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Red Sox looking to regroup


Red Sox looking to regroup
rchimelis@repub.com

Spotty hitting and struggles in the starting rotation have led to Boston's slow start.

The Boston Red Sox return home, a different team than when they left for the West Coast a week ago.

The pitching rotation is in flux. The shortstop is Nick Green, not Jed Lowrie.

Two things have not changed in the past week. The Sox still aren't hitting consistently, and they are still losing two out of every three games.

The Red Sox (3-6) have lost all three series they have played. The Baltimore Orioles come to Fenway Park Friday to start a four-game series.

Off to their worst start since 1996, the Sox got a needed boost Wednesday. For all the impressive young arms this organization produces, ageless Tim Wakefield is still a useful part of the rotation, which he showed in the 8-2 victory at Oakland.

Wakefield took a no-hitter into the eighth. With Jon Lester 0-2, Josh Beckett appealing a suspension for nearly inciting a brawl against the Angels, and Daisuke Matsuzaka on the disabled list for shoulder problems, Wakefield's stock rose dramatically this week.

Better yet, George Kottaras showed why the Red Sox kept him. His first start as Wakefield's catcher was memorable and nearly historic.

The pitching looks deep enough to absorb the early setbacks, but the offense is still loaded with questions.

It's still too early to take numbers too seriously. Dustin Pedroia is expected to come around, despite a .179 start with one RBI, which came on a home run in his first at-bat on Opening Day.

The 30-something quartet of J.D. Drew (.233), David Ortiz (.176), Mike Lowell (.229, though a team-high eight RBIs) and Jason Varitek (.200) need to lift their averages.

So do the youthful Jacoby Ellsbury (.194 from the leadoff spot) and Lowrie, who took a .056 average to the disabled list with a wrist injury.

Lowrie's one hit came on Opening Day. It is no longer certain that last year's midsummer darling is the long-term answer at shortstop.

Neither is Green, 30, a sixth-year journeyman playing for his fifth team. One of those teams was the New York Yankees, but if Green holds the fort until Lowrie and/or Lugo are back, Red Sox fans will forgive him.

Green entered 2009 with a .241 career average in 279 games, and 10 home runs. He can play anywhere in the infield, with a better than adequate glove.

Julio Lugo will begin a rehab stint at Pawtucket this week. Lowrie could be back in a month.

That is when the shortstop debate could heat up again, if Lugo is playing well.

In fairness to Red Sox hitters, they have faced quality pitching in every series they have played. The Orioles will bring in the most suspect staff Boston has seen thus far.

Only Kevin Youkilis (.472) and Jason Bay (.345) have hit consistently well so far.

Of the pitchers, Matsuzaka's injury might mean a return to the rotation for Justin Masterson, who has pitched in relief.

Because of Thursday's off day, with another off day April 23, the Red Sox could also go with a four-man rotation.

Monday's starter is not announced. If not Masterson, it could be Wakefield, coming back on regular rest.

Clay Buchholz, who pitched well in spring training, might have been a candidate before tweaking a hamstring at Pawtucket.

Beckett will pitch Saturday, as his six-game suspension is being appealed. After a strong Red Sox debut in Anaheim, Penny opens the series Friday, with Lester hoping to get on track Sunday.

Red Sox Fast Facts

OPPONENT

Baltimore Orioles

WHEN AND WHERE,

ON THE AIR

Friday?7:10 NESN Saturday?7:10 NESNPlus Sunday?1:35 NESN Monday?11:05 a.m. NESN Fenway Park, Boston

Radio-105.5

PROBABLE PITCHERS

Friday

RH Jeremy Guthrie (2-0) vs.

RH Brad Penny (1-0)

Saturday

RH Adam Eaton (0-1) vs.

RH Josh Beckett (1-1)

Sunday

RH Koji Uehara (2-0) vs.

LH Jon Lester (0-2)

Monday

TBA vs. TBA

QUICK COMMENTS

- A 9-game homestand begins, with the Twins (2 games) and Yankees (3) following the Orioles . . . Despite his slow start, Lester's career record is 27-10 . . . Uehara is a 34-year-old rookie from Japan.


Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: April 19, 2009

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