Strange how much more fun it is when they're winning a few. (Photo by Brian Garfinkel/Getty Images)
Last week, between recaps, the Red Sox went 2-5. This week, they went 5-2. It's been that kind of season. Streaks have abounded, which I think contributes to the wildness of the whole thing. When a team's losing two out of three, or winning two out of three, and doing so most series, it's pretty easy to stay on an even keel. Teams that win five straight, then drop seven, then win another four are maddening. You're never sure from week to week which team will show up.
This week felt a bit different, though. Boston actually spent the entire week looking like a major league baseball team. Even in their two losses, there wasn't the sense of desperation that pervaded previous losses. The wins didn't feel shaky (in part because of the suddenly much better bullpen). The whole offense contributed, Adrian Gonzalez hit a home run... It's been easy to look at the Red Sox this week and see a team worth rooting for. And that hasn't been the case since probably mid-August. As changes of pace go, it's pretty refreshing.
Let's recap it, shall we?
Wouldn't be May without some heavy trade rumors. No, wait, that's not right. Anyway, there's trade talk afoot. At the center of this week's speculation is Boston third baseman Kevin Youkilis, whose stay on the DL has paved the way for the rise of Will Middlebrooks. With Youkilis starting his rehab assignment in Pawtucket, the Red Sox are about to confront the question of who starts at the hot corner. Since no position battle is complete without trade speculation, the big guns came out to add their two cents. ESPN's Buster Olney claimed that the Sox are about to start actively shopping the veteran hitter. FOX's Ken Rosenthal made the excellent point that even if a trade is being sought, Youk's age, price, and injury history make things difficult.
In other transactional news, the Red Sox once again put the last touches on a trade with the Cubs. Boston sent Single-A pitcher Hunter Cervenka to the Cubs. Cervenka is the classic minor-league lottery ticket, with high strikeout rates and high walk rates. If the Cubs can turn him into something useful, more power to them. For now, the Marlon Byrd era's going pretty decently. Marc went over the Sox' 40-man roster and 60-day DL, and found a pretty crowded field.
Do you guys remember the Roy Oswalt Watch? Weeks of discussion, endless rumors, Matt Kory waiting outside a duck blind in Mississippi with a giant butterfly net? Nonstop fun, right? Well, you're in luck, it's happening again! Oswalt threw bullpen sessions for both the Red Sox and Phillies this week, and seems eager to sign with someone by June. Honestly, I'm fine with the Sox taking a pass here. Even assuming Oswalt can get through an accelerated training program, he won't be in midseason form until past midseason, and by that time the Sox will have Matsuzaka back aboard, and their crowded roster opens up a decent field of trade possibilities. Sorry, Roy.
So without Roy Oswalt, where does the Sox rotation stand? Well, Felix Doubront has been steadily proving himself all season. Marc gave us a look at the path he took to get where he is now. Then there's Clay Buchholz. As virtually everyone speculated prior to the season, Buchholz's performance is the key to the entire rotation. If he pitches like he did in 2010, Boston's rotation can be counted among the better in the circuit. If he pitches poorly, Boston's in full Spahn-and-Sain mode. Marc broke down his last two starts (Friday against Cleveland and Wednesday against Tampa), and found a pitcher slowly regaining his changeup. That changeup has a 45% whiff/swing rate, so it's nice to see it back. Jon Lester's also changed his approach lately, and pretty successfully.
One of the nicest things about the Red Sox over the last few weeks has been the bullpen. Boston's relief staff has been almost frighteningly effective of late. Ben took a walk through the pen, trying to figure out exactly when this happened. Matt Kory gave us all a peek inside the single greatest one-on-one matchup in all of sports: batter vs. pitcher. In this case, David Ortiz vs. Blake Beavan. (Beavan didn't win.) I got to watch a movie about knuckleballs, then write about it.
Last night, the Red Sox dropped a close one to the Phillies and old pal Jonathan Papelbon. Tonight, Boston ace Jon Lester faces Philadelphia not-exactly ace Joe Blanton. Hopefully this one has a happier ending. Enjoy the weekend, folks.