9/28/2009: Looking ahead to the playoffs

As Dan Shaughnessey points out, getting swept by the Yankees in a series that doesn’t count for anything doesn’t really matter, because the Sox are doing what they do best – getting healthy and prepped for the postseason. It looks like it’s working:

Jon Lester was hit in the leg with a line drive, and I seriously saw the postseason flash before my eyes. But he’s ok – he tossed a 55-pitch bullpen this week, and is slated to take the ball again. Rocco Baldelli is back, and ready to contribute once again. Hideki Okajima has returned, following some acupuncture treatmentJed Lowrie is also back (once again) and did show some power with the bat, but I’d be a little leery of including him on the playoff roster if he could get hurt again on any play. Nick Green is also slowly coming back, so our middle infield depth is paper thin right now.

Not everything is peachy keen, however. Mike Lowell received another injection in his hip, and we can only hope that it can stay together through October. Daniel Bard can get everyone out but the Yankees this season; let’s hope that doesn’t get in his head, should we see them in the ALCS. Manny Delcarmen continues to be bad, but the Sox are hoping he can turn it around; if not, I could see them including Michael Bowden or Hunter Jones on the playoff roster. Junichi Tazawa has hit the 60-day DL, so he isn’t available. Jason Varitek continues to make outs (“struggle” doesn’t begin to describe it), and with Victor Martinez putting in time with Beckett and Daisuke Matsuzaka, it looks like the Sox are preparing him for a bench-only role in the playoffs.

With some really strong performances by Clay Buchholz and Matsuzaka, the Red Sox rotation is really coming together these past two weeks. It’s a great reason to be optimistic, but I would remain cautiously so. It looks like Lester has been chosen as the Game 1 starter in round 1, should the Red Sox land the wild card and go to the playoffs. Josh Beckett was a late scratch tonight with back spasms, and that only reinforces that thought. I didn’t totally agree with Lester starting it off, given Beckett’s playoff experience; but I don’t have a big problem going with the guy who posted the best numbers and has looked like a Cy Young Award candidate the past two months.

More good news. The play of Jacoby Ellsbury is another reason to be optimistic, because he’s hitting .322 since returning to the leadoff role in late July. This offense is so much more dangerous when he’s on the basepaths two or three times a game. And don’t look now, but that big bat we didn’t land at the deadline? It’s been showing up in the person of David Ortiz, who’s just raking at the plate once again. He’s got that confidence back, and pitchers are again afraid to just throw fastballs to Big Papi. That significantly complicates their outings against this deep lineup.


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