A Deep Red Sox Lineup is Farrell’s Biggest Weapon

Red Sox lineup

As Boston pounded Philadelphia on Opening Day, churning out eight runs on nine hits, baseball fans were reminded how, despite incessant worries of porous pitching and overcrowded outfields, the Red Sox have a stacked lineup this year that will be extremely difficult to navigate.

Red Sox LineupThree of the first four hitters, namely Mookie Betts, Dustin Pedroia and Hanley Ramirez, combined for seven hits, five home runs and eight RBI, largely off Cole Hamels, one of the premier starting pitchers in baseball. Such a profound offensive barrage sent shock waves reverberating through the American League.

Meanwhile, David Ortiz, playing first base in a National League park, and newcomer Pablo Sandoval, making his Red Sox debut, went hitless and registered six strikeouts between them. The fact that the Sox hammered the Phillies despite two key guys struggling shows just how deep the Boston lineup is, and how frightening it will become when all of the aforementioned hitters, plus Mike Napoli, find their groove.

The hypothetical top six of Betts, Pedroia, Ortiz, Ramirez, Sandoval and Napoli is quite possibly the most fearsome in all of baseball. It forces a pitcher to deal with a wide array of threats, from the speed and dynamism of Mookie to the switch-hitting and raw power of Pablo; from the patience and hunger of Pedroia to the experience and production of Ortiz. Even Hamels, an elite ace, struggled out of the gate on Opening Day, when faced with the prospect of running Boston’s offensive gauntlet, causing many people to sit up and take notice.

This year, the Red Sox’ lineup will wear down a lot of pitchers and, judging by the early results, collect a lot of big hits. Following a dismal 2014 season, during which Boston lurked near the bottom of every offensive category, it will be a welcome relief for fans to finally have hitters to believe in and rely upon.

It must also be a pleasant change for manager John Farrell, who now has the luxurious ability to mix and match his lineup. For instance, if Ortiz struggles to hit for average, Ramirez could easily move up in the order, just as Pedroia could move down to be replaced in the two hole by Shane Victorino or Xander Bogaerts, further lengthening Boston’s attack.

Certainly, the Red Sox stand out as an offensive force in the American League East, and, if healthy and consistent, the string of prolific hitters atop their lineup could negate the lack of pitching depth to make Boston a serious contender, especially playing their home games at hitter-friendly Fenway.

Regardless of how the season ends, be it with celebrations or commiserations, Sox fans can rest assured that the start was explosive, exciting and entertaining. For the first time in a long while, Boston was back in the baseball spotlight, garnering positive attention for an offensive onslaught rather than negative criticism for hitting profligacy.

Quite frankly, Ben Cherington couldn’t have dreamed it up better.

Hanley Ramirez Grand in Opening Day Win

Hanley Ramirez

Hanley Ramirez and Dustin Pedroia each swatted two home runs, and Mookie Betts had one of his own to pace the Red Sox to an 8-0 rout of the Phillies on Opening Day in Philadelphia.

Clay Bucholz was dominant in seven innings, allowing only three hits and striking out nine,Hanley Ramirez while allowing only one base on balls. The pitcher that so many thought would be starting for the Red Sox today, Cole Hamels, was roughed up in five innings, giving up five hits, four earned runs, and four home runs—the most he has ever allowed in a game at Citizens Bank Park.

All of the Sox offense was via home runs. Pedroia got things started in the first, and two innings later Mookie Betts delivered with a solo bomb, making it 2-0 Red Sox. In the fifth, Pedroia did it again, with another solo shot. Considering he had seven home runs last year, it’s safe to say he’s off to a good start. He was also magnificent in the field.

Another player who is off to a roaring start is Hanley Ramirez. He had a solo shot in the fifth, and then hit a grand slam in the 9th inning to make it 8-0 Sox, joining Jack Clark (1991) and Carlton Fisk (1973) as just the third player in team history to hit a grand slam on Opening Day.

Some of the big bats were quiet today, with David Ortiz and Pablo Sandoval each hitless, and each striking out three times. Shane Victorino went hitless, but reached twice via walks, and even stole third base. He also went charging into the right field wall to make a gutsy catch in the fifth inning. New catcher Ryan Hanigan reached base twice in four appearances, with a single and a walk.

