Heading into June, the Boston Red Sox are right where they want to be. At 36-24, they are sitting at the top of the AL East, and remain relatively healthy in comparison to previous years. Let’s look at some things to keep your eye on as the Sox move forward.
Can Ellsbury stay healthy?
History would say no, I’d like to believe he can, but here we go again with another vague injury. Whether it’s broken ribs, or an ailing shoulder, the guy can’t seem to catch a break when it comes to getting hurt. This most recent spell is said to be a left groin injury and the Sox have stated that they should be able to avoid the DL for this one, but it’s always a tough call with groin injuries, especially for a speedster like Ellsbury. We all know his current contract situation makes for an extra appealing story here, but I think people should let that go. The front office will handle that as they see fit, and Jacoby has earned the right to get paid in free agency if he so chooses. Bottom line is we need him out there.
What has been a strong point for the Red Sox thus far, certainly has a few question marks attached to it. In my mind, the biggest question is what to do with Franklin Morales. He would clearly make a solid fourth or fifth starter on most rosters and should be the guy they use for any spot starts down the line, but there just seems to be no room at the moment. There’s no sense in forcing a guy into the rotation unless someone is struggling. Doubront seemed to be the likely target, but after pitching 6 innings of one run ball in New York the other night in a key start, that can’t happen. Doubront makes Red Sox fans scratch their heads a lot because he has some of the best stuff on the team aside from Buchholz equating to just over 9.5 strikeouts per game. However, you’d have better luck seeing an inside-the-park home run then Doubront get out of the sixth inning. It’s simple, he throws to many pitches. He doesn’t quite grasp how to put guys away quickly yet. He let’s them stick around and toy with him, and those pitches add up over time.
The other thing to keep your eye on is the work of John Derran Lackey, who in case you haven’t noticed, has a 2.96 ERA through 45.2 innings pitched. I’m kind of past the point of holding my breath when he steps on the mound now, and am happy to see him healthy and look more like the pitcher the Sox got from the Angels. He’s relinquished only three runs in his last three starts and appears to be hitting his stride. With Lester and Buchholz being the one-two punch, Lackey’s success has gone a bit unnoticed by some, but not me. While I don’t fully expect him to have an ERA below 3.00, if he maintains the form he’s shown early on, the Sox rotation becomes scary.
Can Will The Thrill “Wake and Rake?”
The one thing missing from Boston’s offense this season is a productive Will Middlebrooks. Luckily for them, guys like Nava and Carp have been replacing some of that expected production by tearing the cover off the ball. The sophomore slump you say? Well there appears to be no other answer for it. Last year, Middlebrooks had nothing but success at the Major League level. He hit 15 HR’s and 54 RBI’s in just 75 games, so to see him struggle this year hasn’t caught me off guard. Pitchers have a scouting report on him now and have been attacking him on the outside of the plate with breaking balls. Baseball is a game of adjustments and it’s time for Middlebrooks to make some if he wants to remain at 3B this season because the way Iglesias, and Drew are playing, makes it even harder to insert the .201 hitting Middlebrooks back into the lineup.
* The Red Sox will face a brute of a schedule this upcoming month with series against the Rangers, Rays, Orioles, Tigers, Rockies, Angels, and Blue Jays.
** 14 of the 25 remaining games this month are in the friendly confines of Fenway Park.
*** The Sox won’t see the Yankees again until the first day back after the All-Star break where they will play a three game series in Boston.