Boston Red Sox Have Shown Encouraging Signs Despite Underwhelming April

Shane VictorinoBOSTON — In many ways, Wednesday’s rainout at Fenway Park was a fitting ending to the Red Sox’s first month of the 2014 season. April included some rather gloomy moments the Sox would prefer to put behind them.

The Red Sox finished April under .500 at 13-14. While not catastrophic by any means, the defending World Series champions certainly had higher expectations, especially since Boston didn’t register a single losing month last season for the first time since 2009. The Red Sox finished last April with an MLB-best 18-8 record.

But Red Sox fans shouldn’t worry too much about the slow start. Red Sox manager John Farrell said Wednesday he feels the club is moving in the right direction, and there are plenty of reasons to think he’s accurate in his assessment.

Below are some positives to consider as the Red Sox begin a new month Thursday.

— The Red Sox enter Thursday’s doubleheader having won eight of their last 13 games. They’re tied for the second-best record in the American League since April 16 following a 5-9 start.

— The Red Sox finally have their full lineup now that outfielder Shane Victorino and third baseman Will Middlebrooks have returned from their respective injuries. The results already are showing.

Boston has scored seven or more runs in three of its last four games after doing so just once in the club’s first 23 games.

“We haven’t been clicking on all cylinders early on and (Victorino) is one of the main reasons for that,” catcher David Ross said Thursday. “He’s such a big part of our lineup. He gives us that baserunning dynamic. He makes our lineup a lot deeper, and having Will Middlebrooks back too. There’s some right-handed power there we really didn’t have when he was out other than Mike Napoli. We’re getting back and things are starting to click better.”

— The Red Sox’s offense hasn’t altered its approach at all, which makes sense given how successful that approach was throughout 2013.

The Red Sox are averaging 4.11 pitches per plate appearance this season, which ranks second in the majors behind the Minnesota Twins (4.20).

Mike Napoli leads all major league qualifiers with 4.68 pitches per plate appearance. He also led the majors in 2013 with 4.58 pitchers per plate appearance.

— Xander Bogaerts and Jackie Bradley Jr. still are adapting to life as everyday major leaguers, and it’s reasonable to think they’ll get better as the season goes on.

— The Red Sox’s bullpen has been solid, for the most part.

Boston ranks third in the AL with a 3.25 bullpen ERA, trailing only the Oakland Athletics (2.65) and Cleveland Indians (3.24).

The relief effort has been spearheaded by the usual stellar mound work of Koji Uehara and Junichi Tazawa, but new addition Chris Capuano, who hasn’t surrendered an earned run in 14 1/3 innings, has given the Red Sox a versatile lefty.

— The AL East has been weak, so it’s not as if the Red Sox have dug themselves a big hole. Boston enters Thursday’s twin bill just 2 1/2 games behind the first-place New York Yankees.

None of this is to make excuses for the Red Sox’s underwhelming start to the 2014 season. It’s simply to pump the brakes on any panic that might have settled in upon realizing the defending World Series champions began their title defense with a sub.-500 April.

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