Record (as of May 25th) : 29-20
AL East Standing : 2nd
Weekly Record : 4-3
(Every Saturday I will attempt to give some brief thoughts on the past week for the Boston Red Sox. It will be filled with hopes, frustrations, exhilaration, pain, and plenty of puns. Speaking of which…)
Down in the Dempster: When the Sox signed Ryan Dempster this past offseason for 2 years/$26.5 mil, it was a signing that was generally met with shrugs. While with the Cubs, Dempster had had a rather dominant stretch from 2008 to 2010, After a disappointing 2011 season, Dempster started ’12 with a bang, going 5-5 with a 2.25 ERA on a super-struggling Cubs team. However, when he was traded to the Rangers, Dempster had a rought time with AL lineups, registering a 5.09 ERA while still striking out batters at a healthy rate. All of this is to ask: when should we start worrying for real about this year’s Dempster? His last three starts have been putrid: 12 2/3 innings, 15 ER, 12/11 K/BB, and three homers given up against the Blue Jays on May 12th.
Since May 7th, Dempster’s ERA has jumped from 2.93 to 4.69, and Dempster himself has admitted his command has been especially poor as of late. With Juan Nieves and John Farrell behind him, there is a great possibility that Dempster can correct these issues, but worries remain. He’s 36 years old, not a spring chicken still trying to figure things out. It would be a shame to see Dempster fall apart now: he’s a great clubhouse presence, and his strikeout ability is a huge asset in an increasingly difficult AL East. This will be something to watch very closely when he faces the Phillies on Tuesday (unfortunately against Cliff Lee).
Injury Time: Well it looks like the injury bug is here to stay. Now, we have Will Middlebrooks placed on the 15-day DL for a lower back strain and Shane Victorino on the 15-day DL for a left hamstring strain. In their places come Jose Iglesias, who had never played third base before Tuesday, and Alfredo Aceves.
Now if you’re like me, you read that last name and had a sudden urge to scream out loud, run outside with a cardboard sign, and tell anyone that can hear you that the end is near.
On the one hand, the bullpen has had a rough couple of days after Lester and Dempster’s starts, especially long-relief men Clayton Mortensen and Alex Wilson. But on the other, Aceves is trouble, with a capital T, which rhymes with P, and that stands for Potential Disturbance in the Clubhouse! The only reason he should pitch at all is to show any trade value so we can dump him to a poor unsuspecting team for chump change. Not only that, but when he’s called up, he will be the thirteenth pitcher on the 25-player roster. The 13th!!!!!! Even Pedro Cerrano can’t fix this karmic mess.
(Friday Update: Aceves came in to the 9th with an 8-1 Sox lead, and finished the inning in 20 pitches with no damage done. Still. I’m not convinced)
Hopefully this is only a (extremely) temporary measure. I am hoping that Farrell will send Aceves back to reach into Triple A to bolster the depleted outfield. Which means The Return of Jackie Bradley Jr., or possibly the first appearance of Bryce Brentz, who has fully recovered from accidentally Plaxico-ing in the offseason to hitting .316 over the last 10 games. It would be best to bet on the former, whose fastidious plate discipline and speed will always be an asset.
Tito’s Sweet Return: Now, let me start off by saying I am thrilled with this year’s coaching staff, especially John Farrell. But I’ve missed Terry Francona. While he from time to time made his mistakes, he was a great player’s manager. This leniency with his team, of course, led to the infamous fried chicken and beer season. But frankly, when compared to the monstrosity of the Bobby Valentine managership, (69-90, destroying a clubhouse, forcing out Youk, etc.), the Francona era seems downright sparkly.
Which is why his reception at Fenway was so wonderful. Because, let’s remember, this was the manager who, after 86 years of futility, brought Boston not one but two World Series rings. When Fenway played their video tribute to Terry, and the crowd cheered, it was a heartwarming moment. After a year of strained relations between Francona and the Red Sox organization, leading to Francona’s turning down the invitation to the Sox anniversary celebration, it’s nice to see him come back to Boston, spitting seeds in the dugout. He even mock-tussled with Don Orsillo. What I didn’t appreciate nearly as much was the 12-3 thrashing of the Sox that ensued, but still, silver linings.