We start on a somber note today, as the Red Sox will pay tribute to Carl Beane, the Fenway PA announcer who died yesterday after suffering a heart attack while driving through Sturbridge.
In addition to a pre-game tribute, the Fenway Park PA system will go silent Thursday. An appropriate measure for a team that has suddenly lost its voice.
For the first time in years, there will be no "Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, welcome to Fenway Park!"
Mark Melancon has been absolutely outstanding since being demoted to Pawtucket following his terrible start to the year. We're not talking you average, every day excellence--we're talking 10 scoreless innings with 18 strikeouts and not a single walk. The difference, reports Mike Andrews of SoxProspects.com (via ESPN), has been agression:
"It's just about being aggressive," said Melancon. "My attitude as I go out to the mound is being aggressive and getting after it. I have to keep throwing inside. I've also worked on my curveball, I'm throwing my changeup more. I just feel more comfortable overall"
We've heard this before from Melancon, who quickly identified a lack of aggression as his problem upon being optioned in the first place. At the time it may have sounded like a bit of a stretch, but it's hard to argue with the results he's seen so far.
Perhaps another issue for Melancon was getting pumped up for big situations? While he doesn't say that outright, we've seen that in the past from closers, and he does drop a few hints:
"There's so many times, especially when you're in big games and big situations, where you try to slow the game down -- sometimes that can happen too much," said Melancon. "I think that I was trying to just slow it down too much. That took away from my aggressiveness and the way I was going about things. I needed to just re-evaluate and use that energy and adrenaline in the right direction as opposed to trying to stop it."
Unfortunately for Melancon, the new high-90s variety of Alfredo Aceves seems to be overcoming his slow start and establishing himself as the closer at least until Andrew Bailey gets back. Hopefully Melancon can get the adrenaline flowing even in the 8th.
Meanwhile, on the injury front, Bobby Valentine says Kevin Youkilis and Carl Crawford are working to make their way back, reports Sean McAdam.
Carl Crawford still hasn't begun swinging a bat again, but hey, he's close! While it makes sense for the Red Sox to take it slow after all the setbacks Crawford has endured, it's incredibly frustrating to sit here two months later and hear that Crawford is almost ready to get back to early spring training levels of activity.
Kevin Youkilis, meanwhile, may be ready to resume "baseball activity" today, which does mean that he'll likely be out for at least a little beyond the bare minimum 15-day stretch which will end this weekend.
Speaking of Youkilis, Grant Brisbee chimed in on the Youkilis - Middlebrooks situation over at Baseball Nation.
The upshot of the article, which features a totally scientific graph, is that Will Middlebrooks is an unknown and exciting quantity, but Youkilis gives the Sox the best chance to win now.
While it's true Will will (ugh) need some time to adjust to major league breaking balls, he's very much capable of producing at the plate. More importantly, though, there's the glove, and I think this is something that's being overlooked with some regularity. Youkilis has been just plain awful at third, looking like a Lowellesque statue there. Will Middlebrooks, on the other hand, is a terrific defender, and that doesn't need much in the way of adjustment to the majors.
I'm not saying Youk should be shipped off at first offer--I've made that clear elsewhere--but that it's not unreasonable to suggest that Middlebrooks gives you just as good a chance at production be it with the bat or with the glove as Kevin Youkilis. Youkilis does have to prove he's not done on some level, much in the way that Middlebrooks has to prove he's ready for the majors long-term. But at least on defense, there's really no question as to who provides the better chance of winning.
Youkilis actually has to make up ground on Middlebrooks, not the other way around.
Also, per Aaron Gleeman, John Maine is now gone. So much for that.