Opening Day is typically regarded as a welcomed sight for Boston Red Sox fans around the globe. It typically symbols the return of warmer weather, good times, and of course – the boys of summer returning to Fenway Park. Despite an anticipated series with the Baltimore Orioles, it went downhill quickly for Alex Cora’s Red Sox.
Here are five quick thoughts on the Sox opening series.
The Offense was left in Fort Myers
If there was a bright spot heading into the season, it had to have been the offensive outburst in Spring Training. The Red Sox were carried by the usual suspects of JD Martinez, Xander Bogaerts, and Rafael Devers while also getting key contributions from newcomers in Kike Hernandez, Bobby Dalbec, and soon-to-be outfielder, Jarren Duran.
All the hype quickly dissipated this weekend as the Red Sox only key contributor at the plate was JD Martinez. Only Marwin Gonzalez and Christian Vazquez collected more than two hits in the opening series.
The Red Sox scored five runs against the murderer’s row of Orioles pitchers – John Means, Matt Harvey, and Bruce Zimmerman…ouch.
Defense could use some work
Let’s face it, the Red Sox defensively were abysmal when it mattered most this weekend. In Game One, there was a kicked double play ball by Kike Hernandez that allowed the Orioles to score in a contest in which the Sox offense was completely silenced by Means. Not to mention Bobby Dalbec digging out at least two poor throws from Rafael Devers. In Game Two, Devers then threw away a ball that cost Tanner Houck a chance at a win, and ultimately suffered a tough-luck loss.
It’s early, and while excuses have been made for Devers’ youth, it’s time to keep an eye on his defense in 2021. While only being charged with one error, there are many “hold your breath” moments whenever the ball is hit to the left side. The Red Sox need more, and expect more, out of their franchise cornerstone; however if he can’t handle the defensive side, it may be time to explore other positional options.
A Six Man Rotation should be deployed early
Alex Cora previously dismissed the notion of a six man rotation, but with Eduardo Rodriguez starting the year on the IL it should be considered. All signs point to Rodriguez making a return to the rotation either towards the end of this week, or early next week which would force Tanner Houck likely back to the alternate site. Don’t.
Despite a rather disappointing spring, Houck was his usual self when the game counted. He flashed his Chris Sale-esque slider and overpowered hitters with new-found 95-96 velocity. Yes, he needs to work on a third pitch, but when the team is struggling, don’t send down one of your best arms for no reason. Let ERod ease his way back in, and utilize a six man rotation for now.
Bright Spot(s): Young Arms
Tanner Houck and Garrett Whitlock were excellent this weekend. Houck, as previously mentioned, continued his performance from last season with 8K’s over five innings. There was certainly some form of expectation for Houck; however Whitlock was a bit of an unknown. The former Yankees prospect was selected by Chaim Bloom, and the Red Sox, during the Rule 5 Draft and hadn’t appeared in a game about the Double A level…which also was in 2019 due to Tommy John surgery.
Fans can argue over whether, or not, Cora should have used Whitlock sooner but the tall righty flashed promise out of the bullpen. Five strikeouts over 3.1 IP is an excellent debut for a prospect that was a huge unknown. Keep an eye on him; however it wouldn’t be surprising to see an eventual inning cap on their young arm, as he hasn’t pitched since 2019.
The Red Sox have little time to lick their wounds as they welcome the Tampa Bay Rays to town for a three game set. It would be nice to see the offense turn it around quickly. Here are the matchups.
Monday: Nick Pivetta vs. Michael Wacha
Tuesday: Martin Perez vs Tyler Glasnow
Wednesday: Nate Eovaldi vs Ryan Yarbrough
Photo Credit: Michael Dwyer / AP