Opening Day at Fenway Park is special. The Old ballyard looks great and there is always an air of optimism surrounding the Red Sox when they take the field in Boston for the first time.
The Sox will trot out their $217 million ace David Price to take on the 5-0 Baltimore Orioles. Price will get a thundering ovation from the Fenway Faithful as he represents hope for a successful 2016 campaign. Price was one of the bright spots in the seasons first week as he showed us what an ace means to a team. The Sox finished the first week with a 3-2 record. Here are some things I like and didn’t like about The Red Sox first five games.
The starting pitchers other than Price are a problem. Steven Wright did a nice job against the Blue Jays on Sunday but he will be out of the rotation once Eduardo Rodriguez gets back from his knee injury. Clay Buchholz, Rick Porecello, and Joe Kelly were awful. Other than Price, the Sox other starters had a 7.78. You cannot win with such poor starting. If this continues, the bullpen will be worn out and a third straight last place finish is in the cards.
Hanley Ramirez has been the team’s best player. The much maligned HanRam is red hot at the plate, hitting .455 with an 1.206 OPS. He has also has done a good job at first base and seems like he is really enjoying himself. Let’s hope he is not Mr. April, again. Last year, Hanley hit 10 home runs during the first month of the season then got hurt and had an awful year. Hanley is fun to watch at the plate when he is in a groove. Hopefully, he stays engaged for 162.
One of the reasons there is optimism around the Sox is because of the later day Gold Dust Twins: Mookie Betts and Xander Bogaerts. But the two youngsters have struggled at the plate. Betts is hitting .130 and has not done much since homering on Opening Day. Bogaerts had an awful series in Cleveland but seemed to come to life somewhat against the Blue Jays. Xander brings a .227 average home and has not shown any signs of the power he hopes to have. The Red Sox need these two to produce and I think they will.
The bullpen has been spectacular. They have an ERA of 1.13 as opponents are hitting .193 against them. Craig Kimbrel is as good as advertised, bringing a lights out closer to the ninth inning. Junichci Tazawa and Koji Uehara have come back strong from injuries and overuse and seem comfortable in the seventh and eighth inning roles. When Carson Smith comes off the disabled list, this looks like a real strength. I just hope the starting pitching will not wear out the bullpen.
Pablo Sandoval has got to go. There is no role for him on this team. I don’t care what Dave Dombrowski has to do, but he has to get rid of the Panda. He is 0-for-6 this season and seems uncomfortable pinch hitting. There is no doubt that he will get loudly booed when he is introduced during the pregame ceremonies on Monday.
Brock Holt and Travis Shaw have looked very capable in left field and third base. My worry there is the more they play the more they will get exposed. They are great players to have on your bench but I am not sure they are everyday big leaguers. The manager has to be smart and not overuse Holt and Shaw.
The offense has been impressive as they have scored runs in bunches — averaging seven runs a game before getting skunked on Sunday. The Sox have the chance to be a pretty good team that should be in contention for most of the season. But they have to fix the starting pitching. If we are talking a month from now about how bad Buchholz, Porcello, and Kelly are, we will be saying goodbye to manager John Farrell and hello to new skipper Torey Lovullo.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Let’s enjoy the Fenway Opener. Grab a hot dog and beer and have a great day. We will have plenty of time to bitch and moan about the Red Sox as the season goes on.