Friday, April 30, 2010

Five swings: Catch Up

The Sox travel to Camden Yards and need to continue the beatdown of the 'have-nots' of the AL East.

1. Bird brain. The Sox have put themselves in a hole early, and have the reality that only two playoff spots can (forever) come out of the AL East. My 'fear the Rays' mantra from the preseason has come to fruition with a 16-5 start. It's still early but the Sox need to keep winning series while they figure out how to get more offensive output.

2. A Win in April. The Sox have had a winning record in April almost without failure.  John Lackey has a chance to continue that 'tradition' leading off the rotation in Baltimore. Lackey will try to extend the quality start string of Clay Buchholz and Jon Lester. Buchholz is tenth in the AL in ERA at 2.19.

3. Catcher in the Wry. Rumors fly about the Sox seeking catching help, but the reality is that Victor Martinez's bat will stay in the lineup. Another (non-Varitek) bat displaces both David Ortiz and Mike Lowell, so that seems unlikely. Longer-term, sure, the Sox have issues with the end of the road coming for Beltre, Varitek and Martinez, Ortiz, and Lowell. That also takes something like 47 million off the books, enough to pay Adrian Gonzalez and another bat.

4. Batman. The search for bats will be an arduous one for Theo Epstein who clearly won't be putting Casey Kelly on the block when he's viewed as a potential ace to complement the existing quartet of Lester, Beckett, Buchholz, and Lackey. From my jaundiced perspective, I see Buchholz as having the best 'pure stuff' among the starters, with the question his long-term temperament, unproven on the "bulldog" scale.

5. Crew's control. The bullpen crew stabilized because of the innings eaten by Buchholz and Lester, and a day off. Manny Delcarmen seems to have pitched his way out of the dog house, and Daniel Bard has five holds as a setup man for Jonathan Papelbon. After that, it's 'catch as catch can' with Okajima struggling, Wakefield in waiting (for his starting job?), and the lefthanders Embree and Schoeneweis capable of fogging a mirror. I wouldn't bet against Kelly being in middle relief in the latter third of the season.

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