Boston Red Sox Terry Francona at Yankee Stadium in New York

A lot happened in Red Sox Nation this past weekend. Instead of wondering, let’s get into the gritty details.
-Sox Drop Two of Three in Texas
The Sox dropped two games to the Rangers. Yeah, it’s too bad. The Sox stand one game back of Texas in the Wild Card but that series is history and it’s time to look to the future. Junichi Tazawa struggled in his latest taste of big league hitting, allowing 2 HR and 3 BB against 0 strikeouts. Brad Penny had his moments and held his ground against a good Texas offense. However, he is still no more than a back-of-the-rotation starter, which showed this weekend.
The clock continues to tick on Michael Bowden, representing the last of the Red Sox reserve rotation arms. While he sports a glowing scouting report and a pristine 3.20 ERA in triple-A Pawtucket, it is getting more and more difficult to see him being a success at the major league level this year. With just a 6.40 K/9 and 3.36 BB/9 this season, he is far from a sure thing.
Of primary concern is his subpar strikeout rates. Triple-A continues to be an important proving grounds for minor league pitchers without overpowering stuff. While Bowden is still an excellent prospect, he is not the MLB-ready starter that some analysts believe him to be. While he could fill a back-end of the rotation role now (which would suit the Sox perfectly), he is far from a finished product.
-The 2009 Rule 4 Draft Signing Period Closes:
Speaking of young players, the Sox signed their top 5 picks early, avoiding the Stephen Strasburg-type fiasco that Washington wasn’t able to avoid (In related news, the Nats were able to get Strasburg, at a $7.5 million signing bonus.) Highschool outfielder Reymond Fuentes leads the pack as the Red Sox first round draft choice.
Carlos Beltran’s cousin, Fuentes stands 6-1 tall, 170 lbs. The toolsy outfielder profiles as an electrifying centerfielder with top of the order hitting skills and speed on the basepaths. If his defense and hitting approach mature, the Sox could be looking at a perennial all-star centerfielder, say some scouts. But, he is still raw and has a long way to go. Here’s hoping he fulfills the lofty projections.
Second round pick, William Wilson, projects as a power right-handed bullpen arm. He had Tommy John surgery in 2007, but has since regained some of his lost velocity and feel on his slider. At 6-1, 205 lbs, he has all the physical tools, but will need to become more consistent and show more stamina into the season. The Texas A&M prospect could develop into a big time reliever for the Sox, especially if he holds his gains in command, which can be very difficult for a player with a history of elbow issues.
-Roster Notes:
Centerfielder Brian Anderson was called up to Boston on Saturday. Completing the transaction, top prospect Josh Reddick was optioned to Pawtucket. Reddick played admirably in his short stint, but proved he is not yet ready for the bigs. In just 32 at-bats, the rookie hit 1 HR, while batting just .188 with 9 Ks against only 1 BB. Reddick will have his day eventually, just not tomorrow. Reddick did leave with a positive impression, however, as his 82.4% contact rate and 21.7% line drive rate shows that he can hit big league pitching. Reddick will be back soon enough.
On the other side, don’t expect too much from CF Brian Anderson. The ex-White Sock brings little else to the table besides average defense, with poor contact skills and little pop. Expect him to be nothing more than an extra outfielder.
-In the coming days, Sox fans should notice a familiar face in SS Alex Gonzalez. A-Gon’s best defensive years are behind him, but he should be an adequate stopgap for the Sox, especially with the lack of replacements available in the Sox system. Boston gave up infield prospect Kris Negron for Gonzalez’s services, which should not be viewed as much of a concession.
While Gonzalez has struggled this season with a .207 batting average, there is reason to expect improvement as the shortstop still has good contact abilities and posts a slightly-below average 17.6% line drive rate. With just a .233 BABIP, expect things to get better, though he will never be an asset at the plate.
For those of you who remember his stellar 2006 season with the glove, don’t expect the man to perform acts of wizardry. His 3.1 UZR is still above average, however, it is well short of the spectacular 11.8 he posted in 2006.
In the end, Gonzalez shouldn’t be viewed as too much of an asset to the Sox, as he more closely represents the organization “making the most of a bad situation.” Still, at the very least, his defense should improve the outlook of the rotation.
On the Injury Front:
Starting Pitcher Tim Wakefield continues to rehab from a myriad of injuries that have kept the knuckleballer out of action. He was seen walking with a limp during his latest start, but there is still speculation that he could start Thursday against Toronto if needed, reports ESPN. I would prefer to see a fully healthy Wake given a little more rest, as he should not be rushed. However, the starting rotation is getting more dire by the day, and his presence and consistency is needed. However, losing him for an extended period would represent a very dangerous scenario for the Red Sox.
Following a bullpen session on Friday, Daisuke Matsuzaka could begin a rehab assignment this week, reports ESPN. Despite Dice-K’s struggles this year (and last, depending on how closely you follow DIPS theory), the hurler’s return will be a great benefit to the Sox ailing rotation.
Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst, as things could be changing very soon for the Sox as their rotation stalwarts return to health.
Looking Ahead:
The Sox will open their mid-week series against the Blue Jays in Toronto. With just 45 games remaining, the division is looking very distant at this point given a 7 game deficit, while the Wild Card is very much a coin flip. The weekend series loss at the hands of the Rangers was very costly. However, at just one game behind the Rangers and a slew of important veterans nearing returns, the Red Sox are very much in control of their own destiny. Keep the Faith, Red Sox Nation. Better days lie ahead.