The Red Sox are 3-6 and coming home for a 4 game series with the Baltimore Orioles. While the Sox haven't been anywhere close to the playoff contender they are projected to be I'm not worried yet, it's far too early to tell anything for certain.
With that said, here are 10 questions the Sox will have to find answers to in order to turