The Boston Red Sox can only hope their active roster after the all-star break will look more like the one they planned on in spring training. If not, the race for the AL East may be left to the Yankees and Tampa Bay.
There is a reason some players are starters and others come off the bench. When you have to play the bench as starters, you hold your breath.
The saying is you will be “found out” sooner than later when the part-timers are asked to be starters.
So far for the Sox, the substituted players asked to be everyday producers have done extremely well. However, that cannot go on. You will be found out.
Josh Beckett’s return after the break needs to be strong. If it is, he joins Jon Lester, John Lackey and Clay Buchholz in a rotation that can take them to the postseason.
The middle ’pen is a problem. Daniel Bard and Jonathan Papelbon can handle the work at the end of the pen. That’s why the starters will have to throw innings.
Jacoby Ellsbury’s return is uncertain. The same is true for Victor Martinez. Both are needed.
Jason Varitek and Dustin Pedroia will not be back until August. Both spots, at second and behind the plate, are being filled in with a hope and a prayer.
Of equal concern is the daily availability of Mike Cameron. He is playing with an ongoing abdominal muscle problem.
Terry Francona said last week, “The deal is he tells me when he can and can’t play. He just hates coming out of the lineup, but we told him he’s got to be honest with us because we need him when he can play and we need to be sure he’s not in there when he can’t.”
The problem for Cameron is not going to get significantly better this season. He will decide in the offseason what to do.
The injury affects his play every day. He cannot swing the bat with the usual hip movements. Cameron has to adjust his swing depending on the pain.
It’s hard enough to hit without having to daily, or even during each plate appearance, change one’s approach.
This means David Ortiz must continue his post-April numbers and Kevin Youkilis must continue to be the team’s MVP.
Francona knew when the season started this was going to be a grind-it-out year. Ortiz’s problems at the plate in April were just the beginning of one issue after another for the Sox.
It has been an exhausting season at the helm for the manager and is guaranteed to remain that way, since the injury ward will remain a concern the rest of the way.
There is no reason to believe Tampa Bay and the Yankees will falter. If anything, they may add strength before the trade deadline.
So might the Sox, and that could be the most interesting of all the moves this year.