Links 7-8-2010: Swept in Tampa, the bullpen, Youk’s All-Star chase, Injury turnaround?

Ugh. Not a fun series to watch, as the Sox got swept away last night by the Tampa Bay Rays. We are now two games behind them and 4.5 games back of the Yankees in the AL East, and that All-Star Break can’t come quickly enough.

Game 1: I am usually a Daisuke Matsuzaka apologist, but this game was a disaster for him. He kept stepping off the rubber and delaying, so he could never get into any kind of rhythm. He just doesn’t look confident out there. Admittedly, he had some long half-inning breaks, but he just looked terrible. When the bases are full, he has no problem attacking hitters and going ahead 0-2, but the rest of the time he was nothing. Terry Francona should have pulled him earlier, yes, but who could he go to that is any better right now? A lot has been made of Dice-K’s botched bunt play, but that’s the least of his issues right now. That play shows how much he’s putting pressure on himself and not just playing the game… Eric Patterson had 3 XBH, including a double and two home runs, his first multi-HR game of his career. The first one was a fully legitimate one, but he was lucky to golf the second pitch, a low breaking ball from Andy Sonnanstine. You could just see the disgust and disbelief on Sonnanstine’s face on that one.

Game 2: I gotta say, I like Felix Doubront. The scouting reports say that he can’t control his curveball (he even talked about it with Remy on the radio before the game), so what does he do? He leans on the pitch all night, striking out several surprised Rays with the pitch. Great attitude, and he did pretty well against a legitimate lineup… Hideki Okajima still doesn’t look right. I think he’s pretty hurt this year… David Ortiz got the mini-Barry Bonds treatment, and was intentionally walked twice in order to get to Niuman Romero, who has since been DFA’d. Francona got some heat for letting Romero hit at the end of the game rather than Mike Cameron, who pinch ran instead, but given Cameron’s condition and performance up to that point, I don’t really blame him for that move.

Game 3: David Price just made us look silly with his fastball, just his fastball. But I’m not that surprised he rang up so many, given the lineup he faced… Tim Wakefield got off to a strong start, but the fickle knuckleball turned into a beast last night, wreaking all sorts of havoc. That’s just what Wake is, unfortunately… Jonathan Papelbon came on to pitch the 7th inning – kudos to Tito for using his good relievers in high-leverage situations, “closer” or not… The Rays’ bullpen was tired out, so Matt Garza came in on short rest to pitch an inning. That’s something the Red Sox still do well.

The Red Sox have been looking at relievers, but for now they are going to try and address the bullpen from within, as signaled by the move of Michael Bowden to the bullpen. To his credit, Bowden says he’s excited and willing to help out the club in whatever way he can. When asked, Doubront was not so excited about such a change; and understandably, given the way he’s pitched so far. I like the way Dustin Richardson’s been throwing the ball so far, and I could see him sticking for the rest of the season, barring the acquisition of another lefty reliever.

The Red Sox and the Reds have teamed up to promote Kevin Youkilis and Joey Votto, two deserving to be All-Stars that are part of the run-off vote (Youkilis is from the Cincinnati area). Go vote! You have until 4PM EST today.

Big Papi is officially part of this year’s Home Run Derby. Ask and you will recieve. I’m kind of curious to see how his power stacks up these days.

Darnell McDonald really made a kid’s day back on June 26 in San Francisco. So not only is he a good soldier, but he’s also a great guy.

Injury Update

How bad are the injuries? The Red Sox had 39 members of the 40-man roster up this week (plus two more either DFAed or on the 60-day DL). But it looks like some things may finally be turning around. We might come out of the gate a different team in the second half (quite literally).

Youkilis gave us a bit of a scare there in game 2 in Tampa, and he doesn’t look 100% yet, but I’m just glad he’s not DL bound. In the meantime, the Sox have called up Ryan Shealy as Youk insurance. Shealy likely won’t have much time to prove himself if he wants to stick up here.

Josh Beckett threw 65 pitches in a simulated game on Tuesday, and he feels great. He should, because his injury was pretty minor. The Sox are saving him for the stretch run to come.

Clay Buchholz threw an aggressive bullpen, and appears ready to pick up where he left off.

Jacoby Ellsbury has resurfaced, and will meet with the team in Toronto. He may be able to start a rehab program in the next week or two, which would be great news. So nice of you to drop by, Mr. Ellsbury. There’s definitely a rift in trust between Ells and the team right now.

Jeremy Hermida took live BP, and may be able to go right after the ASB.

Jed Lowrie is playing baseball again, and went 1-2 with two walks in his first game for Single-A Lowell.

C Mark Wagner is back at Pawtucket off the DL. At least we won’t have to go get another catcher when Gustavo Molina goes down with an injury (just kidding, Gustavo. Don’t do it please).


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