The week started so well. The Red Sox had finally begun to look like the team we were hoping for, thumping AL Central teams left and right, winning six of seven on the road. The starting rotation looked like it belonged in the majors. The bullpen apparently realized that leads are meant to be held, not tossed into ravines. The offense just couldn't be stopped. With a homestand against light-hitting Oakland and eternal doormat Baltimore beckoning, things were looking up.
Five days later, the Red Sox are 11-14, still in last place. Their home record is 4-8, worst in the AL aside from Minnesota and Kansas City. They're currently (after last night's 13-inning loss) seven games behind Tampa, and five and a half behind Baltimore. BALTIMORE. Boston scored 11 runs in the Monday opener of the home stand, and has scored nine in the subsequent three. Kevin Youkilis finally ended his slump, by heading to the DL.
It's fine, though, because tomorrow will see the Red Sox debut of Aaron Cook. Cook's getting the start against the Orioles, with Josh Beckett scratched due to back stiffness. Could this back trouble be related to his curiously long start against Chicago on Sunday? Sure, but it could also be leprechauns. And since that explanation doesn't imply that Bobby Valentine was asleep during the pitcher-abuse section of his orientation meetings, I'm going to stick with it. Why do leprechauns hate Josh Beckett?
Fortunately, the rest of the recap is leprechaun-free.
One of these weeks, the pitching staff will have a ridiculously great week, and we won't have anything to say about them beyond "Wow, that was awesome. Did you guys see how awesome the pitchers were?" This is not that week. Marc Normandin discussed Daniel Bard's third start on Friday, in which he handcuffed the White Sox. Matt Sullivan previewed Clay Buchholz's start against Oakland with an analysis of Clay's mechanics. Felix Doubront's four inning, eight strikeout start on Tuesday prompted Marc to look at his truly odd stat line.
Now, of course, the Red Sox have been forced by contract issues to call up Aaron Cook, which leads to a slight dilemma. As Matt Kory points out, the Red Sox now have six men who realistically should be starting games, but only five spots for them. From the look of things, Cook will be stepping in for Beckett tomorrow, and then filling in at the back of a six-man rotation during Boston's coming stretch of twenty straight games. Ben Buchanan suggests that Cook's promotion is the perfect opportunity to get Clay Buchholz out of the rotation and onto the DL with sprained mechanics. Or, if the league makes some sort of stink about mechanics being "intangible'' and thus "not a real injury," there's always the possibility of the old blister excuse.
Ben gave us a look at how the offseason moves of rookie GM Ben Cherington have worked out so far. Short version: they've turned out pretty decently, especially given the budgetary constraints involved. Long version: the link's right there, go read it. One of those offseason acquisitions, Ryan Sweeney, was basically the cheap Transformers toy that came in the bag with Andrew Bailey. However, as Marc writes, Sweeney has taken to his new surroundings, and is putting up the best numbers of his career. Already I'm having flashbacks to the last "OK, you can have the All-Star pitcher, but you've got to take this guy, too." Thus, Ryan Sweeney will win a World Series MVP, and then spend a few years collecting checks from the DL. Which I'll accept, since it means another Series title.
Aaron Cook's wasn't the only big callup this week. Clayton Mortensen, better known to Boston fans as "the guy I had to Google when we traded Scutaro," made his debut against the A's on Wednesday. He pitched three innings of relief, striking out six and retiring nine straight batters after allowing a leadoff single. Is he the reliever we've been waiting for? Maybe, and Marc tells us it may be due to a very slight shift in the way he's throwing. Even more exciting, Boston called up on-fire third-base prospect Will Middlebrooks. Middlebrooks had a terrific debut, and apparently impressed Bobby Valentine enough that he batted second against Baltimore last night. Now if the Sox could just figure out a way to beat the (deleted) Orioles, all would be well.
Getting away from the day-to-day aggravations of Sox fandom, Cee Angi gave us a peek at the upcoming "Sabermetrics, Scouting, and the Science of Baseball" conference at Boston University. In slightly more esoteric science, Matt Sullivan continued to relate the tale of time-traveler Ryan O'Malley. I shared a few thoughts on Thursday night's injury to Mariano Rivera.
Strange week. With any luck, today's game against the Orioles will go the way such things are meant to go: with the pummeling of orange-clad pitchers and a weeping Nameless One in the visitors' dugout. Happy weekending, all.