For those of you with tickets to tomorrow night’s Boston Red Sox game with the suddenly fading Tampa Bay Rays, fear not: The annual Futures at Fenway extravaganza slated for July 10 has not been moved up.
It just looks that way.
Call it the Bloodbath by the Bay. Or the San Francisco Massacre. Regardless of the terminology, the Red Sox suffered through a wild weekend of carnage unmatched around baseball and will now have the distinct pleasure of rolling out a roster full of minor leaguers when they start a critical midseason series with Tampa Bay.
Hence the disclaimer. Consider it a sneak preview of the real Minor League showcase coming up in a few weeks.
It’s almost impossible to fathom the body count the Red Sox left behind on the West Coast. Consider the following: In a matter of about 72 hours, the Sox may have lost their All-Star second baseman and unquestioned team leader, their starting catcher and heart-of-the-order anchor, and one of their two best pitchers.
Those players join the cavalcade of starters and established big leaguers already on the shelf in Jacoby Ellsbury, Josh Beckett, Jeremy Hermida, and Mike Lowell. Don’t forget that shortstop Marco Scutaro is playing with what one broadcaster termed a “dead muscle in his chest” and elbow pain, and center fielder Mike Cameron is admirably duct taping himself together on a daily basis in hope of remaining an active player.
I didn't even mention J.D. Drew. That we can have a discussion about Red Sox injuries and consider him the least of our worries is as telling a note on the state of affairs as you'll find.
The Red Sox now boast a roster that includes Daniel Nava, Darnell McDonald, Scott Atchison, Angel Sanchez, and the newly-acquired Eric Patterson. Patterson hasn’t even suited up for the Sox yet as a spare part, and one has to wonder if the brain trust in Boston is already searching for a backup for its new backup.
Take a look at that list. Not one player on it was considered a contributor when Spring Training began, and yet Nava and McDonald have been starters for a few weeks, while Atchison is now a key innings-eater out of the pen.
Injuries, of course, are hardly a foreign concept for a big league squad. Every team goes through a rash or two of bumps and bruises throughout a 162 game season. But what the Red Sox are dealing with right now is stretching that understanding to remarkable lengths.
But hopefully not to the breaking point.
That’s the real story here. The injuries have arrived; there’s nothing Theo or Tito or anyone else can do about it. What the Red Sox have to do now is somehow slither through the next four to six weeks riding a lineup full of John Does without losing critical ground in the race with the Yankees and Rays.
It won’t be easy.
It’s funny, but it takes tribulations like this weekend to make fans appreciate a guy like Bill Hall. Sure, he’s hitting somewhere in the neighborhood of .230 for the year, but the dude can play about 15 positions. Like it or not, he’s the Red Sox starting second baseman for at least the next six weeks.
It’s a credit to general manager Theo Epstein and his crew that the Red Sox have the organizational depth to fill most of these spots. But it’s only a matter of time before the lineup becomes exposed for what it is right now: A collection of backups and Quadruple-A stars.
The answer isn’t immediately clear. Does Theo go out and try to pry some pieces away from another team in the short term? Or do we just hope Kevin Youkilis and David Ortiz can carry the load until bodies get back? Can we expect more solid outings from—holding my breath—Daisuke Matsuzaka?
In the end, it’s not all bleak just yet. It’s possible that Martinez won’t have to miss significant time, despite his broken thumb. And Buchholz may not even miss a start if the Sox can shuffle their rotation in such a way to keep him off the disabled list and let his creaky knee recover.
But there’s clearly reason to worry. Injuries have a tendency to linger; injuries in late June have a tendency to mess up the rest of your summer. The Red Sox as currently constituted will simply have to tread water until help arrives, be that in days or weeks or even a month.
It might be time to keep a few extra lifeguards on duty.