The Red Sox have sent more than their fair share of players to the disabled list this year.
Already they've lost Daisuke Matsuzaka and Rich Hill for the season. While only a few are truly lamenting the loss of the former, the latter was looking every bit like the answer for the Sox in the seventh inning. Whether he'll even be able to make a comeback in the future is up-in-the-air.
Meanwhile, the year has been one big false start for almost all of their offseason bullpen acquisitions, with Bobby Jenks and Dan Wheeler having spent time on the shelf after coming up empty early on. And while John Lackey seems finally to be figuring things out, he missed his fair share of time despite both the fan base and the organization starting the season with a great deal of hope for the starter.
Now the Sox find themselves without Jed Lowrie, Carl Crawford, and Clay Buchholz for the time being thanks to a sudden rash of injuries very much reminiscent of the troubles the team faced last year around this time.
Somehow, though, I'm not too worried. Here's why:
After last year saw the Sox closing out the season starting Quadruple-A players backed up by call-ups who had spent the majority of the year at Double-A, management took the necessary steps to make sure this sort of thing didn't happen again. They added depth, and I'm not talking about the Boof Bonser sort of depth.
The result is that these injuries don't represent an end-of-the-world scenario for the Sox, but actually offer the promise of a few exciting weeks.
Consider the players who have gone down. Carl Crawford seemed to slip right back into something of a slump after his strong stretch, Jed Lowrie had a pathetic .352 OPS in June, and Clay--while decent--has clearly not been the same guy we saw in May, and has been a question mark when it comes to drawing up the rotation.
At their peaks, all three players are dominant, but it's been a while since any of these guys have been at their peaks--at least since last month. What do the Sox lose? Their incredible 13-3 record has arguably come in spite of these three more than because of them. In return for losing their "production," the Sox get to give Crawford a new start, Lowrie time to rest his shoulder, and Buchholz the rest they love to give to their starting pitchers--hopefully leading to a second half with a healthy back.
Not a bad bargain. But it's their possible replacements where things could even get exciting.
As a well-built team with a very player-loyal manager and a lot of money invested in most of their starters, it's not too common that a guy from Triple-A will get a real shot with the Red Sox mid-season. Usually the only time to break in when they're not the planned starter before the year starts is with an injury.
Now, last year the Sox had their infamous bridge year, which at its core was about a lack of guys ready to come up to the majors from Triple-A. There's no such shortage this year, however. With Carl Crawford out, the Sox get to see if Josh Reddick can put his newfound patience together with his huge power at the Major League level. Clay Buchholz' absence frees up space for Andrew Miller (without going to a weird six-man rotation) who the Sox have been trying to fix all year with some results finally shining through. And if things go well over the next few days, the loss of Lowrie could well lead to Yamaico Navarro getting his shot with the Sox after a tremendous start to his season in Pawtucket (though Marco Scutaro's resurgence may prevent that).
In a perfect world, Carl Crawford is hitting .300/.350/.500, Jed Lowrie is proving his doubters wrong, and Clay Buchholz is again contending for a Cy Young. But, even with the Sox picking up win after win, this is no perfect world. Accepting that, this may be the best possible time for Boston to come up hurt. Now not only can they get healthy, but they can get some valuable playing time for guys whose ability to contribute is very much worth knowing.