MIAMI — Direct from Florida, some random thoughts on the Red Sox:
• Red Sox starters have a 4.94 ERA and the team is 14-19 at home. If those two numbers don't change, finishing over .500 will be a stretch. The Sox haven't finished under .500 since 1997. But right now this looks more like an 81-81 team than it does a 90-72 team.
• Terry Francona, Bobby Valentine, and Theo Epstein will all be in the same ballpark on Sunday when the Red Sox play the Cubs at Wrigley Field on ESPN. There's more drama than any soap opera.
• Once the Red Sox trade Kevin Youkilis (and that seems virtually certain according to sources), we'll know what the front office thinks of this team. If they trade for prospects, that means they don't think this bunch can win and given the state of the AL East, maybe they do think that.
The interesting part will be to see if the trade gets expanded. The Sox could certainly part with Youkilis alone. But they have spare outfielders, a spare catcher, and assorted extra relievers, too.
• To get to 90 wins, the Sox would have to win 61 of their remaining 102 games. That's nearly .600 ball for the better part of four months. That's why they'll get prospects for Youkilis. Plus they'll save some money.
• Ryan Lavarnway (.286/.380/.429) has been heating up of late at Pawtucket. He has to be a little annoyed that eight of his teammates have been called up and he remains in the minors.
• Here's hoping that Rich Hill's latest elbow injury is not serious. The guy worked extraordinarily hard to come back from shoulder and elbow surgeries. He deserves to get through at least one season unscathed.
• Yes, quite often the umpires are terrible. But that is the case around the game and the Red Sox haven't been treated any more unjustly than any other team. But they complain incessantly, especially the pitchers. There is no upside to that. All that is going to happen, if it hasn't already, is that the Sox will get a terrible reputation among the umpires and not get the benefit of borderline calls.
• The Sox drafted three players from the University of Florida, which is headed for Omaha and the College World Series. Those players, including LHP Brian Johnson (supplemental first round), can't be signed until their season is over.
• Had several fans say over the weekend that seeing Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasburg at Fenway made them wish the Red Sox had some young players who were as interesting.
That's another reason to make a trade, to get the reigns off Will Middlebrooks. There's a strong undercurrent among fans that they want to see him play and play every day.
• The Red Sox have used 51 batting orders in 60 games. The most common order was used three times. That was:
Aviles, Sweeney, Pedroia, Gonzalez, Ortiz, Youkilis, Saltalamacchia, Ross, and Byrd.
• I think Francona had it right about Alfredo Aceves. He is best used in every role, not one. He is a pitcher, not a starter or a set-up man or a closer. Use him as needed to spot start, go three innings, get one batter, finish the game, etc.
Aceves is too willing to walk somebody to trust him as a closer. His 3.8 walks per nine innings is the highest rate of his career. Only poor Daniel Bard was higher on the team.
• Speaking of Bard, what was the rush to get him back on the mound after his meltdown in Toronto? Let the guy work on his issues in the bullpen for a week or so then have him start a game normally somewhere.
Why draw attention to his issues by having him start and pitch one inning? Not sure what that accomplished other than magnifying his problems.
Hate to say it, but the Sox are doing to Bard what the Yankees did to Joba Chamberlain. They had a good thing and messed with it.
• There's really no getting around it: Dustin Pedroia (.277/.335/.415) is not having a very good season when compared to his usual standards. He has 20 extra-base hits. To put that in some context, Robinson Cano has 32 and Ian Kinsler has 30.
Pedroia usually stays hot for a long time once it clicks. He needs that to happen soon.
• Ryan Sweeney hasn't hit a home run since July 27, 2011. He has two in a span of 723 at-bats over the last three years. To be certain, hitting home runs does not define a player. But two in 723 at-bats?
• Scott Podsednik has a 141 OPS+ in 44 plate appearances since he showed up. Given where he was and his long absence from the majors, that's impressive, small sample size or not.
• Odd season for Adrian Gonzalez. A ton of doubles. Great numbers with runners in scoring position (.355/.405/.597) and you have to admire the skill with which he's played right field and willingness to keep going out there. But his overall numbers (.266/.314/.419) are brutal, especially at what he's costing them.
• Folks keep asking about when the injured players will come back. These are just guesses based on what little information is provided: Cody Ross (late June), Carl Crawford (around the break), Andrew Bailey (after the break) and Jacoby Ellsbury (after the break, maybe).
Ross hopes to start a rehab when the team gets back home. Crawford may be a week or two later as he builds up arm strength. Bailey is close to getting back on the mound. All three of those guys have said they feel good physically and are close to doing what they would normally do.
Ellsbury is much harder to gauge because he hasn't been on the field as much.
• The Red Sox game programs at Fenway have really stepped up their, well, game in terms of stories, graphics, information, etc. There's a lot of interesting stuff in there.
A few non-Red Sox thoughts:
• As somebody who covered a lot of college baseball (UConn, Eastern Connecticut State, UConn-Avery Point etc.) as a young reporter, what Stony Brook has accomplished by getting to the College World Series is amazing. Teams in the northeast have so many disadvantages and they overcame all of them.
• Nobody questions the competitive heart of Kevin Garnett. But he should have stayed on the court to congratulate the Heat after that hard-fought series was over. Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, and Doc Rivers all did.
• Is there a single Patriots fan who was unhappy to see Chad Ochocino go? Or Patriots quarterback?
• If you haven't seen the video of Jimmy Fallon and the Roots doing "Call Me Maybe" on classroom instruments with Carly Rae Jepsen singing along, here you go. Questlove on the kazoo is hilarious.
• Do any of you watch television shows when they're actually on? Since returning from from spring training, I've watched only shows that were on the DVR or on-demand (outside of sports, of course). I literally have no idea what days certain shows are on. I just I know I like them and I'll watch them when I get a chance. The whole idea of a network using certain shows to lead into another seems like a waste of time.
• Walk to Miami. Take a boat. Drive a car. Parachute in. Ride your bike. But whatever you do, do not fly into Miami International Airport. Time elapsed from getting off the plane to getting behind the wheel of a rental car on Sunday: one hour and 33 minutes.
• Day off in Chicago on Thursday. Any ideas?