Talkin Sox with Dan

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Archive for the tag “Jon Lester”

The 2013 Red Sox and the difficulty of moving on

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“Nobody in here is wearing the … World Series champ shirts, you don’t even see anything like that in here. Forget that.” – Jonny Gomes

The 2014 Red Sox seem perfectly content moving on, not forgetting their miraculous run to a World Series title, but putting it aside to savor at a later date.

I wish I could do the same.

In 2013, the Red Sox won 97 games and and the American League East. In the ALDS, they outpitched the Rays who produce quality young arms in their sleep. The Tigers, despite stifling Red Sox bats for the majority of six games, couldn’t capture the American League crown. Boston was too timely, too clutch. They beat the Tigers with good starting pitching, big hits in big spots, and a bullpen that flexed its muscle all series long. The Fall Classic was a wild series between two of baseball’s powerhouses. In the end, David Ortiz and Jon Lester were too much for the St. Louis Cardinals. The two former champions smothered the birds on the mound and at the plate, proving that the best that the Cards had to offer simply could not match up with the weapons the Red Sox possessed.

And I still can’t believe it. I can’t. I’ve written about how good this team was, how their World Series title was not a uniquely a product of a collection of good breaks along the way. So why can’t I do what Jonny Gomes and the rest of the team — you know, the guys who actually won the damn thing and didn’t just sit on their couch in their apartment in Worcester — are doing?

“It’s no different this spring. It’s not highlight and delete, but our motto is: Turn the (expletive) page.”

It’s fair to say I didn’t see this coming. For me, the 2004 World Series was the most important. It was absolutely vital. Three years later, they did it again, and it was the most fun. I went to my first playoff game that fall. I was in college. It was great. Last season, 2013, was the most unlikely. I simply didn’t see it coming.

Before the season, a co-worker, friend, or family member would casually ask how I thought the team would perform during the summer. My response was simple — I said I would happy if the Red Sox were playing meaningful games in September. I meant it, too. After 2012, I was desperate to watch baseball games that mattered after Labor Day. With two Wild Card spots available and a team that looked like it would be competitive in a difficult division, I believed that contending for a playoff spot in the final week or days of the season was certainly an attainable goal. And then they paid a visit to the talent-laden Dodgers.

The Red Sox left Los Angeles on August 25 after winning the three-game series. They had a one-game lead in the division, and a nine-game home stand at Fenway Park. By the time it was complete and the club landed in New York on September 4, they had a 5.5-game lead in the division. Boston never looked back, building as much as a 9.5-game lead in the AL East. They were a wagon in September, going 16-9 en route to a 97-65 record–good for tops in the American League. The Red Sox played meaningful games in August, September, and throughout October. They met, exceeded, and annihilated my expectations. I still can’t believe it. I still can’t let go.

But I sure am proud.

Sticking with Clay

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The Red Sox won the 2013 World Series without an ace. Jon Lester? John Lackey? Good pitchers. But not aces. Not anymore. Boston did, however, boast a deep, talented staff that, by and large, stayed relatively healthy last season. Lester’s regular season was far from elite (109 ERA+), but he did elevate in game in the second half. Beginning on August 8, the big lefty started ten games. He threw 70 innings and produced a 2.19 ERA during that stretch. Lester went on to pitch brilliantly in October. In the fall, he was the ace of spades.

No one will remember Lester’s inconsistent regular season. Instead, they’ll back on 2013 and point to the magnificent final month of the season he put together. It takes a special type of pitcher to do what Lester did in the postseason–4-1, 1.56 ERA, 29 strikeouts in 34.2 innings. Clay Buchholz is a player who possesses that same ability to go through stretches of unadulterated dominance. His upside, talent, and contract render him a commodity that is virtually untradeable.

Beat writers, radio talk show hosts, and bloggers are not demanding that Ben Cherington sell Buchholz to the highest bidder. No one is saying that. But there has been chatter that Buchholz represents a solid trade candidate given the Red Sox’ surplus of pitching combined with frustration over the slender righty’s lack of durability. Many of these points are correct in and of themselves, but bundling them together in order to reach the conclusion that Buchholz should be shipped out of Boston is borderline ludicrous.

