Monday, April 21, 2014
By Kevin Thomas firstname.lastname@example.org
BOSTON — Bobby Jenks talked to a crowd of reporters about wanting to earn his paycheck. Nearby, Daniel Bard cracked a joke with a visitor. Josh Reddick rushed by, stopped at his locker and then hurried out. Carl Crawford, in no hurry at all, got ready for batting practice.
Another afternoon in the Boston Red Sox clubhouse.
Nothing unusual. Looks about the same as it did in April, with better weather and a few different role players here and there.
The core remains the same for this team, the one that tripped through much of April, only to turn in a marvelous month of May.
Even with Tuesday's lopsided loss, the outlook is good. Boston, 11-15 in April, turned in a 19-10 May.
The pitching was better -- 4.24 ERA and 178 strikeouts in April; 3.87, 213 through May 30.
The hitting was better -- 243 average, 22 home runs in April; .286, 37 through May 30.
Individuals got going. Kevin Youkilis hit .218 in April, then .295. Jacoby Ellsbury hit .266 with five stolen bases; then .322 with 14 steals.
David Ortiz went from a .267 average and two home runs, to .336 and nine homers last month. And Ortiz is hitting lefties (.278).
Adrian Gonzalez went from good (.314, one home run) to great (.347, nine home runs).
On the mound, Josh Beckett put up a 2.65 ERA in April, then went lights out in May (1.00). Same with Clay Buchholz: 1-3 and 5.33 to 3-0 and 2.08.
Starters who struggled went on the disabled list (Daisuke Matsuzaka and John Lackey), as did relievers (Jenks and Dan Wheeler).
The bullpen has been good, but can get better. Jonathan Papelbon and Bard are the mainstays.
There is hope Jenks and Wheeler will turn things around. Rich Hill and Matt Albers have been a surprise.
But if one player could serve as the poster boy for this turnaround, it would be Crawford. The man who signed a seven-year, $142 million contract with Boston did not make a great first impression with his employers -- .155 average, six runs scored in April.
Remember May 1, when Crawford celebrated his walk-off single in a 3-2 win over Seattle?
At the time, Crawford said, "as a team, we just wanted to put the month of April behind us. We wanted to start fresh and act like the month of April never happened."
He walked the talk, batting .300 from May 1 to 30, scoring 19 runs.
Last week, Crawford broke out with a .423 average (11 for 26), including two doubles, two triples, three home runs and eight RBI. He was named the American League Player of the Week.
"I'm glad to win the award," Crawford said. "It's nice. It means something."
Well, it means Crawford had a good week. It's like a pat on the back that is forgotten the next day.
Crawford knows there is a long way to go -- Boston was only one-third through its schedule after Monday's game.
The cliche day-by-day approach works best in handling both adversity and accolades.
"The only thing you can do is just keep playing," Crawford said. "We had a bad start. Had to focus on what's ahead of us."
What's ahead is an afternoon game today and a chance to avoid a sweep by the White Sox.
But even if there is a sweep, Boston has demonstrated how quickly it can turn things around.
Buchholz and Beckett will begin the weekend, with Lackey coming back Sunday (having thrown 52/3 innings in a rehab start Tuesday in Pawtucket, allowing three hits and no walks).
Next week: a well-rested Jon Lester, Buchholz and Beckett in the Bronx.
Flip your calendar, Red Sox fans. April is ancient history. May had some pleasant memories.
June could be special.
Staff Writer Kevin Thomas can be contacted at 791-6411 or at: email@example.com