Will the Sox bounce back in Cleveland? We’ll have to wait and see. Without further ado, here’s the first mailbag of the regular season.
What happened in Texas?
–Doreen, Medford, Mass.
Nothing good. I called the ALDS last fall for TBS when Texas topped Tampa Bay. They were good then, and even minus Cliff Lee, they are good now. They also lost Vladimir Guerrero but gained Mike Napoli and Adrian Beltre, and their pitching remains good enough — especially at the end of the game with Neftali Feliz. Their lineup can mash, and if opponents pitch poorly, you can forget it. And guess what? The Red Sox pitched poorly.
The good news is the Red Sox will do the same to some other teams and will get another shot at Texas again a couple of more times. It was a bad weekend but it was only three games. One has to believe that with the Rangers’ deep offense — which they always have had — the pitching is the biggest difference in Texas now. I guess with Nolan Ryan as the team’s president, I should not be surprised.
Jacoby Ellsbury seems to be starting well. Do you think this will be a big year for him?
–Larry, Dorchester, Mass.
I think this is going to be a huge year for him. He came into spring training on a mission and as locked in as I have ever seen him. I think down deep he is angry with how his injury and his toughness were questioned last year. He is ready to reclaim all that was expected of him as a prospect and strong major league player prior to the injury. He will not likely admit it but how could you not be upset about how it was perceived if you are hurting and unable to play?
He is going to turn the 2010 anguish into a big 2011. He had an amazing spring, maybe the best of anyone, and he was on base four times Opening Day. Jacoby is locked in.
Is new pitching coach Curt Young to blame for the weak pitching performances over the weekend?
–Dan Jones, Cleveland
Hardly. I think coaches get too much credit at times for things that go well and take way too much blame when thing go poorly. This was not a product of getting to know the new coach. He is a highly successful pitching coach and has been with very raw, young talent in Oakland. These are veterans he is now dealing with and he is still getting to know how they like to work, which was a process he worked on all spring and is continuing now, in the early going of the season. It’s hard to blame him for Daniel Bard on Friday and John Lackey on Saturday.
We have seen three variations of lineups in three games. Will this continue or will Terry Francona settle in with one?
–Sully, Manchester, N.H.
I think he will continue to change things up in the early going. He may drop guys in the lineup to try to get them going, like he did with Carl Crawford on Sunday. Also, when a lefty starts, he will mix everything up until he determines who is able to hit lefties this year. A perfect example of this is David Ortiz. Heading into the season, Francona said if David hits lefties, he will stay in the lineup with a southpaw on the hill. David’s first home run of the season was off lefty Darren Oliver.
I think too much is made of the lineup. The nine guys you see start on a regular basis are solid and there are no easy outs, despite what we saw in Texas. Terry is really good at placing a guy in the order where he is comfortable and can flourish. I think when he finds the right fit (perhaps a month?) you have a better chance of seeing it on a regular basis.