Red Sox’ Injuries Plague Team into Bad Stretch

It seems that the Red Sox can not catch a break when it comes to staying healthy. Drew Red Sox' InjuriesPomeranz left his most recent game after experiencing left-forearm tightness, while Marco Hernandez banged up his shoulder just the other day. This is a team that is looking to turn things around after losing consecutive series to Milwaukee and Tampa Bay. If it weren’t for a late Mookie Betts home-run on Thursday, we would have been swept by Travis Shaw’s Brewers. The Red Sox’ injuries have been coming fast and furious so far, and hopefully can come to an end soon.

Are the Red Sox’ Injuries to blame for hitting rough patch?

Pomeranz, Hernandez, Stephen Wright, Pablo Sandoval (surprisingly), Brock Holt, and Hanley Ramirez have all faced injuries this season. Meanwhile, David Price, Roenis Elias, Tyler Thornburg, and Carson Smith have not appeared in a game yet this year. Going into this season, arguably every one of those names were ones that were going to make a huge impact this year. Sure, there is still plenty of time for some of these guys to contribute. Dave Dombrowski is going to have to make a decision soon, though. The inconsistencies in the lineup, bullpen, and back-end of the starting rotation all start with the injuries.

Red Sox’ Injuries or Red Sox’ Slump?

With a lack of depth in the roster due to injuries, several players have hit their own cold spells. Rick Porcello and Jackie Bradley Jr have slumped in their respective roles because they have so much pressure on them to succeed. Last year, Porcello went under the radar for a decent amount of the year before ultimately winning the Cy Young. Bradley was able to alleviate stressful situations last season because there were more guys in the lineup who could get RBI. Are these guys slumping because of the added pressure that injuries bring, or because they simply are struggling? The same question can be asked about Mitch Moreland and Andrew Benintendi, who started the year off hot, but have cooled down tremendously, (as the injuries have rolled in). Only time will tell if the Sox will break their rut, but a little more luck with health wouldn’t hurt either.

Matt Barnes Must Replace Carson Smith

With Carson Smith undergoing Tommy John surgery, the Red Sox lose a major piece to their bullpen this season. Smith, acquired in the off season, was expected to be a lock down option out of the bullpen, especially against elite right handed bats. With Smith done for the year, the Sox need somebody to step up as a replacement. Converted reliever Matt Barnes has looked strong this season and will be crucial to replacing Smith.

Barnes was once highly touted as a minor league starting pitcher. He struggled as aMatt Barnes starting pitcher at the major league level, resulting in the transition to the bullpen. Barnes seems to finally be adjusting to the new role after looking shaky and out of place last season. Barnes has pitched very well this season with a 2.82 ERA and is throwing his fastball around 70% of the time, sitting around a strong 96 mph for the most part.

Is Matt Barnes As Good As Carson Smith?

While Barnes has been pitching very well this year, he is not as good as Carson Smith, mainly due to Smith’s stronger off speed pitches. Smith also has more pitches at his disposal to keep hitters guessing. Barnes relies primarily on his curve ball as his secondary pitch. The bullpen role is best for Barnes as he is a guy who can come in for an inning and use his big time arm, throwing heat. If Barnes has his curve ball working and improves his third pitch, the change-up, he could eventually turn into an elite bullpen arm.

Losing Smith was a devastating blow to the Sox. Many fans did not get to know who Carson Smith was and should know that he was an elite arm out of the pen. Smith had 92 strikeouts in 70 innings last season with a 2.31 ERA for the Seattle Mariners. If Barnes can come near those numbers, the Sox will be very pleased. So far, Barnes looks like he is a changed pitcher and is relishing fewer innings pitched and letting loose with his heater.

Carson Smith Undergoes Tommy John Surgery

Red Sox reliever Carson Smith underwent Tommy John Surgery on Tuesday, and will not return during the 2016 season. This could be a big blow for Boston, which loses a key bullpen arm just as the season is about to really heat up, and will now have to explore other options for the late innings.

