Extra Bases

Red Sox: 88 down, 74 to go

Instead of writing a long involved recap of the season to date, let me ask you this question.

If on Opening Day I said the following would be true at the All-Star break …

* Josh Beckett would have one win.

* Jacoby Ellsbury would play nine games.

* Mike Cameron would have three home runs and 14 RBIs.

* Dustin Pedroia would hit .213 in May then go on the disabled list on June 26.

* David Ortiz would have one home run in April.

* Guys named Darnell McDonald and Daniel Nava would become regulars.

* Bill Hall would be in the top nine in plate appearances on the team

* Every reliever outside of Daniel Bard and Jonathan Papelbon on the Opening Day roster would have ERAs over 4.59.

* Tim Wakefield would have the third-most innings pitched on the staff.

… would you have said the Red Sox would be 14 games over .500 and within three games of a playoff berth?

Probably not.

If Terry Francona is not the manager of the year so far, who is? And there’s a lot of credit due Theo Epstein and his staff for finding the spare parts to plug in and keep the team running.

The Sox have already used 18 pitchers (not counting Hall and Jonathan Van Every) and 23 position players. Francona said Sunday that he really likes this team. The Sox don’t always play well. But since the first few weeks of April, they always play hard and they play smart.

The Sox need to get healthy and get some bullpen help to make the playoffs, two things that should happen. In approximate order, they should get Manny Delcarmen, Beckett, Jeremy Hermida, Victor Martinez, Jed Lowrie, Pedroia, and Jason Varitek back.

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I won’t hazard a guess on whether Mike Lowell will play for this team again, or Ellsbury for that matter. Lowell could end the year on the DL or be released while Ellsbury is likely at least a month away, or more.

A few things to keep an eye on:

* How Michael Bowden fits into the bullpen once he arrives.

* Whether they can find an effective lefty reliever.

* How quickly Pedroia can return

* Whether Victor Martinez can pick up where he left off offensively.

* If Ortiz and Adrian Beltre can maintain their production.

* And finally whether the bullpen of the Yankees and the rotation of the Rays lets either of those contenders down.

The All-Star break comes at a good time for this team. Every day off is a day closer to the injured players returning. It starts up again Thursday and should be a lot of fun.

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Thank to everybody who has read, commented on and supported this blog during the first half of the season. Our traffic is up and so are the comments. It has been cool to run across so many people in so many cities who follow the team on Boston.com. We really can’t thank you enough.

The community of baseball fans on line is a vibrant one and it’s great to be a part of it.

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