The 2016 Red Sox have gotten off to an interesting start to say the least. After a 9-5 start last year, this year's team is currently sitting at 7-8, and the record has many fans feeling very uneasy about going forward. However, a lot of fans are failing to realize that the Red Sox stand to get a few key players back, and greatly improve this clubhouse.
You can ask anyone what their biggest concern is for this team, and 99% of fans will tell you its the starting pitching. The Sox took a step in the right direction with Price, but the 4 games in between his starts still remain a big question mark. Although we have gotten some decent starts from Buchholz, Kelly, Porcello and Wright, it is still only good enough for a sub .500 record.
Enter, Christian Vasquez. After a long recovery from Tommy John surgery, Vasquez returned to the Red Sox lineup against the Baltimore Orioles. Having to choose between Blake Swihart and Christian Vasquez is the best problem the Red Sox have, and a problem a lot of teams want to help solve.
The two youngsters are both very capable of playing the position at a major league level, however, one is more suited for the needs of this team. Swihart, although he's struggled so far, is an offensive minded catcher. He can pick up a bat and hit for a very good average, but that does not translate to his command of a game. With the strength of this lineup and a mediocre rotation, the Sox need to sacrifice offense at the catcher position in order to get the most out of their pitching. Not to mention that Vasquez has picked up where he left off with his defense.
With what we've seen defensively so far, everyone seems satisfied with the effect Vasquez has had with this rotation and with his defense. Since he has returned from surgery, the pitchers seem to welcome him back with open arms and it has translated into good performances. If it is true that we now have our guy, I can't imagine that they carry 3 catchers forever, or let Swihart sit in Pawtucket. It's time to move Swihart, possibly in an effort to get a #2 starter here and bolster up this rotation.
After yesterday's start, many people are worried that the Sox have wasted $217 million on David Price. Even after blowing a 5-1 lead against his former team, there is reason to be optimistic about the ace. Historically, David Price has always gotten off to a slow start, with April consistently being his worst month. Price has taken responsibility for his slow start, and says he is determined to make Red Sox fans love him.
Heading into the season, many wondered if Eduardo Rodriguez would be able to take the #2 starter role from Clay Buchholz. With flashes of brilliance last year, it seemed more than likely that we would see Rodriguez throwing after Price. However, the optimism surrounding Rodriguez would come to a halt after a knee injury caused him to start the season on the DL.
After a few weeks of recovery, Rodriguez has been throwing simulated games, and his return seems closer than we think.
After seeing what we saw from Rodriguez last year, it's a safe bet to say that his return would drastically help this rotation. The only complication with his return would be deciding who gets the boot from the rotation. With Steven Wright sitting on the bubble in the 5th spot, it would most likely spell his return to Triple A or possibly the bullpen, depending on Joe Kelly's progress.
Joe Kelly left Tuesday's game after just 0.2 innings after being diagnosed with a shoulder impingement. No one wants to see a starting pitcher out for any stretch of time, but this could be a blessing in disguise for Boston. The Sox will most likely bring up Henry Owens from Triple A, and depending on his performance, they can increase his trade value. Paired with Swihart or other prospects, the Sox may be able to get a big return for the left handed pitcher.
With the longest pitching performance of the season being 7 innings, the Red Sox are desperately awaiting the return on Carson Smith. Smith was brought to the Red Sox from Seattle in hopes to fill the role of long reliever. Smith pitched in 70 innings last year with a 2.31 ERA. With Smith's return, we can now avoid the inevitable disaster of Matt Barnes and/or Noe Ramirez.
A lot of people were calling for Mookie Betts' head after his slow start this season, saying he needs to be moved down in the lineup. However, people forget that last year in April, Betts hit a meager .230 with 2 homeruns, but was hitting .330 by June. It's safe to say that he is a slow starter, and that he will eventually turn it up and become the player we know him to be. That slow start may have ended after he went 2-3 with a homerun, 2 RBIs and 3 runs scored on Thursday.
When it comes to the manager, the Red Sox can perform addition by subtraction. I won't get into the exact moves that prove he isn't worthy of managing this team, but I know I'm not alone in calling for his job. We all saw what happened to this team last season when Farrell took his leave and Lovullo took over. This team would be instantly better with Lovullo at the helm.
So, Red Sox fans, before you hop off the bandwagon this season, just remember that everything can and most likely will get better. Obviously, all of these aspects depend on if these players can perform to their potential, but there is definitely reason to be optimistic. 7-8 is an underwhelming start to this season, but just remember that at this point last season, the Red Sox were in first place, and the Blue Jays were in last. Needless to say, it' early, so give it time.
By Matt Watts