Carson Smith

Smith, a promising 26-year old hurler, was acquired from the Seattle Mariners in the Wade Miley trade last December. He struck out 92 batters in 70 inning last season, and pitched to a 2.31 ERA. The Red Sox were keen to fortify an inconsistent bullpen, and Carson Smith was deemed a major upgrade. In an ideal world, he was slated to join Koji Uehara and Junichi Tazawa in setting up games for Craig Kimbrel, giving Boston a formidable bullpen to compete with any other in baseball.

Those plans were jeopardized in spring training, when Smith endured tightness in his right forearm. He was diagnosed with a muscle strain, but recovered to join the Red Sox in May. However, after just three appearances, doctors determined that Carson required Tommy John Surgery, which could put him out of action for up to eighteen months.

Options to replace Carson Smith

Obviously, the Red Sox haven’t felt the full benefit of Carson Smith this season, but his absence still creates a headache for Dave Dombrowski. The President of Baseball Operations has already said that the Red Sox are in no hurry to search for solutions on the trade market, given the strong performances from guys like Heath Hembree, Tommy Layne and Robbie Ross. Indeed, the Red Sox currently rank seventh in bullpen ERA throughout Major League Baseball, so the current crop has done a very solid job.

However, Carson Smith figured to be a major contributor throughout the summer and down the stretch. He had overpowering stuff and the potential to be another premier arm shutting down games for Boston in the late innings. Now, that weapon has been removed, at least for 2016, and with all due respect, nobody in the current bullpen really stands out as a serious candidate to take on a more important setup role. The Sox are still in good shape with Tazawa and Kimbrel, but Uehara is 41-years old and his 2016 statistics show considerable decline compared to his career averages.

Therefore, as we move towards the trade deadline, expect the Red Sox to be active in the market for relief help. They’re not totally desperate for another arm, which should leave plenty of room in negotiations and hopefully enable Dombrowski to acquire a setup man at a fair price. While they never gain much attention, trades for relievers are very popular in mid-season, and there should be no shortage of options a month or two from now. Relievers are highly expendable, especially for non-contending teams, so the Red Sox may be in a strong bargaining position.

This news sucks for Carson Smith, and we wish him a speedy recovery. It would have been great to see him add length to the Red Sox bullpen this summer and potentially through the playoffs. Yet, while his absence is less than ideal in the short-term, Dombrowski shouldn’t have a problem finding a replacement, which will be required as Boston eyes a serious run at October.

Justin Masterson Progressing Well as Opening Day Nears

Justin Masterson

Justin Masterson is hoping for a bounce back season with the Red Sox, after going 7-9 with a 5.88 ERA for the Cleveland Indians and St. Louis Cardinals in 2014.

Although he has been shaky at times, Masterson has looked good overall this spring, going 2-1 with a 3.50 ERA and .250 opponent batting average in 18 innings over five games.

The 30-year old Kingston, Jamaica native delivered what was arguably his best outing of the spring so far on Monday, pitching 5 2/3 innings while allowing just one Justin Mastersonunearned run.

According to Masterson, part of his effectiveness is due to having a clean bill of health.

“It was a combination of feeling good and feeling strong and, for the most part, hitting my spots,” Masterson told MLB.com. “It is definitely moving in the right direction. I was able to make a few adjustments.”

“I feel great. At this time last year, if we were going into the fourth or fifth inning, I’d be giving up at least a couple of homers out there,” Masterson continued. “The first couple would be good, and after that, not so much.”

Boston’s newly stacked offense has also seemed to have an effect on Masterson’s level of comfort while on the mound.

“What I’m really excited about is, you’re going to have a different guy who I feel is just going to go on hot streaks for a while. You’ll have a week of this guy, a week of that guy and when they all come together, I’m going to sit there and just watch. Put my feet back and say, ‘This is awesome’,” shared Masterson in the same  interview.

The Red Sox signed Masterson in December to a one-year, $9.5 million contract, returning him to the team that originally drafted him in 2006. With many questions surrounding Boston’s rotation, the Red Sox should have a lot of reasons to feel optimistic about the return of his health.

Pedey’s Secret is Revealed

Dustin Pedroia Pedey

JIM DAVIS/GLOBE STAFF
Dustin Pedroia made a diving stop during Monday’s game.

