It's tough to believe, but these Red Sox — the few that are left standing, that is — are still alive and well heading into the second half of the season, despite the abundance of injuries they've suffered.
So what or who will this club need to add into the mix at the trade deadline to kick things into high gear? No one — no one from the outside, that is.
With a handful of All-Star starters on the mend and set to return at some point soon, manager Terry Francona's bunch has had many problems staying afloat, let alone narrowing the gap between his Red Sox and the second-place Tampa Bay Rays. But with these stars back in the mix, their production will be far greater than any outside addition the front office can nab.
What are the Red Sox' needs and what moves will they make as the deadline nears?
–Sean G., Westwood, Mass.
I really believe very little. The returning players are deals enough. Getting those guys back are all you’re really going to need, and they will be back. The Red Sox payroll is also an issue luxury tax wise, as it stands. The return of Dustin Pedroia and Victor Martinez will be crucial. I think if anything, minor moves seem to make sense. Maybe a catcher or another reliever for the pen if it makes sense and is a low risk. I just don’t see a big move on the horizon. Not when your roster, when healthy, could be one of the game's best. A lot of rumors are starting because it's that time of year, but in the end, I think the health of the current roster is the best move, all without spending too much or sacrificing some of the future.
What is keeping the Red Sox afloat and in the mix with all of these historic injuries?
–Louie, Woburn, Mass.
Pitching, without a doubt. If the starters can keep them in games, they have a chance. You look at the A’s teams in the early 2000s and there were unbelievable pitching staffs and so-so lineups. Same could be said for the Atlanta Braves for much of their incredible run of division titles. It’s all about the pitching. I think the offense and run support will return as the Sox get many of the position players back. If they can just hang in there for a few more weeks things could still happen and postseason thoughts may not be dashed. Especially where this week will likely mark the return of Clay Buchholz and Josh Beckett.
Does Daisuke Matsuzaka stay in the rotation when all are healthy again?
Yes. He continues to mystify me and never is predictable. I think Tim Wakefield will return to the pen again when all arms return, basically because he has the ability to do so. Many can look at it as one of those few instances where versatility works against you. There is no doubt Tim would prefer to stay in the rotation. As far as Daisuke goes, it is a flip of a coin as to which Matsuzaka will appear from outing to outing. His start against Oakland on Monday was outstanding and his pitch count remained economical throughout. You just don’t know start to start. He could throw a no hitter or be out in the second inning, and neither would surprise anyone.
Why is the West Coast trip so hard for the Red Sox in years past?
–Bob, South Boston
It's hard to say. You can talk about travel and jet lag and time differences. I was sort of surprised by the numbers since 2004, of how bad the win-loss record has been on the three-city West Coast swings. They are long and generally without off days, however the teams in the West have not been near the talent of the AL East, so why the bad results? I guess if Terry knew or there was an easy answer, they would rectify the situation and do something differently. This year is tough because you have the additional trip out here because of interleague play. We were actually staying in this same hotel a few weeks back when playing the Giants. The road is always tougher and maybe the travel mixed in is a bigger deal.
Since the Sox start the second half of the season with 14 straight games against the AL West, who do you think will win the West?
–Captain Carl, Detroit
Having just seen Texas, I am on board that the Rangers should win the West. They seem to have it all. Especially now, with the addition of Cliff Lee. I really felt heading into the season that the Seattle Mariners were the most improved with Lee and Chone Figgins and that the Angels had too many holes that were not replaced adequately. Texas has very good hitters, starting pitching and the pen is solid with hard throwers. For years, the Rangers were all offense and no pitching and now they have great balance and, in my mind, will win the West easily. If you are a Rangers pessimist then you are waiting for the second-half swoon that they have been famous for. I just think they are too good this time for that.