Playing nine innings while trying to figure out whether this Getty Images shot is real or a screen cap from an MLB ’12: The Show game the photographer was playing when he realized he was supposed to be at the ballpark …
1. All right, I’ll get the obligatory weak joke out of the way right off the bat here: Are we sure Adrian Gonzalez has enough power to make it as a corner outfielder? [Pause for boos, hisses and readers to abandon this blog and click over to a “50 Worst Adam Sandler Movies Of All Time” gallery or something.] Other than fan-suggested trades that make no sense for the team that isn’t the Red Sox (“Glenn, I think the Dodgers would have to seriously consider trading Matt Kemp if we offered them Lars Anderson, Dice-K, and a couple of B-level prospects. He does have a hamstring injury, you know”), nothing usually drives me crazier than the suggestion players should move to a completely unfamiliar position for the purpose of shoehorning someone else into the lineup. So pardon me while I go full hypocrite here, but I actually have come around on the idea of Gonzalez playing right field from time to time. He’s not terrible out there, it allows the Sox to keep Will Middlebrooks in the big leagues, and playing the less-demanding position of first base again may help Kevin Youkilis revive his bat and remain healthy. Plus, maybe Gonzalez’s attitude about it may help his perception around here. As Peter Abraham noted Wednesday, not a lot of players of Gonzalez’s caliber would tell the manager to “play me wherever you want,” as Gonzalez did before Wednesday’s win. Now, if he’d just start hitting some home runs …
2. I have no idea what to make of this incredible Daniel Nava sequel. None. I was sure he’d played his last game with the Red Sox, and considering he wasn’t even invited to big league camp this spring, I imagine Ben Cherington felt the same way. Yet here he is, after beginning the season somewhere around eighth among outfielders on the organizational depth chart, absolutely rescuing the Red Sox right now. He entered Wednesday’s game hitting .324 with a .984 OPS, then promptly clubbed his second homer of the season in the sixth inning off Jake Arrieta. I’m not sure how long this can last and I don’t really care to consider that right now. All I know is that it’s been a blast, and it says something for Nava that he can come up and do this. Others may have given up on him. Obviously didn’t give up on himself.
3. For whatever frustration there is at times with Jon Lester — whether we’re talking the nonsense of last September, his habitually sluggish Aprils, or the perception that he’s stagnated and isn’t a true No. 1 starter — it is pretty remarkable that he is still first among active pitchers in won-lost percentage (79-37, .681) and eighth all-time. Of course I recognize that there are many superior ways to measure a pitcher’s performance before considering his victory total, but the company he keeps atop that list is also telling: Nos. 2-5 are Roy Halladay (.667), Justin Verlander (.659), Johan Santana (.654), and the underrated Tim Hudson (.653).
4. This is David Ortiz‘s 10th season with the Red Sox. We should have a pretty good read on him by now, shouldn’t we? We know the man probably rates an 80 on the scouting scale when it comes to admirable qualities (humor, kindness, taking Paul Quantrill deep). We also know that his flaws aren’t always masked. He’s sensitive, he worries about his contract status, and every now and then — such as, oh, this week — he’ll have an outburst that seems to come out of nowhere. While any issue he may have with management is probably misguided given the going rate for designated hitters these days, unless he smashes his “Greatest Clutch Hitter in Red Sox History” plaque in full view of NESN cameras, I don’t see what the big deal is. This fits with his history and personality, and all things considered, there’s a heck of a lot more good than bad.
5. Red Sox fans based in Portland and Pawtucket have been aware of this for a while, but if Wednesday was your introduction to Che-Hsuan Lin, you’re now in on what he’s all about, too: The kid is a breathtakingly talented defensive outfielder, arguably superior to incumbent Gold Glove-winning center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury (and their throwing arms are no contest). Lin’s offensive game is a work in progress — he had a .644 OPS between the Sea Dogs and PawSox last year, and was at .716 this year in Triple A. But if he can hit at all, he’s going to have a long major league career (perhaps as a useful bench player in the National League) because of that otherworldly defense.
6. As fun as it was to see the latter’s contribution Wednesday, I never thought I’d see the day when Scrappy ‘N’ Gutty Hall of Famers Nick Punto and Scott Podsednik were on the Red Sox roster. Somewhere, David Eckstein stands alone on a Little League field, air bunting, sprinting out imaginary walks, and waiting for his phone to ring.
7. Alfredo Aceves since his five-runs-without-recording-an-out disaster during the Sox’ April 21 meltdown against the Yankees: 18.2 innings, 13 hits, 2 earned runs, 5 walks, 19 strikeouts. Yep, I’d say he’s taken to the closer’s role just fine, and I’m glad there’s no hesitance by Bobby Valentine to use him for more than three outs at a time since one of his strengths is his ability to pitch multiple innings without requiring much rest.
8. If you somehow missed me pummeling my long-suffering followers over the head with this on Twitter, here’s a link to my guest column on Baseball Prospectus Tuesday, something I was thrilled to be asked to do. It’s a rambling essay-type-thingy on players who put up big numbers in small sample sizes, focusing on Ted Williams‘s ridiculous 1953 season, when he hit .407 with 13 homers in 91 at-bats. Check it out, and let me know who you thought I missed. I’m already kicking myself for overlooking Rudy Pemberton, who hit .512 in 45 plate appearances for the ’96 Sox. I’m kind of surprised Dan Duquette hasn’t given him a shot with the Orioles.
9. As for today’s Completely Random Baseball Card:
I’m not sure whether there’s ever been an outfielder-slash-first-base coach in baseball history, but the Red Sox are probably a pulled Podsednik hamstring away from this guy possibly becoming the first. (Also: Killer glamor shot, Ochoa.)