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So far, so good for the Red Sox

Posted by Peter Abraham, Globe Staff  June 30, 2010 12:03 AM

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b933d438ec9e410acf0e6a706700db0b.jpgYou can't replace Dustin Pedroia and Victor Martinez. Up-the-middle players who can produce offensively aren't easy to get in the first place, never mind find replacements for.

So every game the Sox win until they get back buys them a little more time. That Bill Hall and Jason Varitek each had two RBIs tonight is a good sign ó to the team and everybody else ó that there's no reason for panic.

Hall is 3 for 9 with three RBIs and two runs scored in the three games he has started in place of Pedroia. The Sox are now 16-6 in the games Varitek has started. These guys aren't random no-hopers plucked out of Triple-A, they're former everyday players who know what to do.

Martinez will be back on or around July 16 and Pedroia should return a week into August. If you're expecting a big trade, that is unlikely.

"I think if we do anything major, anything of real significance, it has to make sense now for the short term and also make sense once we get our guys back and healthy," Theo Epstein said before the game. "You donít want to make a major trade that all of a sudden three or four weeks from now doesnít fit. ... More likely, we continue to see how this group of players performs, see how the players who are getting an opportunity to play more regularly now do filling in and continue to be on the lookout for upgrades when we can."

The other thing that stood out tonight was that an 8-1 lead with two innings to go proved problematic for the bullpen. It's a bit of a disgrace that Daniel Bard had to get an out in the eighth inning and Jonathan Papelbon one in the ninth. Bard has now appeared in 39 games, the most in the AL.

Epstein was asked about the idea of trading for a reliever.

"Every contending team could always use another useful reliever. Thatís something teams are always looking to add and weíre probably no different," he said. "Itís not a condemnation of our current pen. But to be realistic, a really good reliever always makes your team better.

"That said, when you trade for two or three months of a reliever, it doesnít matter if youíre getting a good one or a great one, you still donít know what youíre going to get. You donít necessarily want to give up really, really good prospects to get that type of guy because youíre not sure what youíre going to get in a small sample size from a reliever.

"The No. 1 way you can make your bullpen better is always to try and develop as much consistency as you can from the guys you have. In our case, we have plenty of talent out there."

I agree with the notion that you don't want to give up top prospects for relievers. But I'm not sure about the "plenty of talent" aspect of it. Hideki Okajima has been in a decline for two years now and has a 5.81 ERA. Simply put, he can't be trusted.

A few other notes and observations from tonight:

* Ryan Westmoreland was in the dugout before the game with his parents and girlfriend. Several of the big leaguers, in particular Pedroia, came over to wish him well.

Westmoreland needed help getting down the dugout steps and he walks with the aid of a cane. But he said he's getting a little better every week and remains optimistic that he will return to baseball.

ďJust being around the field, to come here and be around the game, itís special,Ē he said. ďI know Iím closer and every time I get to do something more, itís one step closer to my goal.Ē

* Rays manager Joe Maddon took the fall for pitching to David Ortiz in the fifth inning. It seemed like an easy decision. Ortiz was 11 of 29 with two home runs against Shields and the hitter on deck, Kevin Youkilis, was 3 for 30.

But they pitched to Papi and he crushed it. James Shields said he was trying to pitch around him and left a fastball up and over the plate.

David, by the way, accidentally hit me with a shot of his cologne as we were speaking after the game. Unfortunately, I had to go write my story and couldn't go over to Remy's to cozy up to any chicks.

* That "Adrian Beltre is a beast" post before the game was well-timed. He was 4 for 4 with two doubles and now has a .948 OPS. The dude is hitting .422 (27 of 64) in his last 17 games. The only concern is that it wouldn't seem possible for this to continue and a course correction is coming. But for now, the Sox are riding the wave.

Isn't it funny what a one-year contract can produce sometimes?

* The Sox are only 9-7 in games John Lackey has started. But he's 5-0, 3.72 in his last seven starts. He has a history of building momentum and getting on good rolls. This could be the start of something.

* The Rays have lost nine of 12 and 20 of their last 32. My prediction in May that nobody would catch them is not looking too good. In my defense ... no, I have no defense. I was an idiot. Bobby Valentine told me once that you can't really judge a team until June 15 and he was right.

* Daniel Nava is 3 for his last 21 and his hit tonight was an early Christmas present from the official scorer. Wonder how long the Sox can hit him second?

That is it for tonight. Thanks to Mike Vega for filling in on the game updates as I handled the newspaper duties. We will be back at it tomorrow.

Thanks as always for reading.

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