Links: Sox on the mend, Francona’s health

Mark Kotsay. Now that’s a name you haven’t heard much of lately. But Kotsay is scheduled to return to the Major League roster this Tuesday. It looks like Jeff Bailey’s run as our 1B/OF reserve is over, unless something unexpected happens, like David Ortiz hits the DL or something like that.

Speaking of Big Papi, some writers think that he’s ready to turn it around and is just suffering from bad luck. After watching him a bit more, I’m beginning to agree that he’s suffering from a physical and/or mental problem that isn’t going away anytime soon. It’s not the pressure, he’s actually hitting better with men on base this year; but something is keeping him from relaxing up there, just being Papi. I think the easiest solution is for the Red Sox to DL him and then trade a bit player for someone like Micah Hoffpauir, Jake Fox, or Rick Ankiel (some of my personal faves). I think you might be able to land one of them for Brad Penny, bring up Clay Buchholz for a start or two, then slot in John Smoltz in mid-June.

What do I think of the new lineup Terry Francona put out there this past week? Dustin Pedroia batting leadoff? J.D. Drew second? I love it. As I’ve said before, unless Jacoby Ellsbury can pull that OBP up to about .350, he needs to be batting 8th or 9th.

How about Daniel Bard, who recently struck out five consecutive Blue Jays? Trade him? I think not. In fact, there’s a growing murmur in Red Sox Nation to consider trading Jonathan Papelbon, who’s been somewhat erratic this year, for a big bat. Given his continuing shoulder issue, the strength of this bullpen, and Pap’s determination to become the highest paid closer in history, that might actually make some sense; however, I think we just ride him out the full six years, maybe extend him a year, then politely say thank you and hand the job over to Bard. Let someone else pay him what he wants.

Rocco Baldelli has been fun to watch this year, when he has played. The problem is that that hasn’t been too often. Just back from a hamstring thing, Baldelli slid into the right field wall and was promptly pulled from the game. A minor nick, but still. Do we want someone on this bench who we have to worry about this much?

Daniel Barbarisi writes that Jason Varitek’s power surge is for real. With 5 HR in just AB from the left side, that certainly seems to be the case. Hittracker, which is a cool saber-tool website, tells us that this year Tek has hit his 10 HRs an average standard (adjusted) distance of 396.8 ft, and they have come off the bat at an average speed of 103.2 mph, his longest being a 454 ft shot off the Twins’ Anthony Swarzak at the Metrodome. Last year his 13 HRs traveled only 391.5 ft, but he hit the ball a bit harder at 104.7 mph. So it would seem that he’s lofting the ball a bit more, not necessarily clubbing it harder. It’s not so much “more power” as it is better swings on mistake pitches.

Say what you want, last week’s Francona episode is a stark reminder that our valuable skipper is one blowup away from being out of an extended period of time. Francona’s got at least a couple of significant health issues, so keep our cool out there, ok Tito?


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