|Panic Level in Boston Already High||| Print |||Send|
Written by Jim Mancari (Contact & Archive) on April 17, 2012
After last season’s September collapse, it was almost a certainty the Boston Red Sox would be eager to start hot this season. Some new front office personnel, a new manager in Bobby Valentine and a clean slate seemed to be exactly what the Sox needed.
However, who would’ve thought that through the first nine games, the Red Sox would be just 4-5? Though it’s still early in the season, the panic meter in B
But that’s the thing: Let’s worry about September when we get there and April now. Even so, based on Boston’s roster, they may not even be relevant in September.
The team’s offense shouldn’t really be a problem. David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia and Adrian Gonzalez are off to hot starts. They’ll need to continue to produce runs if the team is to rebound.
Through the first week, Jacoby Ellsbury and Kevin Youkilis haven’t quite figured it out yet at the plate. But based on past history -- especially with Youkilis -- it’s tough to imagine that their early slumps will continue much longer. It remains to be seen how Ellsbury bounces back from his shoulder injury.
Ryan Sweeney is off to a torrid start filling in for Carl Crawford, who started the season on the disabled list, and the team doesn’t expect that he’ll be back until May at the earliest.
But once again, when this offense is clicking on all cylinders, the Red Sox will undoubtedly score runs. The problem early in the season has been the pitching: both the starting rotation and the bullpen.
Jon Lester threw seven innings of one-run ball on Opening Day, which let the Red Sox breathe a brief sigh of relief even though they lost the game. However, Josh Beckett and Clay Buchholz were shelled for seven earned runs apiece in their first starts. Converted reliever Daniel Bard followed that up by allowing five earned runs in five innings in his first start.
Questions surrounded the fourth and fifth slot in the Red Sox rotation all spring training, but Lester, Beckett and Buchholz were hailed as arguably the best 1-2-3 punch in the league. Yes, it’s early, but these three will need to carry the load.
The bullpen is the team’s real concern. Jonathan Papelbon’s projected replacement, Andrew Bailey tore a ligament in his thumb in spring training, and his timetable for a return in uncertain. Alfredo Aceves and Mark Melancon were anointed as the back-end bullpen pitchers.
However, in their first five combined appearances, the pair gave up seven earned runs in just two innings of work -- not exactly the reliable late game combination that Valentine was hoping for.
If the pitching staff in Boston can’t turn it around, it’s irrelevant how the offense performs. In a division like the AL East, the Red Sox were facing an uphill climb anyway, even before getting off to their slow start.
The Rays, Blue Jays and Yankees can all be dangerous teams, so even with the new playoff structure, Boston needs to get on the right track and fast.
On paper, the team is still one of the top teams in the AL. Now the players just have to play to their potential. If that happens, the panic meter in Boston would return to normal.