Boston Red Sox: 5 Storylines to Watch the Rest of the Season

Benjamin KleinContributor IIIAugust 28, 2012

Boston Red Sox: 5 Storylines to Watch the Rest of the Season

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    The Boston Red Sox have yet to be officially eliminated from postseason contention, but the remainder of the season looks rather bleak. That, however, does not mean that you should refrain from watching as there are still several exciting storylines that have long-term effects on this Boston club.

    In a few days, Boston’s current 25-man roster will expand to 40, and the names on the jerseys will become even more unknown than ever before. Adrian Gonzalez is gone. Carl Crawford is gone. Josh Beckett is gone. Boston is in a partial rebuilding state as it attempts to get younger and build from within, not buy its way to wins as that clearly doesn’t always work.

    This course of action might not be the most popular decision, but it is the best decision for this team. Some players will be playing for new contracts and some will be playing for their jobs. The younger players will do their best to prove that they deserve a spot on Boston’s 2013 roster and that minor league baseball is a part of their past.

    These games may not seem important, but they are and here are some reasons why.

Andrew Bailey or Alfredo Aceves?

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    Until recently, Alfredo Aceves was the clear closer for the Red Sox. He started the season as the closer, and it seemed like he was going to end the season as the closer. Now, his role on this team is unclear as it’s been all year long.

    Andrew Bailey, who has missed nearly the entire season due to thumb surgery, was favored over Aceves the other night, and he didn’t take that lightly. He was clearly angered by the move and was later suspended by the team, according to Tony Lee of ESPN Boston. Lee writes that Aceves won’t even fly to the West Coast with the team.

    When Bailey was acquired back in the offseason, he was going to be the closer. Injury prevented that from happening and Aceves took advantage of that opportunity. He has done a fair job so far, but you have to think that Bailey will be the closer going into next season just based on his past success as the Oakland Athletics closer.

    As the season comes to a close, no pun intended, we should see whether Aceves or Bailey comes in for the save in the late innings. My guess: It’s Bailey and Aceves won’t be happy about that one bit.

Shortstop Tryouts

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    Going into 2013, there are three potential shortstops who could each win the starting job. Mike Aviles, Pedro Ciriaco and Jose Iglesias will all have that opportunity to shine before the season comes to a close and the front office begins discussing who will be playing where, or if at all.

    Aviles has done a nice job as the starter for nearly the entire season, an irregularity of recent Boston shortstops. He’s hit 13 home runs and has the fourth-most RBI on the team with 58. He’s also scored the fifth-most runs with 53. In fact, he has the fifth-highest WAR of any Red Sox position player this season, according to FanGraphs (fourth if you don’t count Adrian Gonzalez).

    Aviles will be eligible for arbitration at the end of the season, but will he having next year’s starting job secured by then? I’m not sold.

    How Ciriaco has not been on this Boston roster the entire season is beyond me. His work ethic and production has been as good as you could’ve imagined since being called up from Triple-A Pawtucket. He’s fast, he’s a good fielder and he’s also been a great hitter. Ciriaco is hitting over .350 through more than 40 games this season. Boston absolutely has to bring him back in order to compete for this job, that is if he hasn’t won it already.

    Iglesias is the long shot in this race, even though he’s supposed to be the future of this team. Iglesias cannot hit in a major league lineup despite not having the best opportunity to do so. He hasn’t gotten a fair shot, but frankly he doesn’t really deserve it.

    There’s no arguing how good of a shortstop Iglesias is, but it’s also no secret how bad of a hitter he is. He should get some time as the season comes to an end, but I wouldn’t expect him to impress us.

Daisuke Matsuzaka's Performance

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    On Monday, Daisuke Matsuzaka had his best performance in a very, very long time. I can’t even remember the last time I saw him pitch that well against a major league baseball team. Is that start something that he can replicate or was it just a fluke?

    Matsuzaka’s contract is up at the end of the season, but can he pitch well enough the rest of the year in order to earn a big league 2013 contract? If he pitches like he did on Monday, there’s no doubt in my mind he will, whether it be for the Red Sox or another team once he hits free agency.

    The Red Sox will have voids in their starting rotation going forward. Josh Beckett is no longer with the team, which does leave innings left to be pitched, even though they might not have been great innings. The way I see it is Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz and Felix Doubront all have safe spots. Who knows what the Red Sox will do with John Lackey or Franklin Morales. That could leave two spots.

    One of those spots could go to Rubby De La Rosa, a pitcher just acquired from the Los Angeles Dodgers, The other could go to Matsuzaka if he plays his cards right. I’m not talking about a major contract, but something fair for how “well” or “poor” he’s played for the last few seasons.

    But hey, if he falters the rest of the year and Monday was just a fluke, then I’ll be the first to wish him well the remainder of his career.

How Does Daniel Bard Respond?

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    Remember Daniel Bard? Can you believe it’s almost been three months since he’s pitched in a Boston Red Sox uniform? Well if you don’t remember who he is, let me refresh your memory.

    Bard was one of the best set-up men in baseball last season. Jonathan Papelbon departed and Boston decided to make Bard into a starter instead of the next closer. That didn’t work in so many ways. Bard couldn’t get through a start without something going wrong, and it ultimately got him optioned to Triple-A Pawtucket in order to find himself. He’s been relieving in the minors and has had varied success.

    Daniel Bard will be back in the majors this season, according to Didier Morais of NESN. When that happens, all eyes will be on him.

    Will he pitch like the Bard of 2011 or the Bard of 2012? We’ll have to wait and see, but we can only hope that he returns to form and is able to pitch out the bullpen again with confidence.

David Ortiz Injury and Contract Status

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    David Ortiz will be the next player to cause some commotion in the Boston clubhouse, but it’s not really a problem just yet. Ortiz’s contract is up at the end of the season and there’s no doubt that Boston has the money to sign him to an extension, but his recent injury may affect those negotiations.

    Ortiz has been of the most promising players in the Boston lineup this season and doesn’t seem to have aged over the last few years. Yes, he hasn’t run well, but he never really did. He’s hit over .300 with more than 20 home runs, but you have to assume that his season has come to end.

    Ortiz will have an injection for his ailing Achilles, but the team hasn’t deemed him out of the season, according to Michael Vega of The Boston Globe. He isn’t worried about the injury affecting his contract, according to WEEI’s Alex Speier, but he should be.

    The Red Sox have a ton of payroll opening up after trading away their big contracts, but Ortiz’s injury gives them a ton of leverage over him. He’s missed about half of the season, so why should they pay him the money that he wants? He’s a veteran who is arguably the best DH in history, but the Red Sox wouldn’t be that lost without him.

    Boston could easily employ Ryan Lavarnway as their every-day DH in 2013 or make a move to acquire a younger bat in the lineup. They don’t need David Ortiz, although they could use him. Contract-wise, Boston would be wise to not allow Ortiz to play. They don’t need him re-injuring his Achilles and then have him miss potential 2013 time.