We start a weekend series with the Red Sox tonight. The Sox are 26-25, which, amazingly enough, puts them in last in the AL East. But, last is only 3 games back of first and only 1 game behind us. They are still scoring runs, 5.30 a game, second in the AL to the Rangers (we are 3rd with 4.88 runs per game), but pitching and defens has been their problem, they are allowing 4.86 runs per game, second worst in the AL to the Twins.
I sent off some questions to Marc Normandin from Over the Monster and he was nice enough to send back some answers.
How is Dustin Pedroia's thumb? Is there a trip to the DL ahead? I won't be too sad if he has to miss this series.
Pedroia is likely to miss the series, as he can't swing a bat at the moment, but the team doesn't seem to think he'll need a disabled list stint. If he does end up requiring one, he hasn't played since Sunday anyway, so he can be placed retroactively. There is a tear in his abductor muscle, but it's not a large one, so they think a little time and a brace will do the trick.
Adrian Gonzalez is playing RF? How does he look out there? I guess with that bat he could play anywhere.
He looks like an outfielder. Not great, by any means, but certainly capable. He looks more like an outfielder than a few actual outfielders of the last few years (looking at you, Adam Dunn and Delmon Young). He isn't playing there constantly, but against lefties, when Ryan Sweeney is going to sit, there will most likely be Gonzalez playing in the outfield.
How is the Daniel Bard as starter thing going? Do you see him still starting in a couple of years?
He's learning slowly. You see him figuring out things one start at a time, but he's rarely put them all together. He just went back to his old arm slot for his previous start, and struck out four with two walks over 5-1/3. Not amazing, but an improvement. More of that sort of thing will make him more capable than he's been to this point. I think he has a future in starting, but it all comes down to his walks. If he can't curb the free passes, then it's just not going to work out for him as a starter.
Can we have a quick scouting report on the starting pitchers we are going to see?
Clay Buchholz has had a rough season, but his change-up -- his best pitch, absent from most of his early starts -- seems to have come back to life. He's thrown one terrible inning over his last four starts, but he's been pretty solid otherwise. Inconsistency has been his thing this year, though, so expect to have him shut the Jays down completely or get hammered. Not a lot of middle ground in 2012 to this point. Felix Doubront will likely last for six innings against the Jays, but he has swing-and-miss stuff, and plenty of velocity, especially for a lefty. Expect to see strikeouts. Bard, you just got a handle on. He pitched well against the Jays the first time around, until the bullpen failed to keep his ERA intact.
Alfredo Aceves is closing, how is he doing? Are Red Sox fan confortable with him in that spot?
Aceves is a very underrated pitcher, but the Red Sox weren't using him correctly to begin the year. About halfway through 2011, Terry Francona started to use Aceves for about ~20 innings of relief per month, and he was at his best. Bobby Valentine and Bob McClure admitted he needed that kind of workload again, and since April 23 (the first game after they admitted he needed to be used more often), he's thrown 22-2/3 innings with 24 strikeouts, seven walks, a 2.38 ERA, 517 opponent OPS. He's got real good stuff, and can throw strikes for multiple innings. Definitely a better fit for the bullpen, since he needs constant work to be at his best, but that's just fine for the Red Sox and their fans while Andrew Bailey is out.
Who has been the Red Sox biggest surprise this season? Biggest disappointment?
The biggest surprise has to be Daniel Nava, who is second on the Red Sox in OPS+ since coming up as an injury replacement. His defense is questionable out in left, but he is a very patient switch-hitter who can draw walks and hit for a bit of power. Boston needed someone to step up with all of the injuries, and it's been him. The biggest disappointment has been Buchholz, who was supposed to anchor the rotation as he wasn't able to last year due to his back injury, but instead has been a mix of good starts and terrible ones. Getting back on track will be huge for Boston's chances this year.