After an ugly West Coast trip where the Red Sox went 2-4, some people might be searching for that little red panic button. Thankfully, Theo Epstein is not.
Where are the Red Sox's problem spots? They're pretty easy to spot. The biggest problems are:
- Bad starting pitching. Josh Beckett, Jon Lester and Brad Penny have ERAs hovering close to 6 or well over. Justin Masterson has a 4.61 ERA as a starter, which is second to Tim Wakefield (4.03).
- Injuries. Jed Lowrie has been out for awhile and Kevin Youkilis has missed a good chunk of time recently. Julio Lugo just came back, Mark Kotsay hasn't seen any time in a Red Sox uniform this year and Daisuke Matsuzaka has "arm fatigue" (but is due back soon).
- David Ortiz. When your No. 3 hitter is batting .208 and hasn't even sniffed a home run in eight months, you're going to have troubles. 'Nuff said.
But you know what? These problems aren't so bad right now.
Everyone is in agreement that Beckett and Lester can't be this bad for the rest of the season. Both are just too good. Penny, while he may have the same ERA until October, isn't even pitching poorly. He's had four quality starts in his seven games as a Red Sox and his ERA has been on the decline for three straight games. Wakefield was a true ace earlier in the season and has come down to earth recently, but we should see similar results the rest of the season.
As far as injuries are concerned, people are getting healthy. Youkilis will be back Wednesday and Matsuzaka should be replacing Masterson in the rotation this week. Who knows about Lowrie, but Lugo and Green, at least offensively, are holding down the fort. Kotsay should be back relatively soon as well.
That brings me to David Ortiz. Big Papi. Cookie Monster. And you know what? I don't know what to tell you, frightened and scared Red Sox fan. I'd love to tell you that David Ortiz is going to come back on Tuesday and start hitting bombs. Start winning games and make a run for the All-Star game. But I can't say that. I'd love to say it, but I can't. I can't say it because I don't think it's true.
Is Ortiz done as a major league hitter? Perhaps. Could he still hit 20 home runs this season? Sure he could, but I hope no one puts money on that in Vegas. Right now Ortiz is a crapshoot. It's that simple. He could come back and mash or he could come back and dip below the Mendoza Line. Either is as likely to happen.
Other than perhaps juggling the lineup around a little bit, the Red Sox don't need to do anything. They shouldn't make a trade for a shortstop and calling up a pitcher like Clay Buchholz or Michael Bowden might be a tad overboard right now.
What the Sox have to do is wait. Wait for Beckett and Lester to turn it around. Wait for everyone to be healthy. Wait -- and see -- how Ortiz rebounds.
It's time to sit back and wait. It's the smartest thing the Red Sox can do at the moment. In the meantime, let's hope we win some more games.