will come down to how much a team is willing to give up for him.

Verdict – Trade Him only if you get good value back.  Otherwise keep him.

Youkilis’ days in a Sox uniform appear to be very numbered

3B Kevin Youkilis – Here is the thing about Youkilis right now – he is playing so poorly that it might not even get to a question of whether to keep him or trade him.  It’s easy to rip the Red Sox for continuing to put him in the lineup but it was the right move.  You needed to try and establish value for Youkilis after he came off of the D.L.  It’s pretty clear at this point that Youkilis has little to no value on the trading market.  The one other thing that has kept Youk alive thus far has been the fact that the Red Sox would be losing a lot of right handed power if they got rid of Youk but the impending return of Cody Ross, which could come as early as tomorrow night, would alleviate that problem.  At this point it will start to become increasingly tougher for the Red Sox to justify keeping Youkilis on the roster at all.  He will likely be designated for assignment in the not-too-distant future.  The only saving grace for the Red Sox would be that there are several National League teams that need a 1st Baseman so maybe one of them would claim Youk off of waivers or they could make a trade with one of them after he cleared waivers.  Either way it would be a tremendous upset if Youk were sill on the roster come the All-Star Break let alone the trade deadline.

Verdict – Trade Him if you can even get anything for him

Middlebrooks has a bright future in Boston

3B Will Middlebrooks – Middlebrooks is 24 years old and playing behind a gimpy soon-to-be free agent in his 30’s who, as I’ve outlined above, is not too much longer for this team anyway.  He’s have some bumps along the way but Middlebrooks will be a fixture at 3B for the Red Sox by August at the latest.

Verdict – Keep Him

IF Nick Punto – There is no reason to dump this guy unless you have someone to take his place.  The only way he goes is if Iglesias or someone else supplants Aviles at the shortstop position and even then they’d have to make sure Pedroia was 100% before they got rid of him.

Verdict – Keep Him

DH David Ortiz – This is another pointless exercise.  As big of a name as Ortiz is he is still a 36 year old designated hitter with an expiring contract.  There is no possible way to get back the value that he currently gives you in a trade.

Verdict – Keep Him

So there you have it.  Only Youkilis is definite to go, all others should be secure unless the Red Sox are blown away by an offer for Aviles.  Tomorrow I’ll do outfield where there seems to be an impending logjam.

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Quick Thoughts on the Red Sox/Twins series

Don’t look now but the Red Sox are on a winning streak!  Their futility against the league’s better teams in the early going is concerning and it makes you wonder if this team has what it takes to win a World Series but they are clearly in the top 6-7 teams in the American League so eventually their play would plateau when they started to play the weaker teams.  That seems to have started this week in Minnesota.  Here are some thoughts on the series:

  • Jon Lester's April struggles are back in 2012

    On the starting pitchers:  Jon Lester is a little off right now.  He seems to have an inning or a stretch in the game where he doesn’t quite seem right.  It almost cost us the game on Monday but Cody Ross fixed that.  Remember that Lester has struggled in April in the past only to put it together in May for the rest of the summer.  Hopefully that is what is going on with him now.  Josh Beckett wasn’t as good as he was in his last two outings due largely to the 40+ pitch 1st inning that contained a questionable strike zone.  The encouraging thing is that Beckett bounced back and got through 6 innings and only gave up 1 run.  He seems to be in a bit of a groove now.  Clay Buchholz wasn’t as bad last night as he was last week against the Yankees but that is not saying much.  He is still throwing far too many pitches and pitching to too much contact.  With Aaron Cook pitching well in Pawtucket you have to wonder how long they’ll go with Buchholz before he gets one of those mystery DL stints.

  • Aceves celebrates his bases loaded save on Wednesday

    On the bullpen:  Well, at least Alfredo Aceves make it exciting.  He is at least getting a little better but clearly you don’t need to see 1-run games being closed out with the bases loaded.  It looks like we’ll sink or swim with Aceves at closer.  The whole Bard thing remains a mystery but there wasn’t another option besides him to start Friday’s game in Chicago.  His next start will say a lot about his role going forward.  Most of the other guys pitched well on Monday and Tuesday but they had trouble cleaning up Buchholz’ mess on Wednesday.  Justin Thomas got some critical innings and didn’t fare well.  He’ll soon be replaced by Rich Hill.

  • On Mike Aviles:  This guy was on fire in Minnesota.  He went 6-for-13 with 2 HRs, 6 RBI, and 3 runs scored.  For all of the worry that was out there after Jacoby Ellsbury was injured Aviles has done more than enough to temper the masses.  So much so that if he keeps it up he might stay at the top of the order with Ellsbury hitting 2nd.  It’s early but the Red Sox look like the clear winners in the Marco Scutaro trade.
  • On the rest of the offense:  The offense continues to click on all cylinders with 6, 11, and 7 runs in three games in Minnesota.  Big Papi continued his hot ways with a monster home run in game 2.  Cody Ross was the hero in game 1 with his two late inning home runs.  Even Kevin Youkilis got in on the fun with some hits to get him back up to the Mendoza line.  Adrian Gonzalez is starting to drive in runs in bunches again.  It should be interesting to see how this group performs in Chicago with some better pitching against them.
  • Bobby V. has had his hands full with Boston's bullpen

    On Bobby V.:  That moment of levity with Alfredo Aceves and the Sox infield on Monday might be looked back at the turning point for the Red Sox.  Some of his bullpen moves are still inconsistent but I guess that could be a by-product of an inconsistent bullpen.  The lineups moves that he’s had to juggle around have all seemed to have been on point so far.

  • What’s next:  A 4 game series in Chicago to take us through the weekend before the Sox come home next week.  Pitching match-ups are Doubront (0-0, 3.94) vrs. Humber (1-0, 0.63), Bard (1-2, 4.38) vrs. Danks (2-2, 5.11), Lester (0-2, 6.00) vrs. Peavy (3-0, 1.88) and Beckett (2-2, 4.56) vrs. Floyd (1-3, 3.60).  Obviously Phillip Humber is coming off of last weekend’s perfect game on Thursday night in his start vrs. the Sox.

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Red Sox/Rangers series recap

The Red Sox returned to their early season pitching futility in a two game series against the Rangers on Tuesday and Wednesday.  Jon Lester was lit up early and Mark Melancon was lit up late in an 18-3 loss of game 1.  Josh Beckett held his own but it was not enough to overcome a great pitching performance by Derek Holland on Wednesday night and the Sox once again fell to the Rangers 6-3.

Jon Lester had no answers for the Rangers lineup on Tuesday

As far as the starting pitching goes, Jon Lester’s performance was inexplicable.  It was just one of those things.  He had some trouble getting a feel for the ball after the long home run he gave up to Mike Napoli, who absolutely murders Red Sox pitching.  He actually looked good before that but the home run seemed to throw him off and he couldn’t get into a rhythm after that.  He threw 50 pitches in the 2nd inning and couldn’t record an out in the 3rd before getting yanked.  I’m guessing this was an aberration for Lester and he’ll throw the ball better next time out.  Josh Beckett was much better on Wednesday night.  He is gaining velocity, he went from 91-92 in his first two outings to 93-94 last night, and continues to locate his secondary pitches well.  He gave the Sox a quality start in 7 strong innings and the only blemish was a run scored on a ground ball up the middle and a 2-run homer by, yup, Mike Napoli.  Beckett seems to have settled in after that first outing.

The bullpen is still as mess at times.  Mark Melancon was supposed to be a primary set-up guy for this team but he’s now down in Pawtucket after giving up 3 home runs on Tuesday night.  Michael Bowden has been designated for assignment.  Franklin Morales, who looked great before last night, gave up 3 runs to the Rangers in the 8th inning.  The good news is that Aceves is settling in and Matt Albers and Scott Atchison are pitching better for the Sox.  Vicente Padilla is holding his own in a set-up spot as well.  Perhaps we’ll see if Junichi Tazawa, called up for Melancon and coming off of Tommy John surgery, can contribute.  We may look back at the Andrew Bailey injury and see it as the thing that undid the Bobby V. era before it even started.

Youkilis celebrated his 1st HR of the season Wednesday night

The lineup is doing alright but faced some tough pitching in the two games.  It’s a pretty good staff when you have two guys, Scott Feldman and Alexei Ogando, who have been all-stars as starers as your primary set-up guys.  Papi continues to hit with 1 in each of the 2 games against Texas.  Dustin Pedroia hit his 3rd jack of the young season and Adrian Gonzalez added his 2nd in Game 1.  Kevin Youkilis finally got on the board with a 2-run shot on Wednesday night.  Ryan Sweeney continues to hit well and added an RBI single in the bottom of the 9th last night against Joe Nathan.  Kelly Shoppach continues to hit with another double last night.  Mike Aviles went 2-for-6 with two walks in the series and continues to hold his own at the lead-off spot.  The Sox defense is actually the best in the league so they’re not getting killed in that department either.

So the Sox are 4-8 after 12 games.  Too bad they didn’t start that good last year, they’d have been in the playoffs if they had.  Now they have a crucial series against the Yankees to finish the home stand.  The funny thing is, as a Sox fan, the Yankees don’t scare me as much as the the other teams we have played so far.  We’ve played this team well over the past couple seasons, something you couldn’t say about the Rays or Rangers.  Friday should be exciting, regardless of the record.  I’m looking forward to watching the ceremony and I hope there are a lot of older players that were kind of forgotten about over the years (Luis Rivera, Jeff Frye, Jody Reed, Bob Zupcic, the list goes on and on.)  Anyway until then keep your heads up and go B’s.

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Quick thoughts on Red Sox/Blue Jays – Game 5

Here are some quick thoughts on the Sox’ 5th game of the season while game 6 gets underway:

  • Daniel Bard looked ok…just ok.  He has some good pitches but he is having the same problem as he did in September of last year – while he will make a lot of guys swing and miss when they make contact on him they generally find a hole.  I’m not sure what it is or how to correct it but one thing is for sure – it seems that if you put him in the closers role you might not see much different from Bard than what you saw last September.  He needs to stay in the rotation and work it out.
  • Jacoby Ellsbury needs to step up.  Including today’s game he is 0-for-6 leading off the game.  He’s the table setter and he hasn’t been setting the table which is a problem because the guys behind him have been hitting the ball pretty well.
  • Cody Ross has been disappointing.  It looked like he was poised for a fast start after a very good spring training but it hasn’t translated.  On the flip side Ryan Sweeney, who was awful all spring training long, continues to swing the bat well.
  • Kevin Youkilis, one of the other early scufflers, showed signs of life yesterday with two hits.  Hopefully that will get Youk going because the last thing you need is a black hole in the middle of the lineup.
  • I don’t want to jinx it because we’ve got a whole game left to play (and 16 more after that during the season) but the Red Sox pitchers have absolutely handled Jose Bautista in the early going.

That’s all for today.  I was a bit distracted from the game last night due to the Heat/C’s game but will have a rundown of today’s game tonight.  Lester is the stopper again and I have a feeling that you’re going to hear that a lot, especially in the early going.

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