Playing a player-specific Nine Innings while wondering how they’re going to straighten this out …
1. Grady Sizemore: It’s scary how similar his current statistics are to his numbers in 2010, another near full-season lost to an injury in his sad second act of his what-might-have-been career:
I’m not sure what it means. Maybe the injuries have taken too much of a toll. Maybe the rust from two years away will never be removed. Maybe the talent was eroding four years ago. Maybe he ain’t that young anymore. I do think the Red Sox should give him a little more time — maybe until the end of June? — to show that some of that extraordinary skill-set remains. But that’s tough to do when the team is struggling and patience is at a premium.
2. Jackie Bradley Jr. Stick with him. Bat him ninth every day against righties, recognize that his spectacular and rangy defense provides real value, but stick with him and find out once and for all if he can make the adjustments necessary at the Major League level.
3. A.J. Pierzynski: Man, they miss Salty so much more than I expected, and I actually wanted them to keep him. In retrospect, they should have made him a qualifying offer at the very least. He was flawed, significantly, but he was a valuable player through the daily grind of the regular season. He hit righties well, knocked 40 doubles, played hard, and fit in. This was a mistake, and I don’t think it can be rectified this season. Christian Vazquez might be great, but breaking in a rookie catcher with a veteran pitching staff when you’re fighting to content isn’t ideal.
4. Daniel Nava: Matt Collins at Over The Monster wrote it yesterday, and he’s absolutely right. Nava should be up here, now. Yes, he got off to a brutal start, and he had an option remaining. He also didn’t get the benefit of the doubt that a player of greater pedigree (see No. 1 in our lineup) would receive, which isn’t fair. Nava will probably never be what he was a season ago — he hit .322/.411/.484 with 10 homers.
5. Xander Bogaerts: He was disappointed and ticked off for day. Maybe — probably — he still is to some degree. But he’s been taking it out whatever frustration that lingers on the baseball ever since. Didn’t think I could like him better than I already did, but that’s the case. Bet: He’ll have 10 homers by the end of June.
6. Will Middlebrooks: I actually want to see him get one more real chance, not necessarily because he deserves it, but because his trade value is so low now that it’s hard to imagine they’d receive anything of substance unless he’s the fourth player in a blockbuster. The power is tantalizing. Everything else is suspect.
7. Edward Mujica: Is it possible, given how last season went for him — brilliant all summer, injured and brutal in September, persona non grata in October — that he’s damaged goods in one form or another? Right now he’s some dismal combination of Mark Melancon and Matt Mantei. Are we sure his first name isn’t really Medward? (Sorry. Had to do it.)
8. Clay Buchholz: The simple explanation is that he’s lost his changeup. But I don’t think a simple explanation suffices. His velocity fluctuates more than it should. He’s getting hit hard even when he’s recording the occasional out (anyone who says his struggles are BABIP-related hasn’t seen him throw a single pitch). Mental toughness doesn’t seem to be an attribute. I really don’t know what to do with him if he’s not hurt, but I know this: I dread his starts now as much as I looked forward to them at this time last year.
9. As for today’s Completely Random Baseball Card:
Yeah, he was a pitcher. But based on his bloodlines he can probably hit righthanded pitching better than half the guys in the Sox lineup right now. Sign ‘im up, I say.