Shane Victorino Almost Set For Comeback

After missing much of last season as well as this year, Shane Victorino is finally getting closer to making a comeback for the Red Sox.  Victorino was put on the 15-day disabled list on May 24 with a left calf strain, and hasn’t played since.  The Sox outfielder has also missed some time with a bad right hamstring.  He is expected to play Wednesday night for the Pawtucket Red Sox, and if everything goes as planned, we should see him in a Boston jersey soon.

Victorino’s injury problems started last season when he only played a total of 30 games. Shane Victorino Sox fans were excited to see his name on the opening day roster this season, but were disappointed shortly after when he was yet again sent to the bench with an injury.

Victorino came to the Red Sox in 2013.  During that year, he was one of the best players not only on the Sox, but in the league.  He played 122 games with a .294 batting average, and was also hit by 18 pitches, which led the league.  He even got some consideration for the MVP of the league, coming in twenty second in the voting, and won a Gold Glove for his defensive efforts in the outfield.

He may be remembered most for his play during the Red Sox improbable run to their 2013 World Series title.  He had the two biggest hits of the playoffs that year.  During the ALCS against the Detroit Tigers, Victorino hit a Grand Slam in the eighth inning to put the Sox up two runs, and then followed that up with a three-run double in the World Series clinching game against the St. Louis Cardinals.

Sox fans have not seen Victorino play a full season since his first season with the team.    Hopefully, if he can stay healthy he can be the spark that starts the Sox on a positive run.  Because with the way this season is going, everyone knows that something good needs to happen soon.

Looking at the Red Sox Draft Strategy

The Red Sox hold the 7th pick in tonight’s MLB draft, which marks the second time in 3 years the Red Sox will pick at that spot. In 2013, the Red Sox selected pitcher Trey Ball, a 6’6″ lefty from Indiana, who has had his struggled in his minor league career so far (4.67 ERA in 67 starts since being drafted). He’s only 20 years old, so he’s still got time to turn things around.

But, if recent history is any guide, 7 could still be a lucky number. Here are a few of the Red Soxnames to be taken 7th in recent years: Clayton Kershaw, Troy Tulowitski and Matt Harvey. So, where should the Red Sox focus be in the draft tonight? On picking the best player available. Why? The Red Sox have so many holes right now, it’s hard to pinpoint one area of need at the moment. Every facet of the game has struggled this year at different points, so it’s hard to say they should focus on offense or pitching over the other.

2 names being thrown around are 2 former Red Sox picks from the 2012 draft, shortstop Alex Bregman and pitcher Carson Fulmer. Both of these guys are projected top 10 picks this year, and both could be on the board for the Red Sox. Bregman is batting .312 with a .406 on base percentage and .534 slugging percentage at Louisiana State University, per Masslive.com. He also has 22 doubles, 3 triples, 9 home runs, and 37 steals in 47 tries this season. Once he gets to the Major League level, he could be a big impact player. So could Fulmer, though – he has a 13-2 record with a 1.82 ERA, 152 strikeouts and only 46 walks in 114.0 innings per MassLive.

Granted, neither  would make an immediate impact at the Major League level, but I would be happy with the Red Sox picking either guy. The Red Sox could pick an outfielder (Arkansas outfielder Andrew Benitendi could be available), which is the one area the Red Sox have some depth, at least when everyone is healthy. That has been a problem so far, with Shane Victorino and Daniel Nava both injured right now. Who knows what the Red Sox do, with so many areas to address, but it seems pretty hard for them to go wrong on paper. The draft kicks off tonight at 7 pm.

Mike Napoli Awakes From His Slumber While Hanley Naps

When Hanley Ramirez went on his April tear, Red Sox Nation optimists everywhere thought the next five months would be just like the 10HR, 22RBI performance he debuted with. Little did anyone expect that as we near the end of May, we’d still be waiting for his first home run of the month, and it took 20 games for him to collect his first RBI.

