Surgery Could Save Sandoval’s Career

Pablo Sandoval was probably pretty disappointed when he found out he was going to need season-ending shoulder surgery. Nobody wants to be told they’re done for the year when it’s only just begun. If there’s a silver lining, however, it’s that surgery could save Sandoval’s career.

Let’s face it; 2016 was shaping up to be another lost season for Boston’s maligned third basemanSurgery Could Save Sandoval's Career. Coming off the worst year of his career, he arrived at spring training overweight (again), failed to bat said weight and wound up losing his starting job to a player making $17 million less than him. Sandoval rode the pine in April, appearing in just three games as Shaw and the Red Sox got off to torrid starts.

Sandoval was stuck. His team had little use for him while his contract and recent performance made him untradeable. So he wasted away on the bench, watching Shaw’s success systematically destroy whatever shot he had at redemption in 2016.

Now, with Sandoval out for the rest of the year, he’ll have to wait until 2017 to get back in Boston’s good graces. That gives him loads of time to get in the best shape of his life and prove he’s serious about his conditioning. It also gives him time to fix whatever broke in his swing last year and work on his defense.

Sandoval has nothing but time. The question is: will he use it effectively?

Surgery Could Save Sandoval’s Career, or Finish it

A year off could do Sandoval wonders. It certainly did for John Lackey, another West Coast star who initially struggled upon signing a big contract with the Red Sox. After pitching at a historically awful level in 2011, Lackey missed all of ’12 recovering from Tommy John surgery. It was a turning point in his career, as a slimmed-down Lackey returned to form in 2013 and is still going strong as he enters his late 30s.

Surgery could save Sandoval’s career, too..It’s not hard to imagine him having a similar renaissance next year, given that he’ll only be 30. He’ll also be extra motivated to win his job back after everything that’s happened this spring.

On the other hand, going under the knife may only hasten Sandoval’s decline. Adrian Gonzalez fell off significantly as a hitter following the same procedure, which doesn’t bode well for Sandoval. He may also find that taking a whole year off severely disrupts his timing, which could prevent him from having the kind of start he needs to secure regular playing time again.

How the rest of Sandoval’s career plays out will likely be decided by what he does over the next calendar year. If he buckles down and sheds some pounds, he may yet find his way back into Boston’s lineup. But if he sits around and lets his skills continue to erode, he better get used to watching Travis Shaw at the hot corner.

The Red Sox Injuries Keep Adding Up

As of April 24th, 6 different Red Sox have been placed on the disabled list and while that may not seem like a large amount, the Red Sox injuries keep adding up:Red Sox Injuries

  • Christian Vazquez: placed 15 day-disabled list retroactive to March 25; recovering from Tommy John surgery
  • Carson Smith: placed on 15 day-disabled list retroactive to March 25; forearm strain
  • Eduardo Rodriguez: placed on 15 day-disabled list with right knee injury
  • Brandon Workman: placed on 15 day-disabled list while recovering from Tommy John surgery; transferred to 60 day-disabled list on 4/13
  • Pablo Sandoval: placed on 15 day-disabled list retroactive to April 11; shoulder strain
  • Joseph Kelly: placed on 15 day-disabled with right shoulder impingement

Losing E-Rod and Kelly has proven to be a significant blow to an already struggling rotation. With the loss of Carson Smith the bullpen has been severely overworked, but it has opened up opportunities for guys to step up. One of those guys has been Steven Wright. Wright, who has been the most consistent and dependable starter by far, has notched a 1-1 record with a 1.40 ERA with 17 strikeouts in 19.1 innings. While it remains to be seen if he stays in the rotation once Rodriguez returns, his 3 quality starts have surely earned him that right.

The return of Christian Vazquez from Tommy John surgery seem to have really paid off in small samples for the pitchers—most notably Rick Porcello. Porcello’s last 2 starts against the Jays and the Rays have been quite encouraging going 2-0, with 13 K’s in 13.1 IP. But this time is far from fixed and really could use a boost from guys who are on the mend. With that said though there is no guarantee the returns of E-Rod and Smith will pay dividends instantly,but what it should do is help stabilize the pitching staff as a whole.

The Sox currently sit in second place at 9-9 trailing the Orioles by 2.5 games. While I’m still hopefully that they can grab some wins during the 2 game set in Atlanta against the Braves and then back to Boston for 2 more, it’s pretty clear that they cannot afford another injury. God forbid another starter goes down with something, it begs the question: what the hell will this team do?

Christian Vazquez: The Pitcher Whisperer

Hey Dave, are your pitchers struggling early on this season? Let me introduce you to Christian Vazquez, also known as The Pitcher Whisperer.

It’s no secret that the current Red Sox rotation struggled right out of the gate posting an American League worst 7.32 ERA thru the first 9 games of the season. Pitcher WhispererIt’s also no secret that last May the Sox had to rush Blake Swihart to the major leagues after losing both Christian Vazquez and Ryan Hanigan to injury. And now, with a healthy Vazquez returning to form after recovering from Tommy John surgery, the Red Sox had no choice but to bring him back to help stabilize this disaster of a rotation.

Pitcher Whisperer Gets Results

In his first major league start since returning from Tommy John surgery, Vazquez showed Red Sox Nation why he’s highly regarded as one of the top catchers in the game today. Not only did he help guide Porcello to his 2nd win of the year (6.1 IP, 2 H, 3 ER, 1 B and 8 K’s), but he also showed us his cannon of an arm by gunning down Tulowitski in the 1st inning with a nasty pick-off at 1st.

Up next, David Price who is known to get off to a slow start in the month of April (4.70 ERA in April since 2013) looked to have some good chemistry with Vazquez behind the plate. Price only allowed 2 ER in 7.0 IP, while striking out 9 Jays en-route to his 2nd win of the season.

Now I’m not saying Vazquez was 100% responsible for the back-to-back wins against the Jays, but it’s hard not to notice how the pitchers respond to his game calling ability. In my opinion, Porcello looked like a completely different pitcher confidence wise; he was throwing more of his sinker and attacking the strike zone. Nothing against Swihart by any means, but clearly pitchers seem to perform better with Vazquez as their battery-mate.

Back in the winter of 2015, during the Red Sox Winter Weekend, Joe Kelly had nothing but praise for the young defensive catcher, and even went as far to  compare him to his former teammate and catcher in St. Louis, Yadier Molina. “Mini Yadi. That’s his nickname. I call him that”, said Kelly.

Now obviously that’s a pretty big comparison for someone who has only been in the major leagues for less than 2 full seasons, but it’s not far-fetched. Christian is a special talent no doubt about that and as time goes on he will only become that much better. But in the mean time the Sox don’t need him to be “Yadier 2.0” they just need him to be Christian Vazquez, the Pitcher Whisperer for the Boston Red Sox.