BOSTON — Some thoughts while packing up at the Fenway Park press box Friday night …
Going into Saturday night’s game, Boston is a promising 2-2. If the Red Sox keep pitching the way they did in the first four games, especially the starters, then they’ll make the playoffs. In those first four games, only Felix Doubront allowed more than two runs (three), and he got a win.
Boston’s offense is performing (fourth best average in the American League), but just not so much in the clutch. Most of the players appear to be producing.
“We’ll be fine,” third baseman Will Middlebrooks said. “We’re four games in. We’re a good team. We’re going to be just fine.”
Middlebrooks’ place in the bottom of the lineup again reminds Sea Dogs fans when he was in Portland in 2011. He initially batted sixth. The idea was to keep the pressure off Middlebrooks. When he tries to force power, he struggles. When he relaxes and lets the talent (and power) come through, he shines.
Xander Bogaerts is off to a good start, even with his outs. He has crushed three balls that have been caught on the warning track. He also is working the count like a veteran. “I still marvel at a guy who has less than 100 major-league at-bats and the way he’s gone about it and the way he looks,” Red Sox Manager John Farrell said. “He’s gotten out the gate very strong.”
Farrell was asked about the challenge of managing his outfield, with Shane Victorino hurt (hamstring) and Grady Sizemore limited because of his injury history. Farrell sees the glass as half-full: “More than anything, we have a number of quality players we can pick from. Given the constraints we have with Grady, we’ve got very good depth to go to. Good young players … I wouldn’t say it’s challenging. I’d say it’s exciting to rotate a number of good players through the lineup.”
That outfield depth also includes Daniel Nava, Jonny Gomes, Mike Carp and Jackie Bradley Jr. And there are also those corner outfielders in Pawtucket, Bryce Brentz and Alex Hassan, awaiting their major league debuts.
IN THE MINORS, Boston received some glowing reports on its pitching prospects so far, topped of course by Henry Owens’ no-hitter in the season-opener Thursday night in Reading, in a game shortened to six innings by rain.
Owens is set to pitch again Tuesday in Trenton and then at Hadlock Field next Sunday, if the rotation schedule holds.
Keith Couch followed Owens Friday by not allowing an earned run over 52/3 innings, striking out six.
There was also Salem lefty Brian Johnson (five innings, one earned run, seven strikeouts). Johnson, a supplemental-round draft pick in 2012 out of the University of Florida, appeared close to making the Sea Dogs roster out of spring training. He will likely be in Portland by summer.
Some so-so performances have also been turned in. Allen Webster opened for Pawtucket and is still searching for control (81 pitches/46 strikes).
Anthony Ranaudo pitched Pawtucket’s second game and had five strikeouts in two scoreless innings. But Lehigh Valley then put up four runs in the third on two walks and three hits. For a positive note, Ranaudo pitched a 1-2-3 fourth before exiting.
When we featured Mookie Betts in a story last week, we mentioned the unfair comparisons with Bogaerts. Betts is that impressive. But we did not figure on a .778 batting average through the first two games (7-for-9).
Catcher Blake Swihart has received some early-season hype. He had a .429 average through two games. Plus he was 2-for-2 in throwing out base-stealers on Friday.
These Sea Dogs look good. They start their Hadlock Field schedule on Thursday.
Staff Writer Kevin Thomas can be contacted at 791-791-6411 or at: