Amazingly frustrating and partly self-inflicted defeat today, as the Sox wilted to The Transformer, Mike Mussina, who baffled them with a variety of offspeed pitches and an 87 mph fastball. Worse yet, in the ninth, Mariano Rivera escaped a bases loaded, no out jam with particular ineptness by the tail end of the lineup. Coco Crisp fanned on three pitches, struggling Jason Varitek popped up, and Julio Lugo whiffed on a cutter down the middle.
Justin Masterson pitched six credible innings, allowing a pair of runs, reduced his walks to a pair, and kept the ball in the ballpark.
Remarkably, there were SEVEN hit batsmen in the game, and you didn't get the feeling that any of them were the least bit intentional.
There's nothing cheaper than free advice and as I once read, the easiest thing in the world is spending someone else's money. There probably isn't anything dramatically better for the Red Sox than the return of David Ortiz, and we have to wonder whether that is coming this season or not.
What options even exist for the Sox at this time?
- Shoring up the bullpen. This could happen in several ways, including improving the consistency of the existing pitchers, adding Clay Buchholz to either the rotation (moving Masterson to the pen) or bullpen, and acquiring another reliever (probably costly with many suitors competing).
- Rejiggering the lineup. Jacoby Ellsbury started to bunt after Jerry Remy discussed it the other day.
- Fixing Varitek. I'm not sure that his bat speed is the problem, but on more than one occasion I'm seeing him either drop his back arm (creating more of an uppercut swing) or simply jerk his head off the ball (can't hit what you can't see). I'm no hitting instructor, but I recall Joe Morgan (the Reds') doing a chicken wing thing to remind himself NOT to drop the elbow.
- You go, Lugo. The Sox have a lot of money tied up in Lugo, and although he's improved defensively recently, he's giving them little production offensively. You can't expect Alex Cora to do much playing once a week, and I'm sure the Sox don't want to give up on Lugo at 9 plus extra large a year. They have Jed Lowrie with potentially better offense and less range, but Lugo hasn't exactly been Ozzie Smith at short.
- Manny being Manny. We can put up with the nuttiness when Manny Ramirez hits. When he doesn't hit, the craziness simply becomes contagious. Frankly, I'd rather see Brandon Moss at DH tomorrow against Joba Chamberlain, rather than Manny. Just one day off, that's all. We'll see how Francona sees it.
I'm not saying that one loss should trigger mass changes, rather we should review the overall play of the team, the strengths, weaknesses, and needs.