By Matt Straub
The Boston Red Sox entered the weekend with an overworked bullpen, but a good record despite playing their first six games on the road.
There is still much work to be done with a very tough schedule ahead, but the first six games of the year went as well as could be expected. There is still plenty to analyze, however, so let’s break down the early risers and fallers of the year with a game of three up and three down.
Dustin Pedroia: I might have botched my bold prediction of another unspectacular season by the pseudo-captain. He has looked healthy and energetic so far, playing as well as he has in at least a full season. I worry about him staying healthy, but so far, so good for the little guy.
Mookie Betts: This is one of the season predictions I got right. I expect him to be a star, and he has shown flashes of it already. He started the seventh game of the season with a bang, stealing two bases against the shift and hitting a homer, but had already done enough in the first six to make it onto this list. The numbers won’t always be there as he continues to grow, but we’ve already seen demonstrations of the athleticism which will make him a star.
Joe Kelly: There will be more important games in the standings, but Saturday’s gem against the Yankees by Kelly was as crucial as an April start gets. The Red Sox desperately needed innings after the 19-fame battle the night before in the Bronx, and the seven he ate up were big, giving the bullpen a needed rest. They had to work hard again Sunday, meaning if Saturday hadn’t gone well for Kelly, the bullpen would be in shambles by now.
Clay Buchholz: He wants to be the ace. He was solid in his first outing and has always had the stuff, if not the consistency, to be a top guy. His mental game, however, continues to be anything but top-notch. Forget the obvious, that Boston’s bullpen could have used another easy day Sunday after Friday’s marathon, something Joe Kelly took note of when he was great Saturday, but Buchholz’s body language was beyond disappointing. Not only did he give up 10 runs, but he was too "frustrated," as he would later put it, to back up bases while the Yankees were hitting ball after ball against him. He essentially quit on the mound. Aces get rocked occasionally, but they don’t give up.
Mike Napoli: I still believe in my 30-home run prediction for the first baseman, but the start of the year couldn’t have been much worse for him. The schedule is partly to blame. He was on fire heading north, but didn’t get to play much in Philadelphia with David Ortiz at first, which had to help stop his momentum. He’ll likely get it back, but he has now lost what could have been a great week.
Shane Victorino: He isn’t playing as much as he would like and is prone to whining. Hitting under .200 doesn’t help. It’s looking more and more as though he could be the one moved to help clear up the traffic jam in the outfield.