Bailey Loss Hurts Red Sox

By Andy Lindberg

After all the effort Ben Cherrington spent re-vamping the Red Sox’s bullpen, one of the most critical members of the ‘pen has gone down with an injury, and may be out for as long as a few months if surgery is necessary.Image

Closer Andrew Bailey has not received good news regarding his injured thumb, according to sources.

Bailey, who will be 28 in May, has battled injuries before during his three-year career; however he has been extremely effective when healthy, posting 75 career saves, a 2.07 ERA and an excellent 206 ERA+ (above 100 is considered above average).  If Bailey is indeed out for an extended period, look to Alfredo Aceves and newcomer Mark Melancon to pick up the slack in the ninth inning.  The 26-year-old Melancon saved 20 games for Houston last year and came over in a trade for infielder Jed Lowrie.

Aside from the hurt it puts on Boston’s bullpen, it also throws pitchers with relative inexperience at closing into the fire.  The 2003 “closer by committee” approach did not work out well, and there’s no reason to think a closer shuffle would work again.  The Red Sox are coming off of the most disappointing year in recent memory and need to keep pace with the Rays and Yankees in the AL East.  Injuries killed Boston’s 2010 season and right now, the outlook in the bullpen is already strained.

Josh Beckett got good news on his hurting thumb and is still on track to pitch on Saturday in Detroit.

Red Sox Week In Review

By Andy Lindberg

While the Boston Red Sox finished the week with a 4-2 record, retaining the best record in the American League, the injury bug has crept up on the team yet again, knocking out Carl Crawford with a hamstring strain and Jed Lowrie with an ailing shoulder.  The Sox also placed Clay Buchholz on the 15-Day DL prior to Sunday’s game against the Milwaukee Brewers.  While neither injury to the hitters are as crushing as the Kevin Youkilis and Dustin Pedroia injuries of 2010, Crawford had been batting .291 since the beginning of May.  The month of May saw Crawford hit .304 after a dismal .155 start to his season.  While Crawford was not yet in full swing with his hitting or his base stealing (he only had eight when he went down) he was beginning to come together.  Buchholz isn’t too significant a loss at this point, as his scheduled start had already been pushed back and this is more along the lines of a precautionary move before Buchholz’s back gets too bad.

Part of the reason for Boston’s offensive success in lieu of Crawford and JD Drew’s offensive struggles was the calamity Adrian Gonzalez has been causing every time he steps into the batter’s box.  Gonzalez knocked his 1000th career hit on Sunday, a triple into the triangle at Fenway.

Josh Beckett remained exceptional, hurling a 1-hit shutout at Tampa Bay the very night the Boston Bruins won the Stanley Cup.  Beckett has been unbelievable this season, already matching his win total from last year’s injury-plagued campaign.

Tim Wakefield picked up another win on his quest to 200 wins, and to unseat Roger Clemens and Cy Young as the Red Sox’ all time wins leaders.  Wakefield sits now nine wins away from Clemens and Young and a mere three wins away from 200 career wins.  As Matsuzaka is done for the year, there is no reason to take Wakefield out of the rotation, as he has been quite effective to this point.  This next week sees Boston play three games at Fenway as the San Diego Padres come to town, and three against the surprisingly decent Pittsburgh Pirates in Pittsburgh.

As a side note, from now on each highlighted player in one of my articles or recaps will take you to that player’s statistical page for your reference.  I will do the same for teams when highlighted as well so you may view the team in reference to the year I am describing.

Lindberg: Thoughts on the Sox

By Andy Lindberg 

Going [2-4] in the span of a week is lame.

Whenever the Red sox seemed to gain momentum, it was only to be trounced upon. There are few teams that have been as capable of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory this year as the Red Sox have. They dropped the first two games to Baltimore, the second after erasing a 4-0 deficit on a Kevin Youkilis three-run homer.

The Sox also dropped the first two to Seattle, with Bobby Jenks blowing the first game after a Dice-K Matsuzaka left with a phantom injury that Jason Varitek diagnosed because he saw some weird spin on the ball (gyroball?) and the second game (which I attended) saw the Sox strand 11 base runners in one of the most frustrating offensive performances I have ever watched.

Jenks really did try to blow the third game of the series, but Jed Lowrie and Carl Crawford came cocked, locked, and ready to rock. Lowrie hit a high fly ball to right field and perennial Gold Glove winner Ichiro Suzuki. However, Suzuki lost the ball in the sun and it dropped in for a one out triple. With two out and Lowrie “relaxing” at third base waiting to get stranded, Carl Crawford decided April was weak and that May is where it’s at and delivered a walk off single.

Peter Gammons couldn’t have said it better when he stated that Crawford was the perfect guy to deliver the walk off. This coming week the Sox get no break, they play four against the Los Angles of Anaheim Angels at Fenway Park and game one features Jered Weaver and his 6 wins, as well as absurd 0.99 era. He’s in “beast mode.” Boston follows that up by hosting the Twins for four games on Yawkey Way.

The month of April was a dismal month for the Red Sox to be sure, with the vaunted offense hitting only 22 homer runs and scoring a paltry 107 total runs. The team hit .243 and had a 4.24 total ERA.

But the Sox are undefeated in May. It’s a new month so hopefully we get to see some good baseball from the local nine.

Lindberg: Thoughts on the Sox

By Andy Lindberg

It’s sad when it takes until Sunday April 17, 2011, to win back-to-back games.  It only took the Sox a shade over two weeks to do it, but it has been done.  And lo and behold, they doubled their win total this week!  From two wins up to four wins is a big-boy week.  I find it sad that I have to say a 2-3 week seemed somewhat successful for the Boston squad, so I won’t say it.

The Sox should have gone, 4-1 this week.  I’ll say they earned the 16-5 drubbing they received from Tampa, but Jon Lester got no love in game two of the series and Bobby Jenks was in full hate mode as the Sox dropped the first game to the Jays on April 15

But what rewards that come to those who wait. Josh Beckett really wants to convince the “Fenway Fickle” that he’s going to light it up this year.  Well, I refuse to argue with a man who’s, 2-1 with a 1.80 ERA in the Boston rotation. Beckett has finally shown me what I’ve been begging of him for so long: pitch selection.

Beckett seems to be morphing himself into a pitcher in this young season rather than a thrower.  Last year he relied solely on his fastball, showing no confidence in his other pitches, and coupled with an injury, paid the price.  To this point, Beckett has made sure to incorporate his curveball early in games.  His changeup becomes brutally effective when he is throwing his curveball and fastball for strikes and the change of pace leave hitters baffled.  Beckett’s rotation on the deuce has been as tight as I’ve seen it while he’s been in a Boston uniform.  If he continues to mix up his pitches and rely on all three during every start, Beckett will win at least 17 games this year.  It looks as if he’s finally realizing that his fastball speed is declining and he’s becoming a more balanced, controlled pitcher.

In game three of the Toronto series, Jon Lester was less than stellar, but pitched well enough to get the job done.  Lester labored through six innings of work only giving up one run, but he walked three and went deep into counts no thanks in part to home plate umpire Doug Eddings, who had a particularly inconsistent strike zone.  Nonetheless, Lester buckled down when he had to and in the process earned his first win of the year with help for the first time from the bottom of the order. Jarrod Saltalamacchia had his best game to date with Boston as he racked up two hits and drove in three runs. “Taco Bellsbury,” (Jacoby Ellsbury) added a three-run homer, but his swing is disturbing me.

In the movie Major League, manager Lou Brown tells Willie Mays Hayes that with Hayes’ speed, every time he hits the ball in the air, he owes 20 pushups. Ellsbury’s value is his speed, not his attempt at power.  Yes, he drove the ball very well, but that same uppercut hack has gotten him off to a .196 batting average start.  For every time Ellsbury flies out, he should owe Tito 20 pushups.

Jed Lowrie added himself yet another hit and is “en fuego.” Lowrie arguably could have gone 3-4 against Toronto in game three, but tough scoring led to two of those knocks being called errors, and thus a 1-4 day with an RBI.  It’s at the point where until he stops hitting, Lowrie has to play every day.

How many of you are still worried about Carl Crawford and his .127 start?  I’m not as worried about the start as I am with how Crawford’s gotten there.  He’s terribly impatient at the plate and has yet to show the ability to work the count and foul off pitches.  He’s not being the pest he was in Tampa Bay. Instead, he tries to square up the first strike he sees and either whiffs or meekly grounds out.  His slump will eventually end.  He’s not going to pull a Mark Reynolds and finish the year under the Mendoza Line, but if Crawford doesn’t pick it up soon, the Boston offense will suffer with the gaping hole wherever Crawford is placed in the order.

