Well, it wasn’t a pretty opening week for the Red Sox. After getting swept at home by the Milwaukee Brewers, the Sox were on the verge of their first four game losing streak under manager John Farrell tonight against the Rangers. Luckily, they avoided that particular statistic, but there are still plenty of reasons for fans to tread warily.
First off, Clay Buchholz looked the worst he has in his whole career in his first start on Saturday. Allowing 13 hits in just 4 1/3 innings, it was clear his stuff was not at its best. The 29-year-old continuously grooved 88-90 mph fastballs over the plate and the Brewers had a field day. While it was only his first start, it certainly wasn’t an encouraging sign by any means.
The lead-off spot in the batting order is also a topic of concern, as Daniel Nava doesn’t appear to be the season-long answer. While Nava did have a career year last season, his numbers will most likely drop this campaign. He is able to work counts and get on base, but that is where Xander Bogaerts should fit into the discussion.
Bogaerts has started off his rookie year very hot up to this point. Despite making some defensive blunders in the field, his plate approach is incredibly mature and that isn’t something that is going to go away anytime soon. No more games with Jonny Gomes at the top of the lineup. If Farrell wants to do some experimenting, he should toss the kid to the top of the order. He has shown he can handle the pressure by starting in the World Series at age 21 and I think most fans are ready to place their confidence in his hands for the next decade or two.
Will Middlebrooks early trip to the 15 day DL is somewhat troubling. Not too much has been said about his “calf strain” that he suffered in pregame warm-ups on Saturday, but he was placed on the DL the next morning. Hopefully the Sox are just trying to let him completely heal, rather than risk a lingering injury that could affect him all season. He could probably play through the injury, but I would rather see him at 100% than trying to play through it. He was starting to look good at the plate too, so hopefully his confidence stays high while he’s on the shelf for the next two weeks.
With Middlebrooks injured, the Red Sox signed utilityman Ryan Roberts for some depth. The former Tampa Bay Ray primarily plays third and second base and provides a bit of right-handed pop that Middlebrooks would have provided. He hit 19 home runs for the Diamondbacks in 2011 and could potentially stay on the roster over Jonathan Herrera depending on how these next couple of weeks play out.
On the bright side of things, Mike Napoli is off to another hot April and has had some key hits thus far on the short season. Napoli had one of the best Aprils in Red Sox history last year with 27 RBIs, but that went along with 40 whiffs. He has nine strikeouts in the seven games this year, but with three more hits tonight he rose his average to .321. With David Ortiz off to a slightly subpar start, Napoli’s play is crucial to the success of the middle of the batting order.
Also, Jackie Bradley Jr. has six hits in his first 16 at bats, which is a promising sign. While Victorino’s return will still probably send him to the minors, seeing Bradley perform well at the major league level is comforting considering Grady Sizemore’s injury history.
Felix Doubront and Jake Peavy will take the hill for the remaining games against Texas and after that, the Sox travel to the Bronx on Thursday where Buchholz will get another shot at things against the Yankees.