Wednesday, March 12, 2014
The Red Sox have begun the second half of the season with four straight losses. And while Boston limps into Toronto for a three-game series, starting Friday; the Yankees take on the lowly Mariners. Boston (49-36) trails New York (53-31) by 4.5 games, and Tampa Bay (51-33) by 2.
But there are plenty of reasons for optimism.
1. This is early July, when slumps are manageable, with plenty of time to come back. Going into a dive from mid-August on in the AL East would be cause for concern.
2. Lester, Lackey and Matsuzaka are pitching this weekend. The nibbling Dice-K is frustrating to watch, but when on his game, gives Boston a good chance to win.
3. Of the Yankees' four games with Seattle, two will be against Cliff Lee and Felix Hernandez. (A hopeful scenario for Sox fans would be for New York to go 2-2 and Boston 2-1 this weekend, making for a four-game deficit at the All-Star break).
4. Boston's rebound is based on more than wishful thinking. Injured players will begin returning after the break, starting with Clay Buchholz and (hopefully) Victor Martinez.
5. Bullpen help may be on the way in the right arm of Michael Bowden. His first relief stint in Pawtucket resulted in two scoreless innings (1 H, 1 K).
6. After tonight, the on-going nauseating saga known as "LeBron James' decision" will be over.
Besides Bowden shining for Pawtucket last night, the PawSox got two hits apiece from Ryan Kalish (.304), Lars Anderson (.227) and Josh Reddick (.209). Aaron Bates (.227) was 0-for-4 with three strikeouts.
Bates' future with the Red Sox is cloudy. Once thought of as a solid defensive first baseman, Bates received a brief major league call-up last year. But with Boston needing first base depth this season, Ryan Shealy was signed recently, and called up this week from Pawtucket.
Plus, Bates, 26, moved to the Pawtucket outfield when Anderson was promoted in late April. There are several outfielders ahead of Bates.
Anderson, 22, is coming up on a crossroads. After the season, Boston will have to put him on the 40-man roster or risk losing him to the Rule V draft.
The Sea Dogs enjoyed a romp on Wednesday. Alex Wilson pitched a strong six innings (2H, 1 R, 2 BB, 6 K) ... Nate Spears went 4-for-4 with a home run, walk, RBI and four runs.
Salem third baseman Will Middlebrooks (.290) hit two home runs (his sixth and seventh).
I'll check back Friday morning. I'm off tonight (going to host a LeBron Decision Party).
Kevin Thomas covers baseball and basketball for the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram. He wisely moved to Maine in 1994 after working for the St. Petersburg Times. He is married to Nancy and they have nine children.
Follow his thoughts on the Boston Red Sox and Portland Sea Dogs on Clearing the Bases
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