This upcoming week the Sox finish off the series with Toronto on Monday at 11am in the annual Patriot’s day game.  There is no off-day for Boston this week, as they fly out Monday night to Oakland for two games with the Athletics on Tuesday and Wednesday followed by three with the Los Angeles Angles of Anaheim, finishing up on Sunday.

And I’d like to point out for those of you keeping score at home; the Los Angeles Angles of Anaheim are currently beating out the Nashville Predators and Tennessee Titans for weakest name in professional sports.

Boston Red Sox 2011 Preview: Middle Infielders

By Brian Maloney

NoontimeSports’s coverage of previewing the Boston Red Sox continues today with our thoughts on the middle infield.

Middle Infielders:

Second Base – The “laser show,” Dustin Pedroia, is expected to be in the Red Sox line up everyday at Second Base. Pedroia’s foot injury should not be an issue come Opening Day, so his usual consistent fielding and solid hitting is expected to continue come April.

Of course, Jed Lowrie is also the reserve option here too, as his abilities will be used all over the infield and not just at second base.  

Yamaico Navarro is probably the number one option in Pawtucket to fill in as a utility infielder. He and Oscar Tejeda are the only middle infielders on the 40-man roster that are not expected to be on the Opening Day lineup card against Texas. Navarro has experienced time in Boston, but Tejeda is over a year from even being seriously considered a true “back-up.”

Most reserve players in the infield will have to show their versatility to get called up, but the Red Sox brought in Nate Spears, Drew Sutton, and Brent Dlugach as non-roster Invitees to camp this spring, so consider all three of these young men options.  All three have played second base at the professional level, but would need to show what they are truly worth before the season begins. Spears would probably be the first called up, but these players are virtually interchangeable. Tejeda is probably the top prospect in the system amongst second basemen, but a name to watch for in the future is Sean Coyle. The third round pick in last year’s draft is expected to spend the year in Greenville and has drawn early comparisons to Dustin Pedroia.

Starter: Dustin Pedroia

Backup:  Jed Lowrie

40-Man Roster: Yamaico Navarro and Oscar Tejeda

Hot Prospect(s):  Nate Spears, Drew Sutton, Brent Dlugach, Hector Luna, Oscar Tejeda, Yamaico Navarro and Sean Coyle

Shortstop- The shortstop position has always been a true toss up with the Red Sox, but clearly, Marco Scutaro is the favorite for the job and will be on the field Opening Day roster.  That being said, this is also Jed Lowrie’s job too. Lowrie, while serving as primary backup across the infield, will take over the starting shortstop job this season, but don’t expect it to occur in April or May. The Red Sox want him in the lineup every day and if he is healthy, he can certainly contribute.

Yamaico Navarro goes for the three-peat and shows up again as the primary minor league option for help at shortstop.  Oscar Tejeda is also on the 40-man roster and is eligible to be called up too.

However, Jose Iglesias, the shortstop of the future, could very well be less than a season away from Boston.  There is little argument that Iglesias is the shortstop for the next ten years; it’s just a matter of when we first see this kid in a real Red Sox uniform.  The very latest would be a September “call-up,” but a mid-summer preview could be in the works if any of the infielders sustain injuries.

While still very young, Iglesias’s glove is big-league ready and analysts have compared him to the Chicago White Sox shortstop, Omar Vizquel. This comparison is not unwarranted.  He will make very few errors in the field, but he is undisciplined at the plate and shows little pop.  He projects as an end of the lineup type hitter.  The Non-Roster Invitee trio of Drew Sutton, Nate Spears, and Brent Dlugach are also shortstop possibilities.  Hector Luna could also see some time if he gets added to the 40; he could be that 26th man for the Sox that goes up and down 95 throughout the season.

Starter: Marco Scutaro

Backup: Jed Lowrie

40-Man Roster: Yamaico Navarro, Oscar Tejeda and Jose Iglesias

Hot Prospect(s): Jose Iglesias, Yamaico Navarro Nate Spears, Drew Sutton, Brent Dlugach and Hector Luna