By Sterling Pingree
Now that we’ve broken through the All-Star break and come out on the other side, I started thinking about what I’d like to see from the Boston Red Sox in the second half of the season. The team has been uninspiring at times, frustrating at others, but beginning the second half with a 3.5 game lead in the East makes the rest seem like first world problems. I guess, so is compiling a list of wishes for the second half of the season. In that case, wish number one!
Wish number one for the second half of the Red Sox season is for good health for the starting rotation. That’s a noble request right? I’d ask for specific good fortune for Eduardo Rodriguez. Eddie was becoming the starter many of us believed he could be before his Camden Yards tumble. (I’m still looking for a way to blame that on Manny Machado. I haven’t figured out a way yet, but I’m going to keep trying.)
Wish number two is for some power. It’s hard to imagine that the Red Sox, owners of the second best record in the American League, have also hit a league worst 92 home runs. Boston is in the top half of the league in most offensive categories and are second in team average but the team should get some more power production out of this line up. This power should also come from somewhere other than their three speedy outfielders, as the “Killer B’s” (Betts, Bradley and Benintendi) have accounted for 40 of the team’s 92 round trippers this year. That’s good for them, but some pop needs to come from somewhere else besides the outfield. Which brings me to wish number three.
Number three is that Xander Bogaerts be more aggressive at the plate and maybe, just maybe, take a big cut at a first pitch fastball once in a while. Bogaerts doesn’t have to become Nomar Garciaparra or anything to that extreme, but would taking a home run swing on a first pitch once a week kill him? It’s hard to find too much fault in the approach at the plate of the guy leading your team in hitting, but not constantly getting behind in the count would certainly play to his benefit. Offering at the first pitch will also limit the number of times Tim Neverett can point out what a good two strike hitter Xander is and how he watches the first pitch more than anybody else in the American League.
Wish number four is for bullpen help in the form of Phillies All-Star reliever, Pat Neshek. You may not necessarily recognize the name, but if you’ve seen him pitch you would certainly recognize his pitching motion. It can best be described as: it’s what it would look like if Keith Foulke threw side arm. Whatever it looks like, it’s effective. Neshek sports a 1.27 ERA while striking out 36, walking just 5 in 35.1 innings for the worst team in baseball. Neshek is no stranger to the AL, he spent the last two season in Houston where he wasn’t quite as sharp but he still only walked a dozen batters per year, while keeping his ERA near 3. The Sox wouldn’t have to give up much for Neshek, who turns 37 in September and has pitched for 6 teams during his 11-year career.
My fifth and final wish is certainly the most nit-picky of wishes. Matt Barnes, would you bend your damn back and follow through? Every time Barnes has gotten into trouble this season it starts the same way: walks the first two hitters because he leaves everything high and can’t find the strike zone. I’m convinced if Barnes could limit his free passes that he’d be an invaluable member of this bullpen, but at the moment, that’s still just a wish.
Sterling Pingree (@SterlingPingree on Twitter) is a co-host of The Drive, weekdays 4pm to 6pm on 92.9fm The Ticket and streaming live at DriveShowMaine.com. Follow us on Twitter, @DriveShowMaine and “Like Us” on Facebook, Drive Show Maine.