The Boston Red Sox find themselves in a much different spot than they did a season ago. In 2013, the Red Sox entered the All-Star break with a 57–36 record. This season, the team finished the first half in last place in the AL East with a 43-52 record. If the team is to make a second straight playoff appearance, a lot of things will need to happen during the second half. Here are the five Red Sox headlines to keep an eye on during the second half of the season.
1. Jon Lester’s Contract Situation
Lester reportedly told the Red Sox that he wants to wait until after the 2014 season to discuss his contract situation, but talks have resumed in recent weeks. Lester told the Boston Herald that he was, “thrown off” by the Red Sox’ repeated attempts at a contract extension.
Lester has been, by far, the most consistent pitcher for the Red Sox for the last couple of seasons. Can the Red Sox and Lester come to an agreement before the left-hander hits free agency? It is hard to imagine him leaving Boston, but if Lester hits free agency, I expect teams such as the New York Yankees and the Los Angeles Dodgers to offer him more money than the Red Sox reportedly have.
2. How Will Christian Vasquez Perform in the Second Half?
The Red Sox thought Vasquez was ready for the majors and the team released A.J. Pierzynski. The 23-year-old is hitting .455 with five RBI’s in the three games he has played since his promotion to the big leagues. It will be interesting to see how much playing time Vasquez gets in the second half.
3. Can Clay Buchholz Get Back on Track?
For much of the season, Buchholz has had his struggles on the mound, but he finished the first-half with an outstanding performance against the Houston Astros. Buchholz threw a complete-game, 12-strikeout shutout against the Astros that Sunday.
No one is expecting Buchholz to pitch shutouts every fifth day, but if can return to his All-Star form, that will further deepen the Sox rotation.
4. Will Xander Bogaerts’ Bat Wake Up?
After an incredible May, Bogaerts has played like a 21-year-old in June and July. He has a batting average below .140 the last two months and Bogaerts has not adjusted well to breaking pitches. Will the rookie make the necessary adjustments or will the Red Sox decide to send him down to Pawtucket?
5. Can the Red Sox Make a Magical Run to the Postseason?
With 43 wins at the All-Star break, it is hard to picture the Red Sox in the postseason at this point, but stranger things have happened. With the AL East leading Baltimore Orioles at 52 wins, the Red Sox have as good of a shot of winning the AL East as they do of winning the Wild Card at this point. 90-91 wins is probably good enough to win the division, but the Red Sox margin for error is very slim. If the team expects to make a playoff run, the Red Sox can’t lose any more than 20 games for the rest of the season.