So what did we learn? Buchholz is pacing for Cy Young Award, Pedroia for MVP, and Hanley Ramirez for the Triple Crown? Well, it’s nice to dream like that early on, but what we did learn is that this team should be a lot more fun to watch than the 2014 version was.

Koji Uehara Is a Question Mark This Season

koji uehara

One of the first moves the Red Sox made this off-season was resigning closer Koji Uehara before he hit the free agent market. He likely could have gotten more money if he hit the open market—after seeing the contracts that Andrew Miller, Luke Gregerson, and David Robertson received. Although all three of those pitchers are not entering their age 40 season.

Uehara will turn 40 on April 5th and whether he is on the roster the next day for OpeningKoji Uehara Day in Philadelphia remains to be seen. It was labeled as a “close call” just Wednesday after it was reported Uehara has suffered a hamstring strain. Hamstring strains for pitchers are not easy to recover from, as their legs are important—especially for Uehara who doesn’t hit the upper 90’s on the gun anymore. This is also not the first time he has suffered a strain of his hamstring, as he missed two months in 2010 while with the Orioles.

To replicate his great 2013 second half run many thought Uehara would have to drink from the fountain of youth. The first half of last season it seemed Uehara made a trip to that fountain, as he continued his great run earning a trip to the All-Star Game for the first time. As the Red Sox fell out of contention, Uehara became victim to the home run and was even shut down for a time. He arrived at spring training talking about how he suffered through an injury last season that may have effected his play, but did not disclose the injury. Now with a hamstring strain many Sox fans have to wonder: will he be on the roster in Philadelphia and, if he is on the roster, will he be effective?

In 3 games of Grapefruit League action, Uehara has given up 2 runs on 7 hits in just 3 innings of work. Some may say spring statistics do not matter, but it is always nice to see a pitcher give up less hits than innings pitched. The growing concern could be that Uehara is not recovered, thus resulting in poor performance on the mound. If the Sox want him to be an important piece across the season, he cannot be rushed back.

Closing option one with Uehara out is Edward Mujica, who had a tough first half last season in his first in the American League, but had a solid second half of the season. John Farrell has said he will be closer “B.” A pitcher to keep an eye on is Alexei Ogando, who the Red Sox brought in after being non-tendered by Texas. Ogando has been injured for much of the past two seasons, but has been better out of the bullpen in his career. He is a two pitch pitcher, featuring a live fastball and an above average slider. Junichi Tazawa seems to be best in a set-up role, so he might not get many save opportunities. The trickle down affect of this Uehara injury could open up a bullpen spot for either Brandon Workman or Matt Barnes to start the year. One thing is for certain, the starting rotation is not the only question mark going into the season as Koji Uehara has now been added to the list.

Despite Harsh Winter, Sea Dogs Will Be Ready Opening Day

sea dogs

As all New Englanders are well aware, the winter of 2014-15 has been one of the coldest and snowiest in recorded history. Portland, Maine has received nearly five feet of snow thus far, with nearly half of that total coming in February alone.

It is going to take more than a little snow to stop baseball from proceeding as planned in Portland Sea DogsPortland, however, as the Sea Dogs announced via their website on Wednesday that they guarantee the season opener will be played as scheduled on Thursday, April 9 at Hadlock Field.

“We are ready for spring and confident that it will arrive along with [the] baseball season on April 9th,” stated Sea Dogs General Manager Geoff Lacuessa, according to milb.com. He continued, “We have the best grounds crew in the league, I have no doubt we will be ready for the season opener, therefore I am guaranteeing Sea Dogs baseball will be played on April 9th in Portland.”

To back up their guarantee, the Sea Dogs are doubling their usual rain check from one to two tickets of equal value to any future game, subject to availability.

Even with the guarantee, however, it’s tough for anyone to predict what weather will be like along Maine’s coast in early April. The Sea Dogs experienced the franchise’s first “freeze out” in April of 2013, after temperatures in the mid-twenties froze the turf and made for “unplayable playing conditions”.

The Sea Dogs are coming off a historic 2014 season, one that saw them win a franchise record 88 games, and reach the postseason for the first time in six seasons.

Red Sox phenom Mookie Betts began his 2014 campaign in Portland, before making his major league debut on June 29. In 52 games with the big league club, Betts hit .291/.368/.444 with five home runs and 18 RBIs.

Tickets are still available for the Sea Dogs’ home opener, with prices starting at just $8.