Thursday, December 5, 2013
BOSTON — The Red Sox return to Fenway Park tonight when interleague play continues against the Miami Marlins.
Carl Crawford, above, and Andrew Bailey, below, have yet to appear in a game this season, but they're expected to begin rehab assignments soon.
Photos by The Associated Press
WHO: Red Sox (Buchholz 7-2) vs. Miami Marlins (Buehrle 5-7)
WHEN: 7:10 p.m.
WHERE: Fenway Park
They've got six games left against the National League, but unlike past years, wins against teams from the supposedly weaker league have been hard to come by.
No surprise there. Nothing has come easy for this team.
The Sox had yesterday off to recover from a hot weekend in Chicago. The temperatures were in the 90s for three games against the Cubs, and there were plenty of players and executives trying to keep their cool in a reunion of many key parts of the recent Boston past.
Sunday night, Theo Epstein was in Chicago's executive suite and Terry Francona was in the broadcast booth for ESPN. Both are in new jobs after the September collapse that knocked the Sox out of the playoffs last year.
With Boston's ownership and many current executives on hand this weekend, there was enough tension to give the meeting of last-place teams the feeling of a playoff series.
All of that made great fodder for Boston's sports columnists.
Not much of it had anything to do with the current team. The constantly changing roster is the most important story line to watch right now.
Josh Beckett was put on the DL and missed his start Sunday night. Franklin Morales was on the mound for the final game of the series, making his first start since 2009.
Manager Bobby Valentine had been pushing the idea of Morales moving to the rotation for a while.
Sunday night, we saw why. Morales struck out eight in five innings, consistently hitting 94-95 mph on the Wrigley Field radar gun.
He left the game with a 3-2 lead, and the Sox eventually won another nail biter.
Ryan Kalish returned to the lineup after spending more than a year on the DL. He drove in the go-ahead run.
The surprising Scott Podsednik left the game with an apparent hamstring injury, but Cody Ross is expected back tonight.
And so it goes.
This is a pivotal stretch for the Sox, who have spent nearly all of the season in last place in the AL East but have remained within striking distance of a playoff spot.
When this homestand ends, they will head out on their first West Coast trip of the season, about a month away from the non-waiver trade deadline.
They will have to take stock of their situation and decide if they are going to be buyers or sellers in the days leading up to July 31.
It's not an easy decision.
Along with Ross, they expect to get outfielders Carl Crawford and Jacoby Ellsbury back from the disabled list before too long, giving them two midseason additions that should have a major impact on an offense that has struggled of late.
They also believe the bullpen will get better with the likes of Andrew Bailey and potentially Daniel Bard added to the list of relievers.
There has been a feeling all along that this team could make a run if it can tread water until those players return. For the most part, they have done exactly that.
The starting rotation has come into form and is pitching much better.
Beckett, unpopular as he may be among some fans, has been a big part of that.
He hasn't spoken with the media in more than two weeks, so we are left to wonder how his shoulder feels.
If the Sox are still hanging in there, they may look to add a starting pitcher before the deadline.
One more arm could make all the difference with a rotation that seems like it could use some fresh blood.
On the other hand, the Sox have plenty of pieces that could be attractive to contenders if Boston's brass decides the team is out of the race.
There is a surplus of outfielders and relievers, not to mention the ongoing trade rumors that swirl around Kevin Youkilis.
We are more than 10 weeks into the season, yet it's still very difficult to get a feel for the makeup of this team.
The Sox have a tendency to reel off five or six wins whenever we give up on them. Conversely, they go on a losing streak whenever we proclaim them back in the race.
For that reason, it's been a very intriguing baseball season in Boston.
With the July fork in the road looming, those story lines will become even more pronounced in the weeks ahead.
Tom Caron is the studio host for Red Sox broadcasts on the New England Sports Network. His column appears in the Press Herald on Tuesdays.
click image to enlarge
Outfielder Cody Ross has been out for quite some time, but he could rejoin the Red Sox as soon as today.
The Associated Press
click image to enlarge
Another outfielder, Jacoby Ellsbury, is expected to begin a rehab assignment soon.
The Associated Press