Who’s Ready for Opening Day?

– Shane Carley –
The answer to the question is not, apparently, Josh Beckett.The only thing surprising about Josh Beckett being injured is that it is not his usual back injury.  This time, Josh has injured his thumb, and he was kind enough to wait until mere days before the opener to do it.  Now, it is possible that Beckett could only miss one start, even if he is placed on the DL. But tossing Alfredo Aceves into the rotation for a spot start in just the second game of the season is probably not the way Bobby V and the Sox envisioned busting out of the gate.

Chalk this up as the first stop on the Josh Beckett 2012 Bulls–t Train. Even I didn’t expect the first stop to come this soon, and I’m the guy who wrote just a month ago that Beckett would be traded by midseason. Maybe I’m wrong: maybe it’s a perfectly legitimate injury that just happens to come at an inconvenient time. But if the last two seasons have taught us anything, it’s that Josh Beckett is not going to be given the benefit of the doubt very often.

Sorry for the late post, folks. Let’s move on to other news:

Pitching Rotation Set. Bobby V has finally ended the speculation about the pitching rotation, announcing this week that Daniel Bard and Felix Doubront will be filling the four and five spots. Besides having an awesome name, Doubront has a similar skill set to Alfredo Aceves, but lacks his value in the bullpen. This is probably the right call.  Aceves is the most valuable bullpen asset that the Red Sox have, and, as Josh Beckett is already demonstrating, he will probably have plenty of opportunities to make spot starts.

Bard will bear watching as the season progresses. As I’ve said before, he has the raw power to blow batters away like Justin Verlander, but he’ll likely need time to adapt to the role of the starter.  He struggled at times during spring training, but Bobby V seems to have faith in him. I won’t be surprised if Bard returns to the bullpen at some point during the season, but, even if he struggles early, he will probably be giving time to sort himself out.

Carl Crawford Continues to Be Carl Crawford. Bobby V has come out to say that Crawford might need as many as 50 rehab at-bats, meaning that we may not see Crawford before the end of April. Maybe that sounds pessimistic, but after last season, maybe it’s time to jump on the Ryan Sweeney bandwagon.

In other Carl Crawford news, Joe Maddon revealed this week that he knew about Crawford’s wrist issues as long ago as 2007. So the information and evidence was out there. This is about the time when you’re probably expecting me to call Theo Epstein an asshole who didn’t do his due diligence on Carl Crawford, but you already know that Theo Epstein is an asshole who didn’t do his due diligence on Carl Crawford. So I won’t.

Theo Epstein thinks this wrist looks just fine.

Weekly Preview. Last season, the Sox got off to a historically bad start. Honestly, watching the Red Sox in April last year was like getting a colonoscopy. Through the mouth. If the Red Sox start as badly this year as they did last year, things will get ugly. And while in 2011 there was a general sense that the team would have to turn it around eventually, the team, like Beckett, has forfeited the benefit of the doubt.

This year they’ll be opening the season away from home, in Detroit. The Tigers have added a lot of pop to their lineup, with Prince Fielder and Miguel Cabrera dauntingly occupying the heart of the Tigers’ lineup. Fortunately, this power comes at the expense of defense, as Cabrera has done little to challenge the notion that he will be a subpar third baseman. A quick team like the Sox should be able to take advantage of that. Let’s look at the pitching matchups.

April 5: Boston (Lester) @ Detroit (Verlander)
April 6: Boston (Aceves) @ Detroit (Fister)
April 7: Boston (Buchholz) @ Detroit (Scherzer)

Obviously the later matchups are subject to change, but the Lester/Verlander matchup should be a beauty. Aceves hasn’t looked great and is being asked to make a spot start, so that game may pose problems. Buchholz, however, has had a fantastic spring and will look to keep it going as the season starts.

I’d give the Sox a 50/50 chance of winning the series (Buchholz should win, Aceves will likely lose, and Lester/Verlander is a tossup), but they should easily pull out at least one win. This is a team that will be eager to erase the demons of last season, and the best way to do that will be to get off to a fast start.

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