Red Sox designated hitter J.D. Martinez takes batting practice at All-Star game festivities on Monday in Denver. Martinez is one of five Red Sox on the All-Star team. Gabriel Christus/Associated Press

It’s the All-Star break, baseball taking a midsummer fiesta for the first time in two years. Five Red Sox players are in Denver, while the rest of the team gets a short breather. A few random thoughts as we brace for the first legitimate pennant race Boston has seen in a few years…

• The Red Sox and Yankees open up the second half with a national TV broadcast Thursday night.  It’s the only game on the schedule.  This has become an MLB fixture for the past few years, a sort of Opening Day 2.0.

Boston’s Kiké Hernández made it clear on Friday he is no fan of losing a day off.

“There’s 28 teams that get four days off and two teams that don’t,” said Hernández.  “I’m obviously not an All-Star but I definitely feel like we needed a fourth day.  For the guys that made the All-Star Game, it sucks. As much as it’s a privilege for them to be an All-Star, especially the first timers, having to go all the way out to Colorado to play the All-Star Game and having all those emotions.  Then to get on a plane as soon as the game ends and have to fly back to the East Coast and play a game in less than 24 hours, I mean, it’s tough.

“But hey MLB likes money and Red Sox-Yankees makes money,” added Hernández. “Let there be money.”

• The Red Sox All-Stars are the collateral damage of MLB’s decision to move the game from Atlanta to Colorado to protest voting regulations enacted in Georgia.  Boston to Atlanta to New York wouldn’t be a big deal.  Instead the five Sox players will have gone from Anaheim to Boston to Denver to New York in less than a week.

• Those five players represent the largest All-Star contingent from any team in the game.  It’s a reminder how talented this team really is.  It’s been easy to give Manager Alex Cora the credit for turning around a team that had a dismal 2020, but he’ll be the first to tell you that he’s got really good players.

• That said, Cora is still the clubhouse leader for AL Manager of the Year.  And Chaim Bloom should be given the AL Executive of the Year now.

• The Sox have are 6-0 against the Yankees this season, a huge part of the reason New York is eight games out of first at the break.  If Manager Aaron Boone’s team has any hope of catching the Sox, they’ll have to play well in the next couple of weeks: eight of Boston’s first 11 games after the break are against the Yankees.

• Hal Steinbrenner, the Yankees’ managing general partner, said he won’t make a “knee-jerk reaction” to the team’s disappointing first half.  It seems pretty clear he got his patience from his mother’s side of the family.

• This past week was a reminder that there is still much work to be done.  The Sox dropped series to the Angels and Phillies and saw their lead shrink to a game and a half.  The Yankees are lurking further back but are threatening to make a run.

• While the Sox lead the East, Bloom and company spent the past few days building for an even better future.  The pick of Marcelo Mayer with the fourth selection of Sunday’s draft was the highest draft pick the Red Sox have had since 1967.  That Impossible Dream season reignited a franchise. Mayer could do the same in a few years’ time.

• Chris Sale is hoping to impact the team much sooner than that.  He will throw his first minor-league game in Florida on Thursday.  He should migrate north soon afterward.

That means there is a real chance Mainers will be able to see Sale at Hadlock Field in Portland.  The Sea Dogs are home for 12 straight games beginning July 20, meaning Sale’s first appearance in a competitive game since 2019 could take place in the shadows of the Maine Monster.

Tom Caron is a studio host for Red Sox broadcasts on NESN. His column runs on Tuesdays in the Portland Press Herald.

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