How's everyone enjoying watching a winning ballclub for once? Pretty good, right? Satisfying, familiar, comfortable... It's like we've all settled back into the beaten-up armchair in our parent's living room where we first watched Pedro and Nomar kicking ass all across the AL East. Maybe that's just me. Still, the Sox are back over .500, and that's something I'm not sure any of us would have really counted on a month ago. Even better, they're tied for fourth, only three games back in the division. We may well have ourselves a playoff race.
Ben summed it up perfectly this week: they've stayed afloat. They're still within striking distance, they're playing better, and there's still four months and a lot of reinforcements ahead. Baseball's fun again, folks. And just in time for the weather to get lovely, so we can all feel guilty for staying in dark bars glued to the TV. Summer's a glorious thing.
Recap after the jump.
Yeah, we're starting a recap with an injury discussion. Again. This time, it's Dustin Pedroia who's banged up. He's got a torn muscle in his thumb, which is the sort of thing that could probably affect his swing in a negative way. The Sox are taking kind of a delicate approach here. The injury clearly isn't an automatic disqualifier from baseball activities, or they'd have put him on the DL. On the other hand, Dustin Pedroia is not big on the sitting still. With any luck at all, a few days off will be all he needs to be back in shape. I'm realizing now that I used the phrase "with any luck" about an injury on the Red Sox. Oh well. At least Ryan Sweeney came back.
The rotation's been interesting to watch this week, going from "unbelievably frustrating" to "potentially really fun." Felix Doubront got the week off to a terrific start, handcuffing the Tigers to get the Red Sox up to .500. Ben speculated that if things don't work out for Doubront in Boston, he could always take his act on the road as a roving Miguel Cabrera specialist. Daniel Bard followed Doubront with a not-great but adequate performance, which wound up being enough both to outduel Justin Verlander and finally get the Sox to a winning record. Marc analyzed how his mechanics contributed to his success.
Last night's game may have been the most encouraging of all in terms of starting pitching, as Clay Buchholz was downright impressive against Toronto. Marc gave us a look at some of the encouraging signs for the Sox #3 starter going into last night's game. It's not overly likely that Buchholz will put up that kind of start every time out for the rest of the season, but that we can even think about it after the way his first month went is unbelievably heartening.
With this year's amateur draft rapidly approaching, talk turned to the minors, and we had updates on all of Boston's prospects, with updates on Greenville, Salem, Portland, and Pawtucket. Marc took a quick look at former top prospect Lars Anderson down at McCoy Stadium, doing his best Giancarlo Stanton impression. I wrote about my (mostly failed) attempt to initiate a friend into the wonders of baseball through minor-league fun.
After all of the garment-rending and assorted screaming about the departure of Jonathan Papelbon, the loss of Andrew Bailey to a thumb injury, and the early season meltdowns of the new-look bullpen, that bullpen has become a major strength for the ballclub. Matt Kory ran through the pieces of the pen, and proved once again that bullpen construction is more a matter of blind luck than anything. Some strategies work better than others, but short of signing a known stud like Pap, there's almost nothing you can do to guarantee a pen for good or ill. Boston seems, for the moment, to have lucked out.
Everyone who figured the Red Sox would enter June with a starting outfield of some combination of Daniel Nava, Scott Podsednik, Marlon Byrd, and Ryan Sweeney, raise your hand. Yet somehow, this assortment of Quad-A types and retreads has produced enough to keep Boston within striking distance until the All-Stars on the injury lists can return. Darnell McDonald certainly isn't among the All-Stars, but he's about to finish his rehab assignment in Pawtucket. How to fit him back on the Boston roster? Marc suggests finding Marlon Byrd a new home, whether through release or trade.
Trades are where we'll finish up. Ever since Will Middlebrooks was called up and started to play like he belonged, talk has focused on Kevin Youkilis and his future with the club. Youk's return has made things more interesting, as he's hit quite well, reaffirming that he's one of the premier hitters in the league. The brutal destruction of Boston's outfield depth has given the Sox a way to keep Adrian Gonzalez's bat in the lineup while still playing both Youkilis and Middlebrooks, but that's clearly not a long-term solution. A report emerged yesterday that Boston is looking to trade Youk, which certainly would make sense. With Middlebrooks on board, Youk's contract soon to expire, and a number of contenders in need of a power-hitting corner infielder, all the conditions are in place for a big trade. It's strange to think of the Red Sox without Kevin Youkilis. But we may have to get used to that thought very soon.
Felix Doubront takes the ball against the Blue Jays today. Happy weekend.