4 Early-Season Boston Red Sox Storylines to Follow Most Closely
The Red Sox as a team are doing smashingly well, and you have to like their chances going forward. However, on a more specific level, here are four storylines in the Red Sox clubhouse to keep a close eye on in the coming weeks and months.
All statistical information obtained from FanGraphs.com.
Will Jackie Bradley Jr. Stick in the Majors?
After a riveting spring training performance, Jackie Bradley Jr. has been holding down the fort in left field for the Red Sox. But how long will he manage to stay there?
In 27 plate appearances thus far, Bradley has only managed a meager .143/.333/.190 slash line with one solitary extra-base hit.
His defense has been stellar as expected, but Bradley’s bat has gone cold since coming up north.
Bradley is an extremely talented individual. So it’s not a question of if he will perform well in the majors, but rather when. And right now, he doesn’t quite appear up to the task.
Having a young stud like Bradley on the roster provides a welcome boost to any team, but it seems that the big league show has been a little too overwhelming for him this time around. It’s impressive enough that he was able to pull a Mike Trout and completely skip over the Triple-A level to reach the majors.
With David Ortiz working his way back into the starting lineup, the Red Sox may have no choice but to temporarily option Bradley to the minors to make room for the veteran slugger.
This may be a blessing in disguise, as some time in Pawtucket may be just what Bradley needs to blossom into a superstar in short order.
Injury Recovery of David Ortiz and Stephen Drew
As I mentioned in the previous slide, Big Papi is on the long road to recovery as we speak.
After a relatively injury-free career, Ortiz has been sidelined for much of the last nine months due to a myriad of foot-related injuries.
An Achilles strain kept him on the bench for almost the entire second half of 2012, and significant heel inflammation prevented Ortiz from playing in spring training.
Big Papi will be spending the next few days rehabbing in Fort Myers and taking part in minor league games. The Red Sox expect him back on the roster in about two weeks, assuming all goes well.
On the shortstop side of the coin, newly signed Stephen Drew should be fresh and healthy much sooner than his slugging teammate.
After suffering a concussion early in spring training, Drew sat out the remainder of big league camp. Defensive wizard Jose Iglesias temporarily took over for Drew at shortstop.
Having has just wrapped up a weeklong minor league rehab assignment, Drew is now looking to reclaim his starting spot. He should be back with the team on Wednesday.
As is the case with all injuries, setbacks are always a distinct possibility, especially as Ortiz enters his final years of baseball. Despite the optimistic timelines detailed above, it’s possible that one or both of these players could be delayed.
Will the Real Alfredo Aceves Please Stand Up?
Never has a player made me so angry and so hopeful at the same time.
Red Sox fans know very well what Aceves is capable of. In 2011, the swingman tossed over 100 innings of invaluable relief and managed a very strong 2.61 ERA. And yet, despite his immense potential, he has not been able to replicate those numbers since.
In 2012, Aceves showed flashes of brilliance pitching in the closer role, but ended the year with a mediocre 5.36 ERA. Furthermore, his first few games this season haven’t exactly inspired confidence. In four innings of work, Aceves owns an ugly 10.38 ERA.
Manager John Farrell has shown a willingness to use Aceves in high-pressure situations and has even suggested that he will replace John Lackey in the rotation if needed.
Clearly John Farrell sees something that I am missing. When I look at Aceves, I see that his poor numbers are a result of lost velocity on his fastball, poor command of his changeup and a complete unwillingness to agree with his catcher.
Maybe I’m alone in this, but it’s looking more and more like Aceves’ 2011 season was a mirage. His performance in the next few months should confirm or deny that theory.
Resurgence of Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz
Now on to some good news: The Red Sox aces are back in town! Hopefully they’re back for good this time.
In the introduction slide, I highlighted Boston’s brilliant start to the 2013 season. Well I think it's fair to say that that these two guys are the primary reasons for the team’s resurgence.
In their first two starts, the two pitchers have combined for 26 innings of work, 25 strikeouts and a brilliant 1.04 ERA. I don’t think Red Sox nation could have asked for a better start.
It’s been said a thousand times before: This entire season hinges on the performance of Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz, plain and simple. In case that wasn’t already clear to you, think about this: The Red Sox have won five games so far, and four of those wins have been credited to either Lester or Buchholz.
If these two stud hurlers can hold on to their current pace to some degree, the Red Sox may be near the top of the AL East in September. Keep a close eye on their progress as the season moves forward. Their performance is a good barometer for the performance of the team as a whole.