Buchholz is really, really good at baseball. Even Buchholz’ harshest critic will quickly concede that the Texas native is extremely talented. There’s no debating it, and it’s been that way for awhile around here. Too often, however, the discussion around Buchholz focuses on his inability to stay on the mound. The value he brings when he is pitching actually ends up getting lost in the fray. Get ready for this — Baseball Reference has Lester’s WAR at 3.0 in 2013. Buchholz, who threw 105 less innings than Lester, earned 4.3 WAR. It’s actually sort of unreal. Basically, when Buchholz was on the mound last season, he was better than just about everyone else. And that is absent of any exaggeration. There is no doubt that he raised his level of performance from April to June in 2013. He went 11-1 in 12 starts, punching out 81 batters in 84.1 innings. He posted a 1.71 ERA during that span while his opponents couldn’t get above the Mendoza Line. The way he manipulated the baseball for those two months was truly something special.  But pitching at an extremely high level is old hat for Buchholz. Since 2010, the right handed starter has compiled a 46-19 record to go along with a 3.15 ERA. Over those four years, he averaged 138 innings with a 135 ERA+. He has put together 12.7 bWAR since 2010.  To put that into perspective, Zack Greinke, during that same four-year stretch, had 111 ERA+ and 12.3 bWAR. Greinke will make $128M over the course of the next five seasons. Buchholz’ contractual situation is quite a bit different.

If the Red Sox choose to exercise their team options, the highest annual salary that Buchholz will earn over the next four years is $13.5M. That will be during the 2017 season. As television money continues to surge into the game and the cost of pitching remains extremely high, Buchholz is primed to be an absolute bargain for a team that is flush with young pitching prospects in their organization. In 2014, the wiry righty will make $7.7M. If he’s healthy — and all reports indicate that he will enter Spring Training that way — it won’t take Buchholz very long to earn his salary in terms of WAR. He jumps to $12M in 2015, his age 30 season, and remains relatively cheap still. The Red Sox hold team options in 2016 and 2017 that are worth $13M and $13.5M, respectively. Should Buchholz’ health woes begin to outweigh the value he brings when he takes the mound, the Red Sox can simply cut ties after the 2015 season ($250K buyout). The way his contract is structured, even if he suffers a catastrophic injury, it is virtually impossible that Buchholz ever becomes an albatross on the Red Sox’ payroll. Conversely, if things break right for Buchholz, the Red Sox will have a player who has the ability to be the best pitcher in baseball for the next four seasons at a price that will make GM’s around the game drool. No matter what, until he puts together a season that resembles more 2010 and less 2012, health will always be a question that looms over Buchholz.

Durability, or lack thereof, is something that may very well plague Buchholz his entire career. His frame is not conducive to bearing the load required to shoulder a 34-start season. He is injury-prone. There’s really no way around it. Throughout the course of the second half of the season last year, Buchholz received a tremendous criticism for his lack of toughness. He dispelled that notion during the World Series. Buchholz wasn’t close to being 100 percent in Game 4, but he yielded one run — which wasn’t earned — over four innings. And it’s likely that no one will remember his effort. If those four very solid innings came in relief, it’s likely that his performance would have much more memorable. Nevertheless, Buchholz’ level of “grit” may not match his ability, but it’s significantly closer than most fans would like to believe.

No player is untradeable. But the value that Buchholz brings to the Red Sox makes him a player that is worth guarding, unless a deal comes along that Cherington cannot refuse. Given his fragility, it’s hard to see a team blowing the Red Sox out of the water with an offer. In the end, it’s probably best to stick with Buchholz and hope that he is healthy for an October run, whether it is in 2014 or 2017. If that happens, the rest of the league, heck, the rest of baseball, will be in for quite a show.

