We've entered the second month of the season and it feels like the Red Sox are in a much better position to compete for the division title this year. The offense has looked much better. Hanley Ramirez has made them better singlehandedly, but the whole line up is much deeper this season. They've still struggled to hit at times with RISP and with two outs, but if feels like it won't plague them all season long like it did last year.
The Red Sox start their second series against the Yankees tonight. This one is at Fenway. Since the last meeting a few things have changed. After that first series it appeared as though the Yankees were on their way to last place for the entire season. I still think that's where they'll end up, but as of right now they're in first place. Masahiro Tanaka has gone on the DL with a forearm/wrist strain since they last met. That's seems like just the beginning of the end for him.
Here are a few of the key topics (stuff) for the Red Sox going into this weekend's series:
1. Starting Pitching is still hot topic #1. On the fifth trip through the rotation Clay Buchholz was terrible and Rick Porcello was excellent. Supposedly after Tuesday nights game, presumably on Wednesday some time there was a meeting that took place between John Farrell, Juan Nieves, Ryan Hanigan, Sandy Leon and the pitching staff. According to reports read by this blogger, they discussed pitch selection and the need to make opposing batters more uncomfortable in the batter's box. You saw some immediate results during Porcello's start when he pitched inside to a number of batters helping him reclaim the outside part of the plate and he threw some fastballs intentionally up in the zone to change the hitters sightlines. Hopefully Masterson, Miley and Kelly will follow suit.
It remains to be seen if this meeting will represent some type of turning point for the pitching staff.
2. Hanley Ramirez had a record breaking/tying month of April and he did it in 22 games. The Red Sox didn't play a game until April 6th and also didn't play on the last day of April. Lots of years they start right on or around April 1st. By comparison, Big Papi hit 10 home runs during the month of April in 2006 in 25 games. The way HanRam is swinging the bat right now he certainly would've hit at least one more home run for a total of 11 if he had 3 more games in April. He is one player that doesn't want the calendar to turn to a new month. Man he's been fun to watch. And I've already started to hear some rumblings about what would've been if he hadn't been traded away traded away and some perspective as to what's happened while he's been gone Let's not punish ourselves with thinking about what could've been if Hanley had never been traded and remember '07 Josh Beckett and class act Mike Lowell.
3. Jackie Bradley Jr.'s return to the Red Sox was awfully short lived. He'll be back and when he is let's hope that he's able to gain some confidence in the batter's box and have some success. Unfortunately this time around he was a victim of the roster game and the starting pitchers inability to go late into games causing a need for more fresh arms in the bullpen. Seemingly a daily occurence, but...
4. With the off day yesterday and the strong performance by Porcello on Wednesday the bullpen is well rested (and it was well deserved). Will we see the Red Sox make another roster move today and send out Dalier Hinojosa? They could use an extra position player? We know that it won't be Rusney Castillo at least not anytime soon.
5. Koji Uehara has quieted the Jonathan Papelbon rumors, which unfortunately will surface every time he blows a game. Koji has recorded 5 of his last 6 outs via the strikeout. And his fastball has been back up to 87/88 mph which is where he was at when he was most successful. He didn't have a full spring training so the 85 mph fastballs could possibly be attributed to that. The Sox will have to monitor his usage, but let's hope he continues the throw the ball well and close out wins for the Sox.
6. Pedro Martinez has a new book coming out on Tuesday, titled Pedro, just in time for him to go into the Hall of Fame this summer. The book was done with Michael Silverman. Sports Illustrated released an excerpt recently that gave new insight to just how crazy Manny really was I for one can't wait to get my hands on this book and read it this summer.
7. Who's going to play RF? With Sabathia on the mound tonight you might see Allen Craig get the nod, but defensively he may not be the best fit in Fenway's big right field. You won't see Daniel Nava since he abandoned switch hitting. So you might see Brock Holt again tonight in RF. This brings to light a potential need for the team at the moment. A RF to use against left handed pitching, it's the perfect role for Shane Victorino, but is he willing to accept a platoon role yet? Rusney Castillo would seem to solve this problem as well. If he can get healthy he may be the every day right fielder sooner rather than later. Most likely the Red Sox will bring Victorino off the DL when he's ready and he'll return to being the de facto every day right fielder.
8. Malcolm Brown sliding to the Patriots late in the first round did feel like Vince Wilfork 2.0 last night. Here's to hoping that he has even half the career that Big Vince did.
9. I'm sick and tired of Cole Hamels rumors and the stupidity surrounding them. Check out this nugget knocking Mookie Betts and Blake Swihart but pumping up Manuel Margot (who is a hell of a prospect). I'm not sure which side is pushing this propaganda, but it's getting old and tiresome. I don't even want Cole Hamels on this team and at this point he's been built up as the savior so much that he'll have no chance to match those expectations if he did come here. NO THANK YOU.
10. Rumors have it that this will be a two weekend chat at redsoxmaineiacs.com check out our first live chat of the weekend tonight at 7 pm for Red Sox vs. Yankees and then again on Sunday night at 8pm.
*Once again these are just my observations and opinions please leave yours in the comments section.