Team Turmoil has two months remaining and a two 1/2 game margin over the Yankees in the AL East. The Boston Herald’s Michael Silverman identifies the following keys to survival (among others) down the stretch :
1) Fix the bullpen “ The Red Sox’ interest in Billy Wagner, J.C. Romero, Scott Eyre and other relievers leading up to the trade deadline was not an exercise in busy work. The bullpen remains the team’s most flawed component and the July additions of Chad Bradford and Manny Delcarmen cannot be all that is planned. The bullpen’s ERA last month was 4.76 and batting average against .285, both the second-worst numbers in the league. More call-ups from the minors are always possible, as the team hopes to find its 2005 version of Anaheim’s Francisco Rodriguez in 2002. An August trade (like Mike Myers last year) is a possibility.
2) Have Keith Foulke return as Keith Foulke “ Sox general manager Theo Epstein sounded particularly optimistic, encouraged and excited talking about Foulke Sunday. The injured closer is expected to return from knee surgery by mid- to late-August. If he is the early 2005 Foulke, yesterday’s excitement is going to quickly fizzle. It is impossible to imagine the Red Sox marching through the playoffs without Foulke or another bona fide closer. Rumors of Wagner ending up in Boston never became fact. Foulke is currently the Sox’ only established option at closer.
3) Get Curt Schilling back into the rotation “ Take away Schilling’s first jet-lagged loss to the Yankees on July 14, and he is 2-1 with a 2.53 ERA and four saves in five opportunities. Great, but Schilling does not belong in the bullpen. He is a starter, and he and the team are sending every signal possible that he will return to the rotation, where he is needed most, before too long. The team can only hope his ankle will hold up because without Schilling starting in a playoff series, the rotation looks a lot less fearsome.
3) Keep Manny Ramirez happy “ Ha. Good luck. Ramirez’ moods seemingly can be changed by whoever’s holding a remote control closest to him. If he flakes out again, it will be telling if tales of clubhouse disharmony emerge again. Ramirez’ production at the plate seems immune to long dips and that is his ultimate redeeming quality. Without him, the Red Sox’ offense goes from great to pretty good and pretty good does not cover up enough pitching holes.
On the bullpen front, Silverman doesn’t seem to be amongst those who think the recently signed Craig Hansen is ready to help out this season.