Expectations and the 2013 Boston Red Sox

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This spring, sometime around May, a good friend of mine and I had a conversation, and we made a few decisions. The Bruins and Patriots are expected to reach the Stanley Cup and Super Bowl, respectively. Right now, they’re supposed to be excellent. We agreed that the 2013 Red Sox would be deemed a success if they competed for a playoff spot this summer. They didn’t even need to qualify for the postseason. The Red Sox have a solid foundation, but the idea of expecting them to reach the World Series would be a bit silly, even farfetched.

Things have changed.

The Red Sox will end the 2013 regular season with no less than 97 wins. Folks around baseball believe the Red Sox are the team to beat in the American League. They’re deep as hell. They have Jon Lester throwing like the guy we saw from 2008-most of 2011. Their lineup has virtually no holes, and Koji Uehara is arguably the best closer in baseball.

So have expectations for this team changed? It’s a difficult question that lacks absolute answers. There is an undeniable grey area that exists. Let’s take a closer look.

My early season goals for this team have been met and surpassed. As a fan who lives and dies with this organization, I couldn’t be more satisfied. They’re going to win close to 100 games. They are the best team in the best division in baseball. This 2013 squad has simply had one of the greatest seasons in team history. They’ve provided me with memories that have forever buried themselves deep into my soul. This version of the Red Sox will always hold a special place in my heart. They’ve been so damn good.

That doesn’t mean that everything from here on out is gravy. But it’s close.

This scenario is admittedly unlikely, but for argument’s sake, let’s say the Red Sox are swept in the ALDS and aren’t competitive, losing each game by at least three runs. It’s true that I would be disappointed. But i would not be angry. There would be no outrage. The pitchforks would remain in the shed, and the torches would stay unlit.

Some sports talk radio hosts — and fans — contend that if the Red Sox get bounced from the postseason in the ALDS, the season will be labeled an utter disappointment. Some believe that anything short of reaching (or winning) the World Series would be a failure. I can understand that point of view. It’s a testament to exactly how good this team has performed. It’s a compliment, really.

If you’re someone that believes it’s World Series or bust, I don’t think you’re in the wrong. You should have high expectations of this team. They’re very, very good. Conversely, if you think the Red Sox have met and exceeded expectations, and they’re playing with house money, I can’t disagree with you. Maybe I’m riding the fence. I don’t know. You decide.

Because of the turmoil of 2011 and the unmitigated disaster of 2012, this year’s Red Sox club has not carried the same bulging fanbase of year’s past. I was at the park a lot this spring and summer, and there were almost always pockets of empty seats. Some of you have not bought in. I understand why.

But I expect that many of you wish that you did. That’s something I know for sure.

Silver Linings

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The Red Sox are in the middle of a critical stretch which includes ten games against the Yankees, Rays, and Orioles—three teams within the division that possess solid pitching and records over .500. It’s a heck of a way to start the second half of the season for a team that could use a bullpen piece or three.

Monday night’s loss, as deflating as it felt at the time, shouldn’t be perceived as anything more than it was – a divisional loss against a hot team. Matt Moore was absolutely fantastic. Nothing more to it.

In fact, as losses go, this one was not a particularly bad one. It was actually an excellent demonstration of how the Red Sox have been able to play at or around .600 baseball for most of the season when no one believed that they could sustain that level of success before the year began. And that’s before Jon Lester decided to post a 93 ERA+ through his first 20 starts of the season, and Clay Buchholz’ status went from Cy Young candidate to Missing in Action.

This team is deep. Last night reinforced that point.

With Buchholz on the shelf until at least some time in late August, the Red Sox have turned to 24-year old Brandon Workman. The tall Texan began the season pitching with Double-A Portland before receiving a promotion to Triple-A Pawtucket in early June.

Meanwhile, Allen Webster, despite his eye-popping stuff, failed in his attempts to claim Buchholz’ rotation spot. In six big league starts, Webster posted a robust 9.57 ERA while walking 4.8 batters per nine frames. He simply was not ready. Alfredo Aceves filled in admirably at times, but the Red Sox have deemed his on-field performance not worth the baggage that comes with being, well, Alfredo Aceves.

