With one-third of the season over, the Boston Red Sox sit closer to the bottom of the American League East than the top.
Does General Manager Ben Cherington see gaping holes in the team he constructed or minor leaks that can be patched?
The axiom is a GM spends the first two months of a season evaluating a team and the next two months fixing it.
While fans may want a drastic fix – something they were screaming for last week when Boston was spinning its wheels in a 10-game losing streak – Cherington oversees a strong organization. A trade may happen by the July 31 deadline (like the Jake Peavy deal last year), but, for the most part the Red Sox have the cure within their organization.
The obvious problems are a lack of hitting and turmoil in the starting rotation.
But believe it not, there is a lot to like about these Red Sox.
Here are five areas steadying Boston right now:
n The bullpen leads the AL with a 2.75 ERA. Even Edward Mujica seems to be turning it around (3.38 ERA in May, one hit in his last four outings).
n John Lackey (3.27 ERA) and Jon Lester (3.45) give Boston some consistent starts. Lester seems to go in streaks where he can be lights-out. This would be a good time for that.
n David Ortiz (12 home runs) and Dustin Pedroia (.275, 18 doubles), likewise, remain the reliable ones on offense.
n Rookie Xander Bogaerts is batting .304 with a .393 on-base percentage (fourth-best in the American League). In typical fashion, fans have focused on Bogaerts’ defense (six errors). He’s playing a decent short and will be even better at third base once shortstop Stephen Drew rejoins the team this week.
n Brock Holt has jumped in at third base and the leadoff spot, batting .299. He’s been a needed spark and when Drew returns, likely stays as a utility infielder.
The Red Sox have three other players who can boost this team once they’re on the field.
n Mike Napoli is a huge part of this offense, in both his on-base ability (.390 OBP), and as the slugging compliment to Ortiz. He is on the disabled list with a couple of lingering injuries but should be back in another week.
n Shane Victorino brings energy to the top of the lineup and to right field – when he’s healthy. But Victorino’s hamstring remains a problem and he is back on the DL. The Red Sox say they are being cautious with Victorino, so there’s no timetable on his return.
n Drew is not an offensive juggernaut (.253 average last year), but he’s money in the field. He also hits right-handed pitching well (.284).
Besides Bogaerts, more young players are helping out and – the Sox hope – will get better.
n Jackie Bradley Jr. is playing the best center field the Sox have seen in a long time. He’s batting only .206, although he has 17 walks and a .289 on-base percentage. Bradley has been hitting in recent games, a good sign.
n Brandon Workman is a proven pitcher as a reliever and starter. Back in the rotation because of injuries, Workman may stay there.
n Other players may be summoned to help out. We’ve already mentioned Holt. Starter Rubby De La Rosa has been called up from Triple-A. Steven Webster has been dealing in Pawtucket. Catcher Christian Vazquez is ready for a call if needed. And a couple of players in Portland – second baseman/outfielder Mookie Betts and shortstop Deven Marrero – are late-season possibilities, especially if there are injuries.
Boston has three players that need more than a little tweaking. Pitchers Clay Buchholz and Felix Doubront, and third baseman Will Middlebrooks, are all on the disabled list. No telling when they come back or if they will be effective when they do.
Doubront was 2-4 with a 5.12 ERA, Buchholz 2-4, 7.02. Middlebrooks was batting .197 with two home runs.
When deemed healthy, Buchholz and Doubront seem destined for extended minor-league rehab assignments, while Middlebrooks could be optioned to the minors.
Getting either of those pitchers healthy and performing to their ability would work better than a trade to help Boston. With Drew arriving at shortstop and Bogaerts moving to third, Middlebrooks may be banished to Pawtucket as a player still in need of development.
So Boston seems to have plenty of fixes within its organization.
There is hope.
Kevin Thomas can be reached at 791-6411 or at: