Andrew Miller Experiment Failing
After a promising beginning, the Red Sox' Andrew Miller reclamation project is looking a lot less promising these days.
On the one hand, his seven earned runs in just under three innings on Friday was just one game. On the other hand, he hasn't really been impressive since his second start, and decent American League offenses have made him look pretty terrible. He's walked nine batters in his last two starts without striking out a single man.
It's not just been a matter of some bad breaks or good patience, either. Hitters seem to have figured out his big breaking slurve and aren't offering at it, and it doesn't help that his fastball has been all over the place. He's not simply missing with it, he's missing wildly, with his strikes almost seeming accidental. Simply put, he looks like the Andrew Miller that failed to stick with the Marlins, and that's not someone the Red Sox can count on.
Post-Derby Slump In Effect?
Since participating in the Home Run Derby, Adrian Gonzalez and David Ortiz are 1-for-15 and 1-for-13 respectively. Even ignoring Sunday's bizarre offense-free game, it's been an ugly start to the second half with a lot of ugly swings.
While it's tempting to say that Gonzalez' homer in the All-Star Game proper and his pair of near-shots Sunday night (one that went just foul, the other which was saved by a leaping grab at the wall in right), what you really want to see for reassurance is some good, level, line drive swings. David Ortiz at least has had one of those with his double Saturday
There's not a lot of evidence that the Home Run Derby really does mess up a player's swing long-term. But this start is just bad enough to make Red Sox fans uncomfortable.
Red Sox Healing
Carl Crawford is due back Monday, Jon Lester a week from Tuesday, and despite some scary reports from the early weekend, Clay Buchholz is back to throwing and felt quite a bit better Sunday.
It's easy to forget that the Red Sox are never going to be completely healthy this year thanks to the season-ending injuries to Daisuke Matsuzaka and Rich Hill. It's also easy to forget that Jed Lowrie remains out with a largely-ignored injury, but even he is set to start swinging a bat again sometime soon.
For Lowrie, there's a question of what player the Red Sox get. Will he be the hero who stepped up to carry the team out of their early slump, or the .219/.285/.313 hitter who showed up in May and June? There should be similar questions for Carl Crawford, who still has never really been himself for an extended period, though his impressive track record should earn him some leeway.
Josh Reddick Earns Starting Spot
It's far from official yet, but with Carl Crawford on the way back, Josh Reddick should be starting in right field for much of the rest of the season, or at least until he proves incapable. Terry Francona indicated that he'd earned the playing time before Sunday's game, and likened it to the Scutaro - Lowrie situation from earlier in the season, which left Lowrie the starter up until he was injured. Most tellingly, Josh Reddick stayed in Sunday's game the entire way, even as J.D. Drew was pulled for pinch hitter Darnell McDonald. And it doesn't hurt that Reddick drew a pair of walks, scored the winning run, and made an absolutely spectacular defensive play in the outfield.
John Lackey Impressing
He may have ended up with fewer than six innings pitched and four runs (three earned) against the Rays Saturday, but there should be no criticizing what Lackey did for the Red Sox that day. Marco Scutaro cost the team out after out in the three-run first inning which was decidedly not Lackey's fault. And after that, the only damage to Lackey was on a hard-breaking curve that was dipping out of the zone when Matt Joyce just went down and got it. No shame in giving up a homer on that pitch, really.
Over his last two starts, Lackey has struck out 14 batters, walked just 2, and been responsible for very little real offense. If it hadn't been for that terrible game against Toronto, he'd be on a real roll extending back to Philadelphia. It's too early to put any real trust in Lackey--his ERA is a healthy 6.70 after all--but it's enough to at least inspire some hope.
Trade Deadline Looms
Andrew Miller's stock is trending down, John Lackey is no sure thing, and even with Reddick in right, the Sox are hankering for a right-handed outfield bat.
The rumors are relatively quiet. There's been some talk that the Red Sox can't afford much in the way of money (though it's an unsourced Peter Gammons rumor, so take it with a grain of salt), but otherwise all we have are a very few names with limited connections: Derek Lowe, Carlos Beltran, Ryan Ludwick ranking high among them. Beltran has said he'd be open to joining the Sox, and Kuroda is not likely to head out to the East Coast, but otherwise it's anyone's guess as to who will come over.
It's hard to imagine that Theo Epstein would let the Sox go into the postseason with any major question marks when he's got a team this good. But the farm system is still recovering from the Adrian Gonzalez trade, and filled largely with low-level breakout talent that typically leads to significant disparities in valuation. Expect the Sox to make a deal, but as far as blockbusters are concerned, they might not be in the discussion.