Fortunately for the sub-.500 Red Sox, Mike Napoli has warmed up from his April Mike Napolihibernation and is having a month of May close to what Ramirez did in April. So far, the $16,000,000-a-year first baseman has hit 7HR and 17RBI, after hitting just 1HR and driving in 4RBI in May. He has seen his batting average climb from an anemic .162 in April to .257 this month.

Although Napoli is still halting a paltry .211, he is pacing to hit 24 home runs, which would be his most since donning a Red Sox uniform in 2013. Ramirez, meanwhile, batted .293 in April, but has cooled off to .230 this month (which is a world away from his National League leading .342 of six years ago in Miami.)

The Red Sox need Napoli to stay hot. We haven’t even addressed David Ortiz and his woes yet. Big Papi is off to his worst start in six years. He has 6HR so far, and isn’t even hitting his weight, batting .221. Maybe if Napoli cools off in June, Big Papi will cowboy up and put the team on his back for a month.

Finally, the right field position is clearly the Red Sox Achilles Heel. The position as a whole is only hitting .199. Shane Victorino, Daniel Nava and Allen Craig are hitting .255 and .159 and .135 respectively. So far, it doesn’t appear Rusney Castillo will be confused with Dwight Evans. The team needs more than 2HR and 12 RBI from that position.

I guess the point of all this is means that we can’t blame the pitching, at least not for all of the teams woes.

Will Rusney Castillo Solve The Sox Offensive Struggles?

With Rusney Castillo on a tear in Pawtucket recently the Red Sox have been forced to consider making changes to their everyday lineup. With the offense not being able to score more than 3 runs in seemingly every game on the past road trip, the pitching carried the team to a 5-5 trip.

Castillo missed two games in Pawtucket, while back in Boston not with the big league club but with the birth of his first child. John Farrell said the expectation is Castillo will be up soon. Rusney CastilloSoon is something the Red Sox offense needs with almost every hitter in a slump. Mike Napoli has provided almost nothing this season, in a year the team expected him to break out after surgery to adjust his jaw and help him sleep. Pablo Sandoval cannot left handed pitching, something the Red Sox were expected to mash against with the addition of Hanley Ramirez.

A trip to the disabled list would not be a bad idea for Ramirez. Since he collided with the left field wall almost three weeks ago, he has not been driving the ball like he was in April, but still leads the team in homers, a testament to the offense not coming along. Ramirez has not driven in a run in May, resting his shoulder could be beneficial to the team and for him in a long haul. I believe he is the most important player when it comes to offense for this team, without him clicking the offense hasn’t been.

The Sox aren’t only leaving runners on base at a high rate, but no one player seems to be making a name for himself in terms of average. The Sox do not have a player hitting over .300 and Xander Bogaerts leads the team in average hitting .271. Obviously pitching gotten better in the majors in past years, but not many offenses don’t feature at least one hitter over .300.

Brock Holt has been forced to play everyday with the injuries to Shane Victorino and Pablo Sandoval. Holt, is a great story, being able to play multiple positions to help the team in a time of need, I just don’t think he is an everyday player. With the addition to Castillo to the roster, Farrell will have to make the decision to send down Jackie Bradley Jr., again or place Ramirez on the disabled list something, which I don’t expect.

Castillo was signed to $72 million contract so he should be playing everyday and not in Pawtucket past this weekend. Obviously he will go through some struggles but the whole offense is struggling and a message needs to be sent.

Farrell does not get fired up too much, but this team right now is too complacent thinking it’ll just solve itself with Mike Napoli hitting sixth everyday as his average continues to swoon under .180. A lineup shakeup would be something I feel would help the players realize if they don’t start hitting they might not be in the lineup everyday.

I’m not saying Rusney Castillo is going to be the next Mike Trout and come up and light the world on fire, but he should at least help the offense looks respectable, and not dormant against left handed pitching.

