Playing nine innings while hating instant replay during baseball games but loving it for John Farrell lip-reading purposes ...
They haven't hit with runners in scoring position, they lost Will Middlebrooks at the one position in which they didn't have much depth, Shane Victorino is yet to play a game, Edward Mujica has had to play the role of Koji Uehara ... and yet with that 5-8 record, they're only two games out of first place in the injury-plagued American League East. There's no reason to panic ...
... but I think even those who are reasonably optimistic recognize that there might be one pending.
The Red Sox cannot lose Dustin Pedroia for an extended length. They can't.
No Red Sox fan should require the reminder that he's essential, to their lineup, their defense, and their attitude. And right now, even the optimists are bracing for an absence. A sore wrist that has been bothering him since the Milwaukee series is affecting him enough that he's back in Boston having it checked out. Given Pedroia's willingness to play through -- and generally refuse to acknowledge -- injuries, this is not a good sign. He played the entire season last year with a thumb damaged on Opening Day. The hope this year is that a healthy Pedroia would be one of the Red Sox holdovers to have a better season in '14 than he did during the spellbinding run through October a season ago. He had a career-low slugging percentage last year. This year, he doesn't have a home run. Right now, as we wait in limbo for word on his health, last year's numbers -- particularly the 160 games played -- look pretty appealing.
2. Mookie Betts is off to a sensational start at Portland. Though nine games, he's at .457/.512/.743 with seven extra-base hits and four steals, and his defense at second base has been spectacular. Tempting though it may seem, there is no chance the 21-year-old gets called up to Boston if Pedroia is out for a prolonged length. These are his first nine games at Double A, he's played just 60 above Low A, and he's a prospect who made a massive leap forward last year; this is a huge developmental year for him, and I doubt they would rush him even if he were on the 40-man roster, which he is not. If you're excited about Betts -- and you should be -- go catch him in Portland. He'll get to Boston eventually, but he's not going anywhere for a little while.
3. In the meantime, a Red Sox infield without Pedroia and Will Middlebrooks will include two of the less-than-inspiring trio of Ryan Roberts, Jonathan Herrera and Brock Holt pretty much every game. If not for its implications on the luxury tax threshold, you bet I'd be on Team Stephen Drew Hysteria right now.
You can't tell me that if Pedroia is out for a prolonged stretch, moving Xander Bogaerts to third and bringing back Drew -- financial implications notwithstanding -- isn't the absolute best option for this team going forward. And yes, I say that knowing there's probably a better chance that they sign Tim Drew and name him their No. 1 starter than bringing back Stephen Drew at this point. Wonder what Stockholm Syndrome at Camp Boras is really like.
4. And because I cannot go a Nine Innings column without celebrating the entire Drew family or pining for the day the Red Sox acquire Giancarlo Stanton (hey, Loria, get a look at this Betts kid), I might as well just acknowledge them both and get it out of the way. So here it is: The Giancarlo Stanton Mammoth Home Run of the Week:
Yes, I imagine this will be a recurring feature, presuming he lives up to his end of the bargain and keeps endangering concession stand lines all over the National League.
5. There's only one question that really matters regarding the reported four-year, $70 million offer the Red Sox made to Jon Lester in spring training: Is this a starting point, or is this close to the maximum of what they will offer him. If they're not willing to go higher than this, then there's no reason for him to negotiate, let alone accept. You can make the argument that going long-term on any pitcher who is about to move into his 30s is a bad idea. But this is the reality in a sport flush with television money: If Lester doesn't get nine figures from the Red Sox, he will elsewhere.
6. John Kruk may be a worse analyst than Harold Reynolds, and you know I do make such a suggestion lightly. His off-the-cuff style comes across as inane, and worse, unprepared. The most egregious example was his suggestion Sunday night that Felix Doubront, who pitched so well in relief last October but who has struggled to start the season, might be one of those guys who might be better if he didn't know when he was pitching, the suggestion being that he gets too worked up for his starts. You think most analysts would know that Doubront had a stretch of 14 consecutive starts last season in which he pitched at least five innings without allowing more than three runs.
7. I'm still waiting for Kruk to acknowledge that Jackie Bradley Jr. made a hell of throw to nail Jacoby Ellsbury at third base Sunday night and prevent the Yankees from scoring a run.
8. If Adrian Beltre -- a.k.a. the Adrian That Theo Should Have Kept -- can stay healthy for the next couple of seasons, he's going to have more than a compelling Hall of Fame case. He'll make it into Cooperstown, and perhaps even without a prolonged wait. He has 376 career homers -- 126 over the past four seasons, including 28 during his wildly fun one-year stay with the Red Sox in 2010 -- and he's a spectacular defender at third base who has won two platinum gloves. In 13 of his 15 seasons, his top statistical comparison has been Hall of Famer Ron Santo. What surprised me recently, however, is that Beltre has had a very similar career to another longtime Cubs third baseman, one who is a contemporary. Aramis Ramirez, now with the Brewers, has 355 homers, and his slash lines (.282/.334/.478) are fairly similar to Beltre's (.286/.345/.501). He doesn't have the defensive value, and he's been worth considerably fewer Wins Above Replacement (71 for Beltre to 32 for Ramirez, according to baseball-reference's version. But it's worth acknowledging that Ramirez has had a fine and unsung career himself.
9. As for today's Completely Random Baseball Card:
It's easy to get happily lost for a half-hour pretty much anytime you hop on to baseball-reference.com. But you need a good half-day to fully absorb Ted Williams's page, especially if you spend the appropriate amount of time pondering the numbers he would have put up had he not sacrificed essentially five seasons of his career because of a far more important obligation -- serving his country in two wars. His line upon returning from Korea in 1953 is mind-boggling -- in 110 plate appearances, he put up a .407/.509/.901 slash line, with 13 homers. I'm not sure why I'm bringing this up today. But it's worth revisiting any day.