I was lucky enough to talk to Derek Skytalo, the editor of the Red Sox website Bosox Injection about the Red Sox and this weekend’s Rays-Red Sox series. Please have a read below.
Robbie Knopf: The Red Sox have started the season 1-5. We know that there’s an incredible amount of baseball yet, but on a scale of 1 to 10, how much are you panicking about the Red Sox’ early struggles?
Derek Skytalo: To be honest, personally my level is about a 6. While I am concerned, I do believe this offense will be one of the best in baseball again which will help offset some of the pitching woes. The bullpen is the biggest area of concern for me with Aceves and Melancon struggling early, but more on that later. The starters are also concerning, at least a few of them. Beckett and Buchholz are the key to the Sox winning this year and so far they raise a few question marks. Doubront has a tremendous amount of potential and could be a nice surprise story of the year. I won’t go into Bard here as I see there is a question below on him. Should the Sox struggles continue through this 9 game home stand then my level will quickly increase to about a 9. A lot of Sox fans are panicking while some are quietly holding out faith that they turned it around last year and they can do it again this year. The natives are definitely getting restless though and Red Sox Nation needs a positive to build on.
RK: The Red Sox made two big trades this offseason, bringing in relievers Andrew Bailey, who could miss all of 2012, and Mark Melancon? What are your thoughts on the early returns from those two trades?
DS: The Bailey trade is looking like an absolute bust right now, especially considering that Josh Reddick is off to a decent start in Oakland. If Bailey can return after the All-star game and bring any type of value to the Sox then the trade will be beneficial. If not, Ben Cherington’s start as Red Sox GM will long be remembered for his inability to make trades.
The same goes for Melancon. So far he’s been anything but effective out of the pen and has yet to prove he can get an out in the American League. Giving up Jed Lowrie and Kyle Weiland wasn’t a huge loss but Melancon was supposed to be the setup man who could challenge for the closer role. Not a good start and as you know Red Sox fans aren’t real forgiving. Just ask Carl Crawford, Bobby Jenks and John Lackey.
RK: Speaking of players acquired this offseason, how shocked are you that Ryan Sweeney, the throw in as part of the Bailey trade, has been the Red Sox’ best hitter thus far, going 8 for 18 (.444)? Which hitters do the Red Sox most need to step up to get back to their winning ways?
DS: To see Sweeney hitting over .400 is a huge surprise, especially when you look at how he struggled in Spring Training. Him and Cody Ross have done a 360 to start the year. Ross tore the cover off the ball in March while Sweeney struggled. Now it’s Ross who’s struggling and Sweeney who can’t miss at the plate. He’s been a pleasant surprise and if he can continue to bring productive bats well into the year and Crawford returns, maybe Ross can be used as trade bait? Just a thought.
As far as hitters that need to get going, there are two names that are the most obvious; Jacoby Ellsbury and Kevin Youkilis. Both are struggling to get much of anything going at the plate as evidenced by their offensive lines. Both are batting well under .200 and both will be integral parts if the club is to turn things around.
RK: This season, Bobby Valentine and the Red Sox made a couple of bold moves, turning Daniel Bard into a starter and having Alfredo Aceves go from competing for the 5th starter job into the team’s closer. How surprised were you by those moves and how do you think they will work out for the Red Sox in 2012?
DS: The moves didn’t surprise me a whole lot as it was clear Bard was going to get his chance to start early in the winter. I don’t necessarily agree with how things have unfolded. I believe Aceves should be the setup man and Bard the closer. It’s that simple, at least for this year. Aceves was lights out last year in the pen and with Aaron Cook getting more work in as a starter in AAA Pawtucket, it’s time to bring him up and move Bard back as the closer. His ego can take it knowing he’ll have all next winter to prepare to start. This team needs confidence at the backend of the bullpen and right now they don’t have it. In order to compete in the AL East and win ballgames, a bonified closer is essential and Bard gives them just that. I just hope Bobby V doesn’t wait too long as Cook has a May 1 opt out option.
RK: What do you think about Bobby Valentine so far? We know that he’s quite a character, but do you think he’s a good fit at manager for this Red Sox team?
DS: So far I think Bobby V has made all the right moves, except for one. He brought in Justin Thomas in relief in game two of the Toronto series and things got ugly. Other than that, he’s made the right moves and hasn’t been rewarded by his players. He’s an animated, colorful guy and the media loves him for all the headlines he produces. Do I think he’s the right guy for the Red Sox? After last year’s loose and runaway clubhouse, yes I do. It was obvious a strict manager who emphasizes conditioning was a must to try and turn this club around. There are many egos on this team and he is a no BS type of guy. You’re either with him or you’re not and once he gets everyone on board this team will be a well oiled machine. If guys like Beckett can’t get on board, well………
RK: And now let’s get to this Rays-Red Sox series. Do you think the Red Sox can turn their season around this series versus the Rays? How do you think this series play out?
DS: I believe the offense will show more life in this series as some home cooking always does this team some good. The Sox need to be patient at the plate, get the pitch counts up on the Rays starters and get to their bullpen in order to have any success. In the end I think the Rays pitching will prevail in the long run as a split of the four games would be a victory for Boston. Sox win Saturday and Sunday at best.
RK: Nice talking to you, Derek, and looking forward to a fun series and an exciting season.
DS: Thanks, you too.
Everyone at RCG would like to thank Derek for talking to us, and I also answered a few questions about the Rays and the series for Bosox Injection that we’ll link to when it comes out.