Red Sox’s Mike Carp and Jonny Gomes Shine

Red Sox's Mike Carp and Jonny Gomes

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It takes a big woman to admit that she is wrong. And I was.

I was terribly wrong about the Red Sox’s Mike Carp and Jonny Gomes. Others felt the same way, which made me more confident that I was right about these two guys. Before the season even started no one was hot on them. I had a colleague say, “Who’s going to play left, Jonny Gomes, or Mike Carp?” with a sneer on his face. The facts were hard to ignore, too.   Batting averages were well, average. The performance on the field ran hot and cold. And do we even need to get into Gomes’ weird red beard that screams Yosemite Sam? Carp and Gomes were best described as one step from greatness. Now, they are great, especially in a pinch.

In the last few games, specifically Wednesday, July 3rd’s game, Gomes and Carp were afire. Carp at first base. Initially I thought, “Oh no.” He made some plays, though. He played a pretty solid first base making a catch right in front of the dugout. He continued to play strong defense at first on Wednesday, keeping players from advancing. Carp can do the work there while Mike Napoli gets the rest days he may need. No one should be whining about Nap getting some rest days, since that was on the table at the very beginning of the season. Please, shut up about it. Mike Napoli is an outstanding player, but we all know the truth about his hip situation, so let’s not try and rewrite history, whining and moaning about his not being on the bag every night. This is another case of selective amnesia in Boston. It must be the heat.

red sox's mike carp and jonny gomes

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But Gomes, Yosemite Gomes, you made the game Wednesday night with both guns blazing. Staring down the barrel of a 2-2 count, you swung and got the fireworks started on Independence Day Eve over the Green Monster. On the Fourth of July, he continued to produce in the seventh inning and raised his batting average to the mid .300s.  Defensively, he has proven himself strong in left field. He made a solid catch in the 3rd inning displaying his reliability.

My colleague’s comment in April snuffed out with one swing of the bat.

“That is a walk off home run for Jonny Gomes.” There is a sentence no one ever thought they would here Don Orsillo say at the beginning of the season.

We were wrong about you.

Yosemite prove yourself right every night, as we approach the All-Star break. I know I’ve never been happier to be wrong.

Jose Iglesias: Nothing More to Prove

Jose Iglesias

All glove, no bat; it’s a common, but often career-threatening classification for a middle infielder. With some basic athleticism, you can learn to field; with practice, you will inevitably improve, and many do. But practice alone isn’t enough to help you hit major league pitching; there’s something about hitting that you either have or you don’t. The result is a bunch of guys who are all glove, no bat.

That’s what we all thought of Jose Iglesias, and for a while, he didn’t do too much to prove us wrong. But Iglesias’s glove, the fielding ability that earned him the nickname “Silk Hands” (Best nickname ever? Maybe), was so spectacular that the Red Sox were forced to be optimistic about his development at the plate. They never claimed he’d be a good hitter; they just assured us that he’d be a passable hitter. When that’s all the ever-sanguine front office can muster, it’s pretty clear that a prospect doesn’t have too much of a future at the plate. Iglesias did little to disprove this when he hit a miserable .118 in 68 at-bats with the Sox last year. He looked overmatched by major-league fastballs, wasn’t disciplined, and had no pop. All glove, no bat and that wasn’t going to fly. The Sox wanted Iglesias at short, but he had to hit.

So he did. I’m not sure what switch he flicked, but Jose Iglesias has become a hitter. It’s not steroids – steroids help guys who can already hit the ball hit it harder. Iglesias went from looking lost at the plate to being a mature major league hitter. The .118 batting average? He’s at .446 with a 13 – game hit streak. Overmatched and without discipline? Iglesias has struck out twice in his last 10 games while walking five times and roping 17 hits. No pop? He has a homer (off Hiroki Kuroda, no less) and seven doubles in 6 more at-bats than it took him to hit a homer and two doubles last season. Ok, a career .257 minor-league hitter probably isn’t going to hit .450 for the rest of his time in the bigs. But even if Iglesias has to come back to earth, he’s not going to fall back to where he was. The one-time all glove, no bat shortstop is demonstrating abilities at the plate that he just didn’t have before. His swing has become a pretty, compact stroke that helps him catch up to inside pitches instead of popping them up; he’s hitting .536 off lefties. He approaches each at bat with grit, fouling off tough pitches and refusing to chase. Iglesias is going to cool off, but when he does, with his newfound tools, he’s going to be a much better than before – dare I say it, maybe even a good hitter.

And yet he’s not our starting shortstop. He has amassed this amazing stretch while playing third (and playing it brilliantly), but when Will Middlebrooks returns from the disabled list, Jose won’t have a spot in the starting lineup. John Farrell will get him some at-bats, bless his heart, but if the Sox are serious about making a run at their first playoff appearance in 4 years, shortstop should be Silk Hands’ to lose. Play Stephanie Drew at utility, trade him, whatever – Iglesias needs to play every day, because now, not only can he do this

Jose Iglesias

…but also this.

Jose Iglesias

 It would be a shame to miss out on both, because he’s got nothing more to prove.

The Dirt From JetBlue Park

jetblue park

Here’s the dirt direct from JetBlue Park.

All the things we tell our young athletes are true. Stay on the balls of your feet. Keep your eye on the ball. Move with the ball. These are all things said to athletes from a young age, early in their training. Not surprisingly they are also great lessons for life, too. Reporters have stated that Jackie Bradley Jr. is a strong defensive player, a great all around player in the outfield, but they are not describing how he is a great defensive player.

How? He watches the ball from when the pitcher throws it to when it is caught. While that occurs, he anticipates where the hitter will place the ball. His feet are constantly in motion. He is not standing, but adjusting and engaging in some sort of foot work, whether it be big or small. If a ball is hit, pop-fly or line drive, he moves in that direction, ready to back up the infielders or to cover behind Jacoby Ellsbury. I saw him cover center twice when balls where hit in that direction. He knows to come in and back up the shortstop and third basement. He is the true definition of always being “on the balls of your feet.”

Jose Iglesias has a rocket of an arm. He throws the ball hard and accurately, without much effort at all. Great mechanics, and he is fast enough to get the variety of positions the shortstop needs to cover. His bat is decent right now. It is his time and shortstop is his position to call home. It was truly an honor to see him play, and look forward to seeing John Farrell give him a start this season in April.

jetblue park

Mike Napoli is a beast and performs well at first base. I feel a lot more confident in seeing him in person now than I have for the entire month of March. I think his offensive prowess is yet to be fully determined, but he can hit a hard ball. Whether he can perform that consistently is still a question.

Pedro Ciriaco is batting a .355 average right now. He is very speedy, but he too can be streaky when it comes to offense.  .355 is a solid batting average, but I think where he really adds value is his speed and defensive work at third base.

After Friday’s game against the Twins, I feel even more confident about this year’s roster. I was especially concerned about defense, as this post clearly suggests, but now I feel my shoulders have relaxed to their normal positioning. There is promise in this team. I look forward to Saturday’s final Spring Training game, to Sunday’s official announcement of the roster and lineup, and finally to Opening Day in New York. Go Sox!