Rusney Castillo Returns to PawSox from Disabled List

Rusney Castillo

Rusney Castillo returned to the Pawtucket Red Sox on Wednesday night after being activated from the disabled list, and went 0-4 with a strikeout as the designated hitter in their 5-1 loss against the Syracuse Chiefs. He was not in the lineup for Pawtucket’s 4-0 victory over the Chiefs on Thursday, which had an early start time of 12 PM.

Castillo had been sidelined since April 11 with a right shoulder injury,Rusney Castillo and John Farrell has expressed that he will need more playing time before having any chance of being called up to the majors.

“He’s missed significant time,” Farrell told Jimmy Toscano of CSNNE.com. “He’s going to need more than three to four at-bats tonight, or six to eight total. I think we need more than that.”

In four games for Pawtucket this season, Castillo is hitting .313/.353/.375 with a double and two runs batted in. He played in 10 major league games for the Red Sox last season, where he slashed a .333/.400/.528 line with two home runs, a double, three walks and six runs batted in.

With Shane Victorino on the disabled list, and Allen Craig struggling mightily at the plate, many are left to wonder how long it will be before Castillo gets the call.

Victorino was placed on the disabled list retroactive to April 25 because of nagging right hamstring injury, and has managed to do little offensively this season, hitting .143/.302/.171 with seven strikeouts in 12 games.

Craig has largely failed to live up the expectations the Red Sox had for him when they acquired him from the St. Louis Cardinals along with Joe Kelly in exchange for John Lackey at least season’s trade deadline. In 46 career games for the Red Sox, Craig has managed to hit only .125/.222/.172 with only four extra-base hits, including .118/.189/.118 with no extra-base hits in 17 games this season.

Although Boston’s offense has looked very good at times, they have still run into patches of inconsistency and at points been unable to take advantage of some good pitching performances, which have been hard to come by these days. After Castillo gets some more playing time in Pawtucket, it should only be a matter of time before you see him roaming the outfield at Fenway Park.

Red Sox Bid Adieu to April

Red Sox

With April in the books,  what is different between this years’ version of the Red Sox and the 2014 team? At first blush, one might think, ‘Well, clearly the pitching is a little better than last year and the hitting is much better.’ Not so fast, Rem Dog disciples.

Last years’ pitching staff was actually BETTER through one month than the current staff.Red Sox Through one month, the ERA in 2015 is a league worst 5.04.  Last year at this time it was 3.95, right in the middle of the pack. As far as the number of earned runs that have been given up, the Sox are atop all of Major League Baseball in that category with 113 allowed. Not exactly the type of stat you want to brag about. Last year, they actually played four more games in April and gave up 9 fewer earned runs.

At the plate, most folks thought with the addition of Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval that balls would be flying over the Green Monster at epic proportions, and even fantasized that the Mass Pike would have to be closed down during games for driver safety.  While Ramirez just tied David Ortiz’ record for most home runs in April, with 10, the team batting average is well, just average. At .245 it is good enough for 6th overall in the league, which at least is better that the .245 of a year ago that was 11th best.

Even with new sluggers added this year, some numbers are still very close when looked at year to year.  Last years’ slugging percentage was .384, this year it is at .379.  A year ago the OPS was .333, this year it is at .332, and this year’s OPS (on-base percentage plus slugging) is .711 while a year ago it was .717.

What does all this mean?  WHO KNOWS?! A year ago the Red Sox were a sub-.500 team, 2.5 games out of first place behind the New York Yankees.  Now, they are 12-10 and just one game behind the Yankees, who come to town this weekend.

It’s obvious that pitching is the weak link, and that the roster is overcrowded with some guys who can still hit (Daniel Nava, Shane Victorino, Mike Napoli) and might be able to help a team, and with others who may have enormous upside such as Brock Holt and Jackie Bradley Jr.  Let’s also bear in mind that Rusney Castillo and Yoan Moncada represent an enormous investment and they’ll be at Fenway Park before too long. It’s time for Ben Cherington to play ‘Let’s Make a Deal’ and beef up the pitching.