Sunday, April 6, 2014
Red Sox need to hit refresh button
By Tony Lee
BOSTON -- The Boston Red Sox have talked often this spring of turning the page from 2013 to 2014. Starting fresh. Carving out a new identity.
After a woeful sweep at the hands of the Milwaukee Brewers this weekend, that mission has taken on new life. Yet, with a handful of roster fluctuations getting in the way, it also has become a difficult one.
“I know everybody out there is giving their best, that’s all I really care about,” catcher David Ross said after Sunday’s 4-0 loss. “We’ll iron those things out. We’re still trying to come together and learn what we’re all about, figure things out.”
Continuity is an issue. The Sox have used five different batting orders in six games, with the past two looking very little like the ones the organization imagined before the season began. Two starting position players are on the disabled list. David Ortiz already needed a day off. The leadoff spot, vacated when the most dynamic athlete the lineup has seen in years left for New York, has yet to be claimed, with Daniel Nava and Grady Sizemore combining to go 3-for-25 with one walk through the first six games.
The result is a dormant offense, sloppy defense and a losing streak in the first week of the season that matches the longest the team had in all of 2013.
David Ross didn't like this called strike in the second inning, but isn't worried about the Sox's slow start.
“We have to make the most of what we have at the time,” manager John Farrell said. “Injuries are unpredictable. We haven’t been able to get into a rhythm with our starting lineup but that’s the game. We feel like we’ve got the quality depth to replace guys. The next guy up has got an opportunity in front of him to do a job. We’ve got to make the most of the situation at hand.”
This was never much of an issue last year. There was almost always a ready-made replacement in each spot if someone went down, or an easy shift that Farrell could make to spell a guy when he needed it. Already there is a slight sense of the club scrambling to piece things together.
In addition, the team’s aggressive nature has yet to come out. Much of it has to do with Jacoby Ellsbury’s departure and the fact that the team has not put enough runners on in good situations to push the issue on the bases. Sample sizes being what they are, consider that through six games in 2013 the Sox had eight stolen bases and were caught once. Through six games this year, they’ve attempted to steal a base just three times and have been successful only one time.
In Farrell’s first season at the helm, the Sox went seven games before committing an error. They committed five alone in the series with Milwaukee, and when the bats are cold and the bases low on activity, those miscues loom large.
“I can’t say it was because of a lack of preparation,” Farrell said. “Guys are performing and playing to the best of their abilities. Right now, because of some guys that are missing in the lineup, our margin for error becomes maybe a little bit more fine now. Not an excuse, that’s just where we are right now.”
And where they are on the calendar is about to host Texas, which is 29-14 against Boston over the past five years, often victimizing the Sox with its own aggressive style. Even so, maybe a good night of sleep and a new opponent can change some things. After all, the Milwaukee series offered up a variety of odd factors (varied start times, Friday’s ring ceremony and a rested opponent that was in the city long before the Sox arrived from Baltimore early Friday morning). The Sox did not do a great job of adjusting.
“Yeah, there was a lot going on,” Ross said. “That was a, no excuses, I’m not making excuses, but getting in late, ring ceremony, turnaround night game, extra innings, day game. They took it to us, give credit to that team. We’ll regroup, have a night game tomorrow, get some rest tonight. It’s a long season, we’ve got a lot of games left and we’ve got guys in here that play hard so I’m not worried about that.”
There may not be any concern for the Red Sox, but there also isn’t a true identity yet.