Enter Workman.

Including Monday night, he has made two major league starts. His line? 12.1 innings pitched, nine hits, four earned runs, three walks, and a 2.92 ERA. Opposing batters are hitting a meager .214 against him. Workman carried a no-hitter into the seventh inning against the A’s in his debut, and he settled down last night against the Rays after a shaky first inning. Both Oakland and Tampa Bay would be in the playoffs if the season ended today, so it’s not as if Workman has faced the Astros and the White Sox in his two starts. In fact, the Rays are behind only the Orioles, Tigers, and Red Sox in team OPS in the American League. The A’s are more towards the middle of the pack.

Webster was not ready for the majors. Workman, on the other hand, certainly appears equipped to contribute down the stretch.  He deserves a ton of credit for working hard and performing well, but the Red Sox front office should be commended for building the organizational depth up to the point where the team can confidently pluck guys like Workman from their farm and expect good results. We’re only two summers removed from this, after all.

Now, as the deadline approaches, the Red Sox are in an interesting position. They do not have any glaring holes on the roster with the exception of the bullpen, an area where pieces should come easily and at a relatively inexpensive cost. They could pursue a starter, like Jake Peavy, to fortify the pitching staff and move Workman to the bullpen. Or the team could decide to pass on the starting pitching market at the deadline and only look to augment their bullpen.

To be honest, I’m fine with either choice. My ambivalence towards the situation derives from knowing that the Red Sox finally have enough depth in the organization to support a quality team in Boston.

And despite the loss, last night was a perfect example of just that.

Happy Lackey Day

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Every single day you spend on this earth is a gift. But some gifts are simply better than others.

John Lackey will toe the rubber for the first place Red Sox today at 4:05 PM, and things just couldn’t be better.

Kind of crazy, right?

Clay Buchholz, far and away the most talented pitcher on the staff, has pitched 18.2 innings in the past two months. Your Opening Day starter, Jon Lester, has been worse than a league average hurler. Lester’s ERA has ballooned since his hot start to this season and now sits at a bulbous 4.58.

And yet, the Red Sox are 59-39. In first place. Playing north of .600 baseball.


It really is quite remarkable how the team has been able to sustain such a high level of success without Buchholz pitching and with Lester being relatively bad at baseball.

Last night’s starter, Felix Doubront, deserves a great deal of credit (I could write a separate piece on how fun it has been to watch the young lefty right the ship after a dreadful start to the season. Check out his numbers since May 16. Go ahead. I’ll wait). But it is Lackey who has assumed the role of Team Ace. He is the horse. He is the stopper.

Since May 19, Lackey has made 11 starts, roughly a third of a starting pitcher’s season. In those games, Big John Stud compiled a 2.32 ERA while punching out 66 batters in 73.2 innings. During the stretch, Lackey has held opposing hitters to a stingy .219 average.

He passes the eye test too. The burly right hander looks in command on the mound, dotting his fastball and going to his secondary stuff when necessary. Lackey’s delivery is free and easy. To put it simply, he is pitching with a healthy arm that he trusts. An argument can be made that this is the first time Lackey’s pitched pain-free since arriving in Boston in 2010.

When Big John takes the mound today at Fenway against the New York Yankees, he will bring with him a 2.78 ERA, a mark that is good for fourth among American League starting pitchers. He trails only the great Felix Hernandez, the portly Bartolo Colon, and the superb Hiroki Kuroda.

In years past, Sunday night’s C.C. Sabathia, Lester matchup would be tabbed as the best duel of the series. But not this summer. Not this series.

Instead, it is Lackey taking on Kuroda today at a steamy Fenway Park, and it should be a lot of fun.

Update: Lester will not pitch Sunday night. Dempster will go in his place in order to get the lefty a bit more rest.

