Sizing up the Sox
Now that Theo Epstein has completed his last significant move of the season, getting Billy Wagner in the much-discussed deal with the Mets, it is a good time to look at the team as a whole.
And Epstein seemed fairly optimistic about a club that now includes Victor Martinez, Alex Gonzalez and Wagner.
Of late, the Red Sox have been crushing the ball. The bullpen only gets better with Wagner. And the rotation will get Tim Wakefield back Wednesday, and perhaps Daisuke Matsuzaka by Sept. 8.
“I think we’ve been through a lot,” Epstein said. “It hasn’t been one of those years where everything works like clockwork. If you look at the different elements of the team, our lineup is really talented and really deep. We have a lot of different options and we’re scoring a lot of runs now and I’d like to think that’s going to stay for the majority of the rest of the season. I think this team is perfectly capable of scoring a lot of runs and can certainly hit enough to win.
“Our bullpen is probably, I’d like to think, it’s very deep and talented and a lot of different looks now from the left and right side. It’s been a strength all year and I hope it continues to be a strength.
“And our starting rotation, the main issues in the middle of the season here have been the stability of the back half of the rotation. That’s something that we continue to work through. Clay Buchholz has had a pretty good second half of the season. I’d like to see him continue to build on that. We have a couple of different pitchers close to coming off the disabled list who have done a lot in their big league careers and I’d like to think they can help stabilize the back half of the rotation as well. We’re in the middle of it and we have our work cut out for us. There’s no guaranteed road to the postseason. There’s none in the offseason. There’s not in Spring Training. There’s not during the year. There’s not now. We’ve got to fight for it and I think we’re prepared to do that and we like the roster we have to try to get that done.”
What can the Red Sox expect from Dice-K?
“It remains to be seen what we’ll get. I don’t think anyone can say with any certainty. I will say that he’s worked as hard as a human being can possibly work under the circumstances to get back. He’s lost some bad weight, added some good core weight, some good core muscle strength and he’s getting through his delivery a lot better. I watched his rehab outing the other day on the web cam that we have down there. He was getting through his delivery a lot better. His arm was working well. He showed better shape to his breaking ball. Better command of his fastball down in the zone. So we’ll see. It was against a rookie ball opponent. We’ll see how he does as he works his way up. I don’t think we’re counting on him to be a savior. But I don’t think it’s unrealistic to hope that he can contribute in some way in September.”
One other interesting nugget from Epstein is that part of the reason ownership was so willing to pay the money necessary to land Wagner is that there were significant incentive bonuses for both John Smoltz and Brad Penny that won’t be used.
“I should note that ownership deserves an awful lot of credit here. We had a couple of starting pitchers who were due to make a lot of money in performance bonuses and due to some developments in recent days, and recent weeks, it was clear there’s going to be a savings,” Epstein said. “Some of the money budgeted for performance bonuses, it’s probably not going to end up getting paid out. So instead of just pocketing that money, we were allowed to look for ways to improve the club, improve our chances of getting to the postseason and winning a World Series. This was a redirection of those funds. I think a lot of ownership groups would have just said, ‘great, let’s come in under budget, let’s keep the money.’ This ownership group does whatever it takes to win. Redirecting those savings for someone like a Billy Wagner made a lot of sense.”