A few notes on the lineup card from an Opening Day that played out like the script had been co-written by John Farrell and Tom Werner …
Well, if you weren’t already in baseball love with Jackie Bradley Jr. or at the very least the hope the charismatic young outfielder represents, I suspect you joined the majority Monday.
Three walks, two runs scored, a RBI, and a superb catch in a suspenseless 8-2 victory? A heck of first (regular-season) impression, especially for a kid making his big league debut on the Bronx stage. If he can make it there … well, you know.
Whether you believe he should have started the season with the team or gone to Triple A for nine games and an extra year of team control is irrelevant now. The hope here is that he spends the entire season in Boston. If he’s sent down later in the season, it will likely be for one of two reasons: He’s struggled, or it’s strictly for financial purposes.
His performance Monday was particularly encouraging because he made a huge contribution without delivering a hit, something that will be necessary as he adjusts to the difference between Double A and Major League pitching.
The office got quiet Monday every time he came to the plate — his debut after his sizzling spring was must-see TV. The expectations are immense for this extremely likable kid, and while he can probably handle them, please know that he’s not going to be Mike Trout or Bryce Harper. His peak will be closer to Ken Griffey Sr.’s peak numbers than Ken Griffey Jr’s.
Which, by the way, is an excellent player. That might have been the best thing about his debut — his contributions were all tied to his strengths. He made an outstanding catch in left field, and I suspect he could field a live grenade better than Jonny Gomes fields a line-drive single.
His first plate appearance, in which he worked a walk after Sabathia got ahead 0-2, was the best indication we could ask for that his patience (he has a .423 on-base percentage in the minors) might translate immediately to the big leagues. And that indication was bolstered by two more walks. He saw 27 pitches in his four at-bats, which is downright remarkable for a kid making his big league debut.
I’m still not sure he’ll hit immediately. But he sure knows a ball from a strike, and that discerning ability paired with his golden glove should make him an asset long beyond Monday after noon. No, this won’t be the last time early in this new season that we’ll use remarkable to describe Bradley’s contribution.
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So about the ballgame: One win down, 161 games to go, and at the very least we know this won’t be the third straight season the Red Sox begin 0-for-6.
I wrote this morning about this team’s quest for redemption and winning back the faith of the fans, and Game 1 was an encouraging step in such a direction.
It really did go according to what the Red Sox’ blueprint for victory ought to be. They were patient at the plate (eight walks), got timely hits from unlikely sources (that’s exactly what a Jose Iglesias three-hit game will look like), and ran the bases aggressively (is Jonny Gomes actually a smart baserunner?).
The defense was superb — Bradley/Ellsbury/Victorino will be the enemy of wannabe doubles and triples — and the pitching kept the drama to a minimum. Jon Lester went toe-to-toe with CC Sabathia for five innings, struck out seven, escaped a jam in the fourth inning without getting distracted, and emerged with the victory.
The bullpen was even better, delivering a clue that it is fully capable of easing the responsibility of the rotation, with Koji Uehara, Andrew Miller, Junichi Tazawa, Andrew Bailey, and Joel Hanrahan combining for four innings of one-hit pitching. It was an impressive display of versatility and velocity.
And you know how you can tell it’s been a very good afternoon of baseball for the Red Sox? When the mass exodus begins from Yankee Stadium well before the final out is recorded.
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Seeing that patchwork Yankees lineup in action is just … weird, and if not for the overall good vibes of Opening Day, I’d probably use a crueler adjective than weird.
Jayson Nix? Francisco Cervelli? Pinch-hitter not-so-extraordinaire Lyle Overbay? Are we sure this isn’t a split-squad team? (OK, so Nix and Cervelli had their moments. To which I say: Altuve-sized sample size.)
I’m still getting used to Ichiro in pinstripes. I’ll never get used to the beardless Yankeefied Kevin Youkilis, or for that matter Yoouuuuk!!! chants at Yankee Stadium.
Probably confuses the heck out of Joba Chamberlain.
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I usually leave my various baseball pet peeves in the bat rack on Opening Day, but there is one that crossed my mind during Monday’s game due to Red Sox lineup circumstances:
Switch-hitters who are particularly ineffective from one side of the plate. At some point, the versatility becomes counterproductive. Daniel Nava is fine as a lefthanded hitter against righties, but he has a .191/.302/.318 slash-line batting righthanded against lefties. That’s not acceptable for Jose Iglesias, let alone a corner outfielder.
I bring this up because while I understand why the Red Sox started Jarrod Saltalamacchia behind the plate — he’s the incumbent, he was the team’s 2012 home run leader, he’s become a respected veteran — the better play might have been to go with David Ross.
He’s the superior defensive catcher by far, and Salty hit .170/.211/.283 batting righthanded against lefty pitchers last season. I know, that’s nitpicking on a day of circumstance, and Salty did reach base four times, but I am curious whether Ross, who is slated to be in the lineup for Game 3 against Andy Pettitte, does play against the majority of — if not all — lefty starters.
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I’m almost convinced Eduardo Nunez was an actor hired by Derek Jeter to make him look like a spry, young defensive shortstop by comparison … Dustin Pedroia appeared to dodge a serious thumb or hand injury after sliding headfirst into first base in the ninth inning. Enough with the foolish Mike Greenwell stuff … NESN flashed Mike Napoli’s 2011 stats (30 homers, .320) while identifying them as his ’12 numbers (when he went .227, 24) a couple of times. Readers noted that they did the same thing for Shane Victorino, who finished 13th in the NL MVP balloting two years ago then struggled last year. I’d suggest it was a harmless mistake, but it is odd that it happened multiple times … Joba Chamberlain’s mustache is illegal in at least a dozen states … Is it me, or do Youk and Travis Hafner both look like streamlined versions of their former selves? Must be the slimming nature of the pinstripes … Just when Andrew Miller had me thinking “heal up, soon, Craig Breslow,” he sends Robinson Cano back to the dugout with a 97 mph fastball. He can be exasperating when his command is on the fritz, but he was dependable last year, and there aren’t many lefties with the stuff to blow away a hitter of Cano’s accomplishment … Baseball is back, the Sox are undefeated and the Yankees winless. Pretty much the definition of good sports day, no?