Red Sox fans will recall that last year the bullpen was decimated by injuries. From Franklin Morales to Andrew Miller, from Craig Breslow to Andrew Bailey, many of Boston’s relievers spent large chunks of the season on the disabled list. But the worst blow of all was the loss of Joel Hanrahan, who was supposed to be the closer, to Tommy John surgery just one month into the season.
If not for their tremendous depth and an unbelievable season from Koji Uehara (who is currently dealing with a sore shoulder but is expected to be back soon), Boston would have sunk.
Now the Red Sox depth is being tested once again, but this time it’s a test of their bench players, and so far they’re getting an “F,” as the team lost for the fourth time in five games on Tuesday night, 2-1 decision to the White Sox.
The parade of injuries started with Shane Victorino, who was nursing a finger injury throughout spring training. Then as the season drew closer Victorino tweaked his hamstring, and was forced to begin the 2014 campaign on the DL. He has yet to play a game, but is expected to rejoin the team by the end of April.
On April 5, third baseman Will Middlebrooks strained his right calf. He’s missed nine games so far and is not eligible to come off the disabled list until April 21.
Lineup lynchpin Dustin Pedroia, who played in all but two games last year, missed Sunday’s tilt with the Yankees to have his sore left wrist examined. Pedroia received a cortisone shot on Monday and is hoping to be in the starting lineup on Wednesday.
Pedroia made a cameo appearance in Tuesday’s game when he was called on to pinch-run for Mike Napoli, who dislocated his ring finger on his left hand while sliding into second base.
Any amount of time without Napoli would be a significant ordeal for the Red Sox, who have struggled to hit for power all season. Napoli is said to be day-to-day.
Napoli’s absence in the field was felt on Tuesday night when Mike Carp was unable to handle a short throw to first base by Xander Bogaerts, leading to the White Sox walk-off win.
Although the error was charged to Bogaerts, the ball hit Carp’s glove off the hop, so it’s not reckless to assume that Napoli would have been able to handle it.
The Red Sox dropped to 5-9 on the season after that result. It’s too early in the season to panic, but you might want to stop putting money to the side for World Series tickets for a while.
After all, the Red Sox calling card last year was their lineup consistency. As Jesse Spector pointed out in his column, the Red Sox had eight players appear in 120 or more games last season (They are: Pedroia, Napoli, Ortiz, Ellsbury, Nava, Drew, Victorino, and Saltalamacchia).
Over the last 10 seasons, 15 of the last 20 World Series competitors had at least seven starters compete in 120 or more games, according to Spector.
Fortunately for the Red Sox none of these injuries are very serious, but even still, you never want to be in last place in your division. We’ll see if Boston can turn it around.