A Defense of John Lackey

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Ok. I didn’t tell the truth. This is less of a defense of John Lackey and more of an indictment of the fans who blindly criticize the 34-year old right hander. Things have gotten a bit silly.


John Lackey is the best active starting pitcher on the Boston Red Sox.

And it’s not particularly close.

Despite his performance on the mound, it is not uncommon to hear fans railing against Lackey, still infuriated by what they saw on the diamond from him in 2010 and especially in 2011. This isn’t a rational sort of argument like “man, Jon Lester needs to stop nibbling and just attack the strike zone.” Nope. Not at all. It’s personal. There are more than a few Red Sox fans who legitimately want Lackey to fail.

These arguments are almost always presented in similar fashions. Basically, Lackey is a bum who is a terrible at baseball. Lackey shows up his teammates on the field. Lackey is a bad human being.

I can’t pretend like Lackey has pitched well for this team. He signed a five-year deal with the Red Sox after the 2009 season and has been both a disappointment and a disaster. The disappointment came in 2010 when he was 14-11 with a 4.40 ERA. Glossing over his stats that season, it’s reasonable to say that Lackey was a bit unlucky, but he still tossed 215 innings. When it was all said and done, Lackey was essentially a league-average pitcher in 2010 (99 ERA+). The disaster came a year later when Lackey — who was pitching with a badly injured elbow — was downright awful. He posted a 6.41 ERA, walked 3.2 batters per nine innings, and was a grossly below league-average pitcher (67 ERA+). Tommy John surgery and a year away from competing has made a world of difference. In 2013, he’s started 14 games and sports a stingy 2.81 ERA–good for sixth in the American League. His fastball reaches 95 MPH and sits at 93. His walks per nine is at 1.9. Lackey is healthy and good at baseball.

Lackey can be demonstrative on the mound. He will occasionally throw up his hands after a ball is misplayed or a call goes against him. But guess what? His teammates love him. He’s known for taking young pitchers under his wing and is a positive influence in the clubhouse, no matter what detractors may think.

I’m not going to delve deep into why critics of Lackey consider him to be an intrinsically bad dude. It’s not my business. But I would challenge you to think about difficult times in your life. Now imagine those trying times being played out in the public eye. It can’t be fun.

If you’re someone who simply doesn’t like Lackey, I offer a second challenge: Judge him not by what has occurred during his first two years in Boston but rather what he is doing on the field right now.

I think you’ll find yourself pleasantly surprised

Red Sox, Yankees, and the Importance of Pitching

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Have the Yankees gotten outstanding performances from throwaways like Travis Hafner, Vernon Wells, and Lyle Overbay? Absolutely.

But that doesn’t tell the real story behind their surprising 30-23 start to the season–a season where the shiny toys like Curtis Granderson, Mark Teixeira, Derek Jeter, and Alex Rodriguez have spent most, if not all of their time, collecting dust on the shelf. Hell, even their band-aid third baseman, Kevin Youkilis, has spent quite some time on the disabled list (he’s made just 72 plate appearances).

It’s much more fun to talk about Hafner and Crew, but in reality, it has been the Yankees’ pitching that has stepped up in the absence of so much offensive firepower. C.C. Sabathia has been reasonably good. Hiroki Kuroda who is roughly 100-years old has been stellar as the Yanks’ early season ace, and their bullpen, especially the backend, has been quite effective with David Robertson and the ageless Mariano Rivera serving as the anchors.

Unlike the Yankees, the Red Sox have hit relatively well in 2013. Heading into the weekend, the Red Sox league Major League Baseball in runs scored at 274. The Yankees? 218. The Twins have plated more runs than the Bronx Bombers, while playing in two less games.

The Yankees, despite lacking the usual amount of thump in their lineup, have been able to win a bunch of games because of their pitching. They are tied for second in the American League with the Tigers in team ERA at 3.66. That’s pretty darn good. And the Red Sox are right there with their rivals. A team ERA of 3.79 in the AL East is nothing to be ashamed of.

