July 2010

Mysteriously mediocre

There have obviously been a whole lot of subplots to digest from the Red Sox’s first half. There was the rough first month. Then the resurgence. Then all the injuries, with the team still managing to keep its head above water.

But one thing has perplexed me for the last couple of months. What is the story with John Lackey?

Obviously, there were great expectations, and rightfully so, when the Red Sox signed Lackey for five years at $82.5 million.

The righty has been decidedly mediocre in the first half, culminating with today’s performance, when he gave up eight hits and seven runs over 4 2/3 innings against the Blue Jays.

Overall, Lackey is 9-5 with a 4.78 ERA in 18 starts. That ERA is nearly a run higher than his career ERA of 3.88. Opponents are hitting .298 against Lackey, 33 points above his career average.

Is it pitching in the American League East? Is it pitching in the pressure cooker of Boston? With the All-Star Game in Anaheim, it would have been a nice story for Lackey to get a ticket back here in a Boston uniform to pitch in his former home. But he never gave that much of a run.

Lackey has given precious little insight into why he isn’t the pitcher he was for all those years in Anaheim. It’s not as if Lackey has been horrible. Far from it. There have been plenty of nights when he’s given the Sox a solid chance to win. It’s just that he hasn’t really gotten locked into any kind of groove.

If he can do so in the second half, it would mean a lot to the Red Sox.

Swish pulls in front; Will Youk take it at buzzer?

The pendulum has swung again, with this morning’s news that Nick Swisher has passed Kevin Youkilis in the Final Vote balloting by the slimmest of margins.

Voting concludes at 3:59 p.m. http://www.redsox.com and http://www.mlb.com.

On the plus side, Youkilis is healthy after leaving Tuesday’s game with cramping in his right ankle. He is back in the lineup tonight, batting cleanup. Ryan Shealy has been called up from the Minors as injury protection.

Youk moves in front

Halfway through the process for the Final Vote at http://www.mlb.com, Kevin Youkilis has moved in front of Nick Swisher.

Youkilis is trying to make the Red Sox 4-0 when they have a player in the Final Vote. If successful, he would join Johnny Damon (2002), Jason Varitek (2003) and Hideki Okajima (2007) as Sox players to make the All-Star Game on the Final Vote.

You can vote until Thursday at 4 p.m. ET at http://www.redsox.com and http://www.mlb.com.

Six Sox Stars and one (sort of) snub

The Red Sox got plenty of respect from players around Major League Baseball as no fewer than six Boston players were slected to the All-Star Game via the player voting.

But just as newsy as Adrian Beltre, Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia and Victor Martinez being named to the squad was the news that Kevin Youkilis did not make the cut.

Youkilis is one of the five AL players eligible for the Final Vote ballot, so Red Sox fans should go to http://www.mlb.com or http://www.redsox.com and vote if they want to support the gritty first baseman.

“I’m not a self promoter,” said Youkilis. “I’m not going to tell anyone to vote for me. I hope my family and friends vote for me. but it’s going to take more than that. For me, I’m going to go out and play baseball and not worry about it. I’ts out of my hands. You just go out and try to win a ballgame.”

Beltre seemed to be the guy that Sox players were the happiest for.

“No question, man,” said Ortiz. “If there’s one guy in this clubhouse who should be part of the All-Star Game, it’s Adrian. Adrian has been doing an unbelievable job for this ballclub and I think he’s earned it.”

Clay Buchholz has come the furthest in the shortest amount of time. Remember two years ago when he was so despondent and lost and posted a 6.75 ERA in 16 starts?

“There’s been a lot of ups and downs to get to this point. Being able to be named with the guys that are on, that’s awesome,” said Buchholz. “It’s something that I dreamed about growing up. I dreamed about just playing in the big leagues. I’m as happy as can be.”

Though Jon Lester has pitched like an All-Star since May of 2008, this is his first time officially being one.

“It’s obviously big,” said Lester. “It’s something you grow up watching as a kid, the home-run derby and everything. You see a lot of great players playing that game. It’s definitely an honor. Like I said before, I’m going to try to do my best to represent the Red Sox and hopefully do well out there.”

For Ortiz, this All-Star berth has to be particuarly gratifying, considering the number of people who were on the verge of giving up on him back in April.

“That’s a tough first month,” Red Sox manager Terry Francona said. “He said all along, ‘It’s a long year, stay with me.’ There’s probably days when he was irritated with me and probably days where he was more than irritated with some of you. He’s right. He’s been a terrific player and continues to be, and I think it’s great that he was recognized for that.”

At least outwardly, Ortiz took the news in stride.

“I really appreciate it, man, what the players think about a guy like myself,” Ortiz said. “Like I say, I’m a guy that I try to respect everyone and play the game the way it’s supposed to be. I think when you get voted in by the players, it’s just because pretty much everyone agrees with what you’re doing, so, I’d say I really appreciate that.”

For Pedroia, the All-Star nod has to be bittersweet since he currently is walking with crutches and obviously won’t be able to play in the game.

“It’s still a great honor,” Pedroia said. “I’m really excited. The players voted me in? That’s pretty cool. Pretty special. I’m excited about it.”

As for Youkilis, Ortiz said to get out there and vote.

“Yeah man, all of you out there, you guys make sure that my boy Youk comes on this flight. You can’t play no better than that,” said Ortiz. “When I found out he wasn’t going, I was kind of upset. A guy that has put it together like Youk thorugh the years and especially this season, he really deserves to be out there. I know a lot of people will keep that in mind and make sure Youk is an all-star. He deserves to be in there.”

All-Star Sunday

Hey all, sorry for the power outage in my blog the last few days. I was off for some family time. But now I’m back at Fenway and ready to take in All-Star Sunday.

We will know in the noon hour who the Red Sox All-Stars are.

More then.