The injury bug has bitten the Red Sox. Not once, not twice, but over and over again in a relentless attack designed to destroy any hope at a post season berth. It started in the outfield, little things here and there until it manifested in broken ribs for Jeremy Hermida and Jacoby Ellsbury. Mike Cameron was one of the first with the so called injury illness, going on the DL at the end of April. As an upside to this whole mess, his early season departure has him returning as the virus spreads to the rest of the team. His return couldn’t have come sooner as JD Drew has missed some games as well.
While the infectious, highly contagious injury bug was successfully confined to the outfield for a while, it has managed to make its way elsewhere. Josh Beckett caught it first, and may have gotten it while in training camp as his early season performance was less than stellar. Let us not forget Daisuke Matsuzaka who started the season on the DL as well. The infection spread to another starting pitcher as it tried to take out Clay Buchholz, who appears he might be resistant to this particular strain of the injury bug. With a few off days this week, Clay may be able to make his next start. We can only hope this is not too serious. The infield is the most recent sighting of the virus, as the broken bone strain has returned to hit both Dustin Pedroia and Victor Martinez. Mike Lowell is out with hip problems to top it all off. Please let the hemorrhaging stop…
While this week was the worst of it, with three guys going down in three days, there are several things that have not only kept the Red Sox afloat, but have gotten them surging to a 17-7 record in June after a scorching hot May.
- Darnell McDonald and Daniel Nava. These guys have been spectacular. Both of them had never seen playing time in the major leagues, yet have come through time and again. McDonald has 5 HR and 20 RBI, all of which seem to have come in important games. Nava is batting close to .300 and manager Terry Francona has enough faith in him that Nava hit second in the absence of Pedroia on Sunday. These two guys will continue to be relied on in the coming months, and while nobody expects production like the guys they are replacing, they have been fantastic thus far.
- Clay Buchholz and Jon Lester. These guys have been stellar. Both times that an injury caused a starter to either miss a start or leave in the 2nd inning, the bull pen was taxed big time. These two came out the next day and pitched an 8-inning and 9-inning win respectively. Stepping up and eating the innings is one thing, doing it while you pitch well and get the win is even better.
- The Pen. There are some ugly ERA’s in the bullpen at the moment, but it seems like they have saved some wins that should not have been wins. On Sunday the Red Sox used 8 pitchers for 9 innings. If I had only heard that stat for any team in the majors I would have told you they lost. Not this team, the Sox pulled out a 4-2 win. Despite a few blown Papelbon saves lately and some relatively high ERA’s, the bullpen has kept us in the important games and given us some wins that the Sox might have not otherwise deserved.
While that is all and good for what has happened, it may not directly translate to what the next month will look like. The injuries in the last few days drastically change the landscape. There are a few very important points that need to happen going forward for the Red Sox to stay afloat and maintain a factor in the 2010 playoff hunt.
- No more injuries. Impossible to predict, and just as impossible to plan for. The Red Sox have proven their depth both in position players and pitching. The depth only goes so far, and at some point one of these injuries is going to be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.
- Daisuke Matsuzaka, John Lackey and JD Drew. These guys need to perform big. Drew is going to be relied on much more to be an offensive force. The loss of Pedroia and Martinez will hurt this lineup, and Drew has the ability to singlehandedly carry the team for a while. Let us hope that he turns it on. Completely independent of Buchholz’s status, the lack of offensive production is going to mean tighter games. Matsuzaka and Lackey can hide many of the team’s current injuries if they go out and throw 2-3 consecutive games with two runs or less.
- Josh Beckett. For the same reasons that Daisuke and Lackey need to perform, Beckett is going to be missed more than ever. I am predicting an all-star break return for Beckett, even though nothing is official. If he returns to form and pitches some great games he could help keep the Sox in the mix.
More than anything else, these guys need to come back, and healthy. For now, the Red Sox just need to stay relevant. A deep World Series run will not be possible without Pedroia, Ellsbury, Buchholz, Beckett, and Martinez, but before that a playoff berth is required. Now we wait, and hope for the best. The 2010 Red Sox have proven to be a strong and resilient team, but their biggest challenge awaits them and will test every part of the team over the next six weeks or so.