What We Think We Know

After a solid opening series in New York, we may or may not have learned some things about the 2013 Red Sox.

We’re three games into the season, and we essentially know nothing about the 2013 Red Sox.

Well, that’s not exactly true. If you’ve visited this blog or have been living in New England at all for the past six months, you’ve probably read a little Red Sox analysis here or there.

We know that the Sox won a putrid 69 games last year. We know that they responded by spending over $100 million in free agency this winter and trading for a new manager. We know that there is a renewed sense of optimism in Boston, but a road to the postseason will be tough in the ultra-competitive AL East.

And now, three games into the season, we don’t know much more than we did in February. But after an entertaining opening series in New York, which saw the Sox get off to a nice 2-1 start, it’s reasonable to make some inferences about what we can expect to see going forward.

Here is what we think we know:

The Outfield Platoon Might Not Happen

Two weeks ago, it looked like the Red Sox were going to start the season with Jacoby Ellsbury in center, Shane Victorino in right, and a platoon of Jonny Gomes and Daniel Nava in left. Ryan Sweeney was going to be the fifth outfielder, and Sweeney and Nava could have manned the corners on a day where a tough righty (i.e. Hiroki Kuroda) was on the hill.

But then, Boston decided to call up Jackie Bradley Jr. A left-handed hitter, Bradley started all three games against the Yankees, even though difficult southpaws CC Sabathia and Andy Pettitte started Games 1 and 3. It’s clear that Bradley is going to be the starting left fielder for the majority of Boston’s games in 2013, assuming he continues to hit at a reasonable pace.

That doesn’t leave much room for Nava or Gomes. The pair shared time at designated hitter in the opening series due to David Ortiz’s injury, but once Ortiz comes back, that’s his job every night.

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, however. Having a right-handed masher like Gomes and a versatile switch-hitter like Nava on the bench is a huge luxury, even in the American League. But when the Red Sox are healthy, don’t expect manager John Farrell to have to be crafty with his day-to-day lineups; they pretty much write themselves now.

John Farrell Knows His Bullpen

The Red Sox invested heavily in their bullpen this offseason, signing strikeout machine Koji Uehara and trading for closer Joel Hanrahan. A healthy Andrew Bailey gives Boston three legitimate shutdown right-handers in the back of their bullpen, and Andrew Miller is a deceiving left-hander who provides good balance.

On Opening Day, Farrell was masterful in his bullpen usage. After John Lester lasted just five innings, Farrell opted to go straight to Uehara for the sixth, with the Sox hanging on to a 4-2 lead. Uehara needed just five pitches – all strikes – to get through a 1-2-3 frame.

In the seventh, Farrell went straight to Miller with a slew of Yankees lefties coming to the plate. Miller walked the first two men he faced, but then notched consecutive strikeouts against Eduardo Nunez and Robinson Cano to limit the damage. Farrell then pulled Miller and brought in Bailey, who promptly blew away Kevin Youkilis on five pitches. Junichi Tazawa and Hanrahan pitched scoreless frames in the eighth and ninth to close out the game.

Farrell didn’t do anything particularly innovative in that game, or in the rest of the series, but it is refreshing to see a big league manager handle his bullpen correctly. It’s something fans take for granted, but managers all over the league make incorrect decisions on a nightly basis, and it costs their teams runs, and sometimes wins.

If Farrell continues to stay wise, it will give the Sox the maximum chance of making the playoffs.

The AL East Is Going To Beat The Hell Out Of Itself

We already knew this, sure. But after the Red Sox-Yankees series, and an Orioles-Rays series filled with mashing, it’s looking more and more like this division will come down to the final weekend.

Boston left New York last night and will open a new series in Toronto tonight. Their next two series are against Baltimore and Tampa Bay. That’s 13 straight AL East games to start the season, and in September, the Sox will play 19 of their 25 games against division opponents.

There’s not much more to say. This is going to be fun.

Categories: Andrew Bailey Andrew Miller Andy Pettitte Baltimore Orioles Boston Red Sox cc sabathia Daniel Nava David Ortiz Hiroki Kuroda Jackie Bradley Jr. Jacoby Ellsbury Joel Hanrahan John Farrell Johnny Gomes Junichi Tazawa Koji Uehara New York Yankees Ryan Sweeney Shane Victorino Tampa Bay Rays

As the resident non-Red Sox fan of this blog -- my allegiance lies 300 miles South in Philadelphia -- I aim to provide completely objective analysis without letting my heart or any of my other organs get in the way. "Objects in the mirror are closer than they appear." Think about it.

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