These two teams meet this weekend for the first time since Opening Day. The Red Sox in first. The Yankees in second. They’ve won a combined 63 games, and it is due in large part to guys like Sabathia, Kuroda, Jon Lester, and Clay Buchholz. It’s fitting that all four of them are scheduled to pitch over the next three nights.

It should be fun.

Red Sox, Blue Jays: What to watch for

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The pitching matchups. The Red Sox, on paper, have the upper hand on the 9-17 Blue Jays in each of the three games during the series. Jon Lester will take the mound on Tuesday–opposed by Brandon Morrow. Clay Buchholz draws Mark Buehrle on Wednesday, while Ryan Dempster will take on either Josh Johnson or J.A. Happ. The Jays’ starting pitching, like much of their team, certainly does not lack talent, but the Red Sox hurlers are absolutely rolling right now.

Lester’s demeanor. The big lefty is an emotional guy. And he has no problem admitting that. However, I firmly believe that when Lester doesn’t get a close call (or two or three) he can let his emotions negatively affect his pitching. I’m confident that John Farrell has had discussions with him about showing up umpires while he is on the mound–like he did during his last start on Wednesday. It just doesn’t help your cause as a pitcher. Nevertheless, as long as Lester is pitching well, I don’t care if he gives the umpire the finger (seriously don’t do that — you’ll get ejected). But when his antics begin to affect his ability to execute his pitches — that’s when it becomes a problem.

Jose Bautista is back. The powerful right handed hitter did not play in any of the three games against the Red Sox earlier this month due to a minor ankle injury. He will be back in the Jays’ lineup this time around and is 10-45 against Lester with four home runs to his credit. (Side note: Brett Lawrie is back too. And he is an important player. I also really appreciate his hard-nosed approach to the game).

Jose Reyes is not back. He is nursing a severe left ankle injury suffered in mid-April during a game against Kansas City–a devastating blow for a struggling Blue Jays team. Reyes, as he so often does, showed us why the Marlins, the Jays, and a myriad of other teams salivated over acquiring his services as he blistered the baseball around the Rogers Centre in Toronto during the early-season series against the Sox. The guy is an elite talent at a primer position. We’ll wish him a successful recovery, but we certainly won’t mourn his absence during the next three games.

— (Keeping up with the theme) Shane Victorino‘s back. Literally. His back. It’s sore. According to reports, there is only inflammation present, and, by all accounts, the Red Sox are determined to keep Victorino off of the disabled listed. It’s worth noting that Jackie Bradley Jr. was back in Pawtucket’s lineup on Tuesday serving as the designated hitter. That is a solid indicator that Victorino will in fact be able to avoid a trip to the DL. However, he will not be in the lineup on Tuesday night. Daniel Nava has served admirably in right field.

The closer situation. Joel Hanrahan was officially activated by the Red Sox today. Although Farrell has not formally disclosed who will work the ninth during the next save situation, he has indicated enough to make fans believe it will be Andrew Bailey who gets the ball.

If that is the decision, I agree with it. Bailey, by and large, has been outstanding in Hanrahan’s absence. His stuff plays in the ninth–his fastball has shown a tremendous amount of life. And when he is healthy, he has proven to be excellent. For now, I would leave Bailey alone and ride things out.

Update:’s Sean McAdam reported that Farrell informed both Bailey and Hanrahan that Bailey would remain the closer. Look for Hanrahan to work a few low leverage situations as he is eased back from his hamstring injury.

Road Tripping

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After a 13-0 win, starting the season 4-2, and doing it against the Yankees and Blue Jays, it is tough to complain about the Red Sox. A team that desperately needed a positive start to the season, the Sox have certainly answered the call. I’ll be at the home opener on Monday, and I couldn’t be more excited to watch this team in-person.

After six games, here are some of my initial observations.

