1. Maybe the jury is deliberating on the immediate state of the Nos. 2 and No. 3 starters, but I’m willing to render a verdict on this four games into the season: The Red Sox are going to better off in the No. 4 spot than they ever were a year ago. Maybe that’s not such a daring statement considering John Lackey was the slack-jawed embodiment of professional ineptitude every fifth day, but I do love what I saw out of Felix Doubront Monday night. We all agree he needs to be more efficient — he threw 101 pitches in five innings, reminiscent of Jon Lester’s first starts upon coming up in June 2006. But a lefthander who throws in the low 90s with a polished curveball? Count me in. Watching him keep Jose Bautista off-balance with soft stuff away, then have the guts to come inside with a fastball and get him out . . . well, I don’t know how it gets more encouraging than that.
2. I’ve often written since, oh, October 2004 that Bill Mueller is one player every Red Sox fan appreciates and admires. Manny, Pedro, Nomar, Mo . . . they all had their detractors, as ridiculous as that is in at least Pedro’s case. But Mueller is a player everyone liked and wished could stay longer. I’m long overdue in amending that sentiment, however. If you don’t like Dustin Pedroia, you’re either a transparent contrarian, poorly disguised Yankees fan, or Sergio Santos.
3. It’s probably due to circumstances of a particular ballgame more than anything else, but I do think it’s interesting that Bobby Valentine has used one reliever for four innings (Vicente Padilla Sunday) and another for three (Scott Atchison last night). Neither allowed a run, and I wonder whether he’ll be encouraged to use more relievers over multiple innings. Peter Abraham, who covered Valentine in New York, speaks highly of his ability to handle a bullpen (we discussed this on the podcast that will be posted later today). This is a manager who, among other pitching successes, got a 121 adjusted ERA (and an 8-0 record, if that’s your thing) out of journeyman Pat Mahomes in 1999.
4. Mahomes, as some Red Sox fans will recall, was one of those pitchers who too often found himself throwing in-game batting practice during the PED heyday. It’s no surprise his career comps include other ’90s dinger artists such as Tanyon Sturtze, Todd Van Poppel and John Wasdin. And speaking of Wasdin — how about that as a segue? — I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who muttered his name around the time Josh Beckett allowed his third … or fourth … or fifth home run in his first start. Good ol’ “Way Back” — accidental copyright, Jerry Trupiano — gave up 54 homers in 339.2 innings over parts of four seasons with the Red Sox. But as Tim Britton, one of the Providence Journal’s excellent baseball writers, pointed out to me via Twitter, Wasdin’s defining work came during a three-game stint with the Blue Jays in 2003. In 5 innings, he allowed 16 hits, 13 earned runs, four walks, and two homers, for a nice, crisp 23.40 ERA. Jose Cano had better stats than that pitching to his son in last year’s Home Run Derby
5. One note of optimism regarding Beckett: He began last season with a subpar first start, allowing three earned runs, five hits and four walks in five innings of a 3-1 loss to the Indians. How did he follow it up? With a gem. On April 10, he pitched two-hit ball over eight innings, striking out 10 in a 4-0 victory over the Yankees. Should he be so good in his second start this season, it would go a long way toward winning back the fans who remember him as a chief culprit from September rather than the guy who had best season with the Red Sox — from April through August, anyway.
6. I was looking up something or other in one of the old Baseball America Prospect Handbooks the other day when I happened to notice in the 2005 guide that the White Sox’ top two prospects, both outfielders, play or have played for the Red Sox, and both our outfielders. The No. 2 prospect was current pleasant surprise Ryan Sweeney, who was compared to Harold Baines by a club executive and was described as a “natural hitter with a textbook swing.” The top prospect? Well, let’s put it this way. If you remember anything from Brian Anderson‘s brief time with the Red Sox, you were playing seriously close attention. (FYI: Bobby Jenks was the No. 21 prospect. The phrase “personal trials” came up in the first sentence.)
7. I appreciate any attempts at intelligent aggressiveness by the Red Sox, but let’s just say that I hope David Ortiz‘s attempted swipe of second down a run in the seventh inning last night stands as his lone stolen base attempt of the season. Talk about your wasted outs.
8. Underrated moment in Monday night’s game: Adrian Gonzalez basically hitting a tennis backhand on a high fastball from Sergio Santos to drive in Pedroia with the tying run. A beautiful piece of situational hitting in a moment when many hitters would try to do too much. That does count as clutch, right?
9. As for today’s Completely Random Baseball Card:
Moseby had a nice 12-year career, hitting 169 homers and playing a fine center field between the Blue Jays and Tigers. Given that he was the No. 2 pick in the ’78 draft and was a big-league regular at 20, maybe he should have been even better than he was. But I’m not one to question the merits of anyone who pulled off the headband look in ’84, except for maybe Cyndi Lauper.