Dustin Pedroia has started all 53 games this season despite the injury to his thumb, a tear in his ulnar collateral ligament he has been suffering from since opening day at Yankee Stadium on April 1.  “I feel fine. I feel normal” he recalls. The question is why it is now we are just learning about it and why it is even a concern?  He’s Dustin Pedroia.  We all know, from years past, that man won’t let anything or anyone deter him from playing a game.

Unabashed, cocky, fearless and undaunted; these are words that describe Dustin Pedroia. Unlike the rest of the team who seems to be put on the DL more often than not these days for various injuries; from hamstring pulls, to biceps strains, to back pain, Pedey is an all-around all-star when it comes to determination and drive.  He is a player that sets a tone for teammates to look up to.  He is a solid player who has a high threshold to pain says John Farrell.  His injury was of no concern although his performance in his at-bats from April 6-18 would say otherwise.  During that time Pedey landed 15 strike outs in 40 at-bats.  But was it really because of his injury or was it by coincidence his performance was fair?

No matter, Pedey has entered the line-up in every game and had more than stellar performances.  There is no doubt in John Farrell’s mind when it comes to Dustin’s athleticism. He’s here to win.  He’s a ball player.  He won’t let the little things take away from what he is paid for and loves to do.

Dustin tried to keep his thumb injury a secret.  After all, he’s playing isn’t he?  Why do fans need to know anything else? He’s healthy in everyone’s mind and he’s playing well.  He did not go on the DL because on April 1, when he jammed his thumb into first base while diving head first, it wasn’t an issue, nor is it an issue now.   Case in point, upset as he was for the leak, the cat’s out of the bag. Are we, as fans, going to think anything different of the second base all-star? If anything, we, I’m sure, will respect him more for his strength to keep it together and pull through for not only his team, but his fans as well.

Training Like an Athlete: The Importance of Dynamic Stretching

training

The Boston Red Sox had their unhealthiest season last year. In fact they were the most unhealthy in the league due to injury.  With three guys in three days on the DL at one point and David Ortiz’s ‘slight tear’ in his Achilles tendon (which remains irritated) it was an unimpressive season for the players and a grave disappointment toward the fans.  It’s pretty pathetic when browsing the internet to check on the 2013 stats at spring training there are humorous anecdotes on how the team remained ‘injury free on day 2’ in response to last season’s debacle.

“The Red Sox had 27 players serve 34 stints on the disabled list (for a total of 1,729 days missed), the most for any team since at least 1987” (espn.go.com/blog/boston/red-sox/post/_/id/23595/reinold-out-as-head-physical-therapist)

Injury prevention is key to being an elite athlete and possessing an elite team. Dynamic stretching is one way to remain safe and keep the players intact. Of course it isn’t a miracle drug but it does decrease the odds of getting hurt. Not only for the professional athlete but this abides to anyone looking to enhance their performance in a safe and effective manner. So don’t try to tell me it’s a waste of time.  As a personal trainer and fitness guru I have all of my clients no matter what athletic ability they are perform a fifteen minute routine to warm-up their muscles prior to an intense work-out. This allows for improved flexibility along with a slow, steady increased heart rate. Your muscles are like rubber bands, the colder they are the tighter they are and they have the ability to ‘snap’ if you’re not careful. However, as you warm up your body the muscles loosen and gain elasticity so as not to tear as you sprint home or swing at a ninety mph pitch.

There are sport specific exercises that cater to each muscle group used in a certain movement.  For example baseball players need to focus on their core, groin, hip flexors, hamstrings and quads.  Walking lunges with a rotation is perfect to warm up the hip flexors and lateral lunges stretch the groin. So whether you are the professional athlete, the high school athlete or someone just looking for an intense workout it is most important to loosen up your muscles by beginning your work-out with a dynamic warm-up.

“Any time someone doesn’t limp off the field or get hauled away on a golf cart in camp is a good day, so the Red Sox made progress from Day One, when Clay Buchholz left with a mild hamstring strain. Not only were there no casualties, manager John Farrell said Buchholz checked out well and threw on flat ground Wednesday.” (espn.go.com/blog/boston/red-sox/post/_/id/24751/todays-takeaways-day-2-is-injury-free)

In honor of the Boston Red Sox and in the hope that this season will take them to new heights let’s go out there and train safe and train hard!