BOSTON, MA - APRIL 13: Carl Crawford #13 of the Boston Red Sox and the rest of his teammates stand in the seventh inning stretch against the Tampa Bay Rays during the home opener on April 13, 2012 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Anytime Dr. James Andrews makes an appearance in the headlines, baseball fans cower in fear. Who is about to go under the knife for Tommy John Surgery? Whose season is about to come to an end?
So when Dr. Andrews made his way into the stories about Carl Crawford's sore elbow, with the left fielder in search of a second opinion, Sox fans were understandably perturbed.
The story seems to be that the visit is all about Crawford beginning to throw again, which is either a good thing or a bad thing depending on who you ask and how they tell it. Bobby Valentine attempted to allay some fears, telling WEEI that he's basically getting a check-up before he starts throwing. Buster Olney tells them a similar story, but oh does he ever tell it differently:
"Talking with sources this morning, they basically said that if he has any kind of a throw beyond flipping the ball, it really hurt his elbow," Olney said. "It doesn't hurt him when he hits, it doesn't hurt him when he does other stuff, but he can't throw a baseball.
Well that doesn't sound great. Obviously even in Fenway's left field you need to be able to get the ball back into the infield, and Crawford certainly isn't going to be a designated hitter up here. He has been in that position for a while now down in extended spring training, however, which could either be because the Sox are concerned with the elbow pain, or because they didn't entirely expect him to be ready.
Hopefully the visit is just precautionary, because as much as Ross and Sweeney have been killing it, the Sox would be happy to at least see if they can't stumble upon the old Crawford.
Olney also touched on the Daniel Bard situation, and whether or not the reliever was destined for the bullpen:
I thought Daniel's comments this week were kind of a shot across the bow. He had done everything that the Red Sox had asked him since he joined this organization. He was told last fall after he talked to them about making the transition into the rotation, ‘OK this is what you've got to do,' and he did it and he won his spot.
They've got to be careful about jerking the guy around, about not allowing him to get into a routine and do his preparation. I think he's earned the right to start and moving him to the bullpen isn't going to fix the fact that they need three or four or five other pitchers.
The water just gets muddier, unfortunately. After stating earlier today that Bard could appear in relief tonight, Bobby Valentine instead opted for him to throw a side session, leaving him off the table for the third game against the Twins. It does seem like Bard will make his Friday start against Chicago, but after that, who can say?
Staying with the bullpen, Mark Melancon is trying to make his way back to the majors after a disaster start earned him a demotion. So far, so good, at least in terms of results. Perhaps more important is that Melancon seems to believe he has figured things out, or so he told Brian MacPherson:
"I've just got to be more aggressive and locate better. It's not too complicated," said Melancon. "I look back on it and I don't know why I didn't catch on to it sooner.
"I'm still the same guy. I just needed maybe a step back and a reset button. Obviously, you don't want to come down here and have to do that. You want to make it on the run or on the fly up there. This is good for me. I feel like I'm still the same guy I was last year when I was closing and doing well. That's the good thing. The bad thing is I had to come down here and learn that."
For what it's worth, Melancon dismissed out of hand the idea that he was wilting under the special kind of pressure found in Boston:
"Baseball is still a game whether you're in Boston or Houston or wherever," he said. "I understand the pressure sense of it. But the pressure is there because they want results, and that's a good thing in my mind because I want results. I like the pressure.
I expect that anyone who really thinks about it will at least decide that Melancon's current struggles can't be chalked up to nerves. There's a difference between wilting under pressure, and pitching like Melancon did in his first few outings. Of course, that also makes Melancon's short explanation earlier a bit suspect.
Either way, all we can do now is hope that whatever Melancon has figured out down in Pawtucket is not just a matter of facing Triple-A hitters, and that he can actually provide some value to our beleaguered bullpen down the road.
Finally, Marlon Byrd is crediting hitting coach Dave Magadan with the sudden revival that has seen him match his hit total from 47 plate appearances in Chicago in just two games with the Red Sox:
"[Myself and hitting coach Dave Magadan] tried to get my old swing from 2010," Byrd told reporters in Minnesota. "I can hit. I knew I wasn't going to hit .087 for the rest of the season... I was inconsistent with my timing."
Of course, we shouldn't be getting too far ahead of ourselves here. Marlon Byrd has just nine at bats with the team, and not hitting .087 for a season isn't exactly a lofty goal. However, after the combined 1-for-15 provided my Jason Repko and Nate Spears...Well, let's just say we're in no position to be choosers.