Just less than a week ago, the Tampa Bay Rays and Boston Red Sox had one of the most heated series we’ve seen between the teams. Games 1 and 2 were both won by Rays walk-offs. Game 3 was a more comfortable win for the Rays, 8-5, but a brawl between the teams made it just as intense as the other two games. Now the clubs will begin another series tonight, this one in Boston. To gain some perspective on some recently developed Red Sox storylines, I talked to Sean Sylver of Bosoinjection.com
Drew Jenkins: Clay Buchholz has struggled mightily this year, and then just recently he went on the DL with a knee injury. How big of a hit have his struggles been to the Red Sox?
Sean Sylver: Buchholz’s struggles have been huge. The Red Sox lack a true ace, though Jon Lester and John Lackey would be desirable front-of-the-rotation arms for any team. This means they need contributions up and down the staff. Buchholz clearly has the highest ceiling of the starters, as exhibited by his other-worldly 2013 (12-1, 1.74). For him to struggle yet again has been frustrating given the way his career has gone; failing to show up in 2014 has cost them a bunch of wins.
DJ: The Red Sox have received little production out of their centerfielders this year. Do you think that a combination of Jackie Bradley Jr. and Grady Sizemore is still the answer there, or do you think that the Sox need to go out of the organization to find help?
SS: We were all rooting for the Sizemore comeback story out of the gate and recognize Bradley’s long-term importance to the team. That said, the outfield has come up short in ’14. There are too many “ifs” out there, from Shane Victorino‘s health, to the Sizemore wild card, the growing pains of Bradley and the disappearance of Daniel Nava. That said, out-bidding the Yankees for Jacoby Ellsbury‘s services probably wasn’t the most sound fiscal approach, either. As the Sox have cobbled together a few wins, some of these guys are contributing and it might be a sign of positive things to come. I think Bradley stays around in center, but the Sox might have to look outside the organization and cut ties with Sizemore and/or some of the feel-good members of the ’13 outfield if they don’t get their act together.
DJ: We have heard rumors about some players disliking the way that A.J. Pierzynski carries himself during games and in the clubhouse. Do you think that this could turn into a serious issue, maybe to the point that the Red Sox consider trading Pierzynski?
SS: I think the rumors fit a convenient narrative for baseball pundits. Some people miss Jarrod Saltalamacchia and yes, he and AJP are slightly different players. Jon Lester also prefers David Ross behind the plate; it’s not unusual that a pitcher clicks with a particular catcher on the staff. But Pierzynski has been decent. He’s throwing out runners, hitting about in line with his career numbers, and keeping the seat warm for the next generation of Sox catchers – Christian Vasquez and Blake Swihart. I don’t think he’s dragging down the clubhouse — losing has been dragging down the clubhouse. It’s a lot more fun in there when you’re winning.
DJ: Overall the Red Sox have struggled this year, but the talent is still there and they certainly haven’t been helped by injuries. What has to change to get some of these guys going for the rest of the season?
SS: I think 2013 was the confluence of a number of factors — health and luck principal among them — that allowed the team to take home the title. If they can get Shane Victorino back in the lineup (and hitting), integrate Stephen Drew, close those lineup holes and find four consistent starters, this will help them avoid losing streaks like the recent crushing 10-game slide. They’ve also had pretty rotten luck in 2014; a couple of balls bouncing in their favor could help take the edge off and get this team rolling back in the right direction.
Thanks to Sean for taking the time to answer my questions! Good luck to the Red Sox in this series, but let’s hope the Rays can bring home a couple of wins.