Jon Lester looks good. His outing against the Yankees was nothing write home about, but it certainly wasn’t a poor start. He minimized the damage when he got in trouble and gave his team a chance to win the game. The Red Sox offense staked Lester to a lead on Sunday, and he never let the Jays believe they were in the game. Lester is my MVP of the road trip. Here’s why: 12 IP, 10 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 13 K. Two wins.

— He went 0-5 in the season opener, but Mike Napoli has started to heat up. More importantly, he’s been showing off some of his impressive power. His hip condition seemingly has not affected his play. Nap will head to Fenway with two home runs on the season.

Shane Victorino has proven me wrong. I know that Spring Training (and World Baseball Classic) stats don’t matter, but Victorino was especially bad this spring. Since the start of the regular season? It’s be a 180 for the right fielder. After Sunday, Victorino has collected eight hits on the young season. He’s not slugging, but he’s contributing night in and night out.

Will Middlebrooks has to potential to be legitimate source of power for this team. It’s easy to say that after witnessing him go bridge three times on Sunday, but it was his opposite field home run off of R.A. Dickey that really impressed. He’s a strong kid.

— Don’t let Sunday’s power surge fool you, the Red Sox need David Ortiz back. I actually like the lineup from top to the bottom, but the middle of the order lacks the muscle of traditional Sox lineups. When Ortiz is ready to come back, he will not only help instill some pop in the middle of the order, but his presence will help balance things out as everyone will be able to move down a spot.

Jackie Bradley Jr.’s torrid spring has not spilled over into the regular season. He’s been good defensively is getting on-base, so it’s not like this experiment has been a failure. There’s been some chatter about sending him down to Pawtucket. This is what I wanted to avoid when the JBJ debate was at its peak. I don’t see why you’d want to treat a prospect like a yo-yo. When he is ready, bring him up. And when you bring him up, understand that struggles and slumps are unavoidable. Nevertheless, it’s likely he will be in Pawtucket at some point this season.

— So far this season, the Red Sox have won games started by C.C. Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda, Josh Johnson, and Dickey. It’s nice to do well against good pitching. They’ll get Wei-Yin Chen tomorrow at Fenway Park.

Appreciating a Good Start

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“Every aspect of the game we’re playing well. We’re running the bases well, swinging the bats, pitching well. It’s a positive start for us.” – Shane Victorino

It’s hard not to agree with the new right fielder. The Yankees lineup is depleted. We get it. But hey, the Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, and the rest of the Red Sox aren’t responsible for making the schedule. They’re responsible for playing the games.

And so far, they are winning them.

It’s sort of too bad that most Red Sox fans don’t allocate as much energy towards celebrating when their team does well as they do when they play poorly. The Red Sox simply could not afford to start the season playing the same terrible brand of baseball that fans have come to expect during the initial part of the year. The 2012 Red Sox spent so much time digging themselves out of holes — whether it was a three or four-run decifict at the beginning of a game or a 1-5 start to the season — that when they finally got their metaphorical head barely above water, there wasn’t enough in the tank to sustain it. As a team, they needed to stop reacting to a punch. They needed to punch first.

So far, this year’s version of the Old Town Team has answered the call, and we should be very happy with that. But there is still a sense of pessimism because the Yankees’ lineup is watered down. I get that. The Bronx Bombers are beat up. Derek Jeter, Mark Teixeira, and Curtis Granderson are cogs in a machine that is used to cranking out crooked numbers night in and night out. Without them, the Yankees lack muscle.

But that’s not the Red Sox’ problem. I can’t imagine Joe Girardi and his boys felt bad any of the times they beat up on the Sox last season on their way to churning out 95 wins in an extremely competitive AL East. They saw a fractured, oft-injured Red Sox team as an opportunity, not an asterisk. This year’s Red Sox should feel the same way about the early season version of the 2013 Yankees.

So it is perfectly fine to feel good about your team. They’ve won a couple of ballgames. Be happy. You’re not a fanboy. You’re not getting ahead of yourself. The Red Sox have games on their schedule. They have to play them, regardless of who is (or is not) in the opposite dugout.

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