Sep 11, 2013; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; Boston Red Sox starting pitcher Jon Lester (31) works out prior to the game against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Rays-Red Sox Q&A With Bosox Injection's Conor Duffy

This weekend’s Rays-Red Sox series will be critical for both teams as they decide their plans at the July 31st trade deadline. I talked with Conor Duffy of the Boston Red Sox site Bosox Injection to get his perspective on the series. I also answered some questions for him about the Rays.

Robbie Knopf: While we’ve been covering the Tampa Bay Rays’ strong play of late at Rays Colored Glasses, the Red Sox appear to have something going as well. Do you believe that the Red Sox will be a factor in the AL East race when it is all said and done? (Editor’s Note: Of course, the Red Sox lost three straight after I asked him this question)

Conor Duffy: I hate to be pessimistic but ultimately, I don’t believe that the Red Sox have the offensive firepower to make the playoffs this season. This hot streak started when the team designated A.J. Pierzysnki for assignment and opted to go with their young talent and that should be the route that the team continues to take throughout the year. If their youngsters really turn it on down the stretch, then I’d obviously be glad for them to make the playoffs, but I don’t want to see the team sacrifice some young talent at the trade deadline because they were fooled by a hot streak.

RK: Jon Lester has been incredible for the Red Sox this season, going 10-7 with a 2.50 ERA and the peripherals to back it up. How does Lester’s pitching influence your opinion on whether he will stay in Boston? Do you think the Red Sox can get a deal done?

CD: It influenced my belief that the Red Sox should extend Lester; however, his success this season has made it less likely that he will stay in Boston. While he was reportedly willing to accept a 6 year/$105M contract extension before the season, that price has significantly risen lately even if he gives the Red Sox a hometown discount. While the team certainly has the resources to sign Lester long-term, it’s becoming increasingly unclear whether they will cave and spend the $140M+ that may be necessary to secure their ace.

RK: Brock Holt was an afterthought entering the season, but has seen emerged as the Red Sox’ third best hitter behind David Ortiz and Mike Napoli. Do you believe he has really broken through?

CD: I don’t believe that Holt’s offensive performance is repeatable, as evidenced by his .387 BABIP. However, while he may not be a .321/.366/.450 hitter in every season of his career, he has broken out in a different way. He has proven his value. To me, Holt’s defensive versatility has been just as important, if not more important, than his offensive performance. A natural middle infielder, he has started games at every position except pitcher and catcher this season and has certainly proven that, even if he’s not an All-Star caliber player, he deserves to be on a Major League roster and play a major role as a utility man. Plus, he’s just great to watch.

RK: Jackie Bradley still isn’t hitting. How many more chances will he get to prove himself as a starting centerfielder?

CD: As a matter of fact, Jackie Bradley Jr. has started hitting. Bradley returned to the open stance that he had used throughout the minors a few weeks ago and since then, he has been on a tear. In July, he has slashed .378/.429/.467 and has generally looked more comfortable at the plate in recent weeks. If he can parlay that into any permanent solution at the plate and post anything resembling his minor league numbers, then he’ll stay slotted in as the starting center fielder for the next several years. Even if he can’t, however, his defense has been something to behold this season. According to UZR, he has been the third best defensive outfielder in the Major Leagues, so if he begins to hit even a little, then he’s going to get as many chances as he needs to prove himself.

Thanks to Conor for answering our questions, and head to Bosox Injection to read up on the latest regarding the rival Red Sox prior to this upcoming Rays-Red Sox series.

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