Thanks to a blowout win over Baltimore on Monday night at Fenway Park, the Red Sox and their fans can, at the very least, take a deep breath. The Sox are two games up on the Rays and control their own destiny, but still, there is uneasiness in Red Sox Nation.
What happened to Carl Crawford in 2011?
–Jan, Sunrise, Fla.
This is a tough one. I really was very excited when the Sox got him. I really did not think they would be able to get him on the open market. When they did, I was floored. He is one of the great athletes that baseball has and was so much fun to watch as an opponent for several years.
I think it was all about how things started here. He was totally out of his element. There is a a lot to be said about comfort and confidence in this game and in life. He was comfortable and confident in his abilities in Tampa. Things started badly here and he began to question himself on both fronts instantly. Then things started to snowball. The time he spent on the DL seemed to help when he came back with a new perspective but overall, his body of work is not what you expected or expect in the coming years. I think next year will be a big year for him to prove himself and that he will likely come back on a mission. There is part of me that thinks he could be Carl Crawford again in the new season of the playoffs in October. Nobody will remember his first regular season if he has a monster postseason.
Why do the Sox not put Alfredo Aceves in the starting rotation?
–Stefan, Cambridge, Mass.
At this point, I am unsure. I think it is clear they need to. I get his value as a multiple-inning reliever who shuts down the other team and gives your offense a chance to come back. To me, with the way teams have started games against the Red Sox, the start of the game is now a glaring area of concern. I think he would be more valuable starting. Once the playoffs are secured, you can return him to that role but right now he is the most consistent pitcher the Red Sox have. I am amazed at how good he has been and am confused by the Yankees' decision to not bring him back. I know there was concern over his back and injuries but he has been incredibly consistent and healthy all year and seems to have a rubber arm.
Will Clay Buchholz come back soon and contribute in October?
–Larry, Holliston, Mass.
Initially, I thought there was no chance, but Clay has said all along he will be back and will pitch in September and then October. With the way things are progressing, it appears he might be right. There are steps that need to happen — and happen pain-free — and there needs to be simulated games because there are no minor league teams playing and no place to rehab. I think if he can do all this and make a start or two, then the third starter conversation is over. I think the plan initially was to put him in the bullpen, but if he is good to go I see no reason to not make him your third starter in the postseason. Again, time is running out and he needs to go through the process. We will see.
The Rays just took three out four from the Sox. What are your impressions of the Rays?
–Brian, Glenburn, Maine
They are scary and playing great baseball at the right time. Sometimes teams that get hot now can ride that right into October, and the key will be to keep them out of October. I am impressed by everything they have accomplished to this point. I really counted them out with all of the losses they endured during the winter — Carlos Pena, Carl Crawford and their entire bullpen, all gone. In the end, their starters were better than I thought and their overall team has surprised me. I guess I never should have counted out Joe Maddon, who is a great manager of people first and his team second. Despite what they did offensively versus the Red Sox, their offense remains a question mark. Should they somehow get by the Sox, they're as good as anybody because of the starters they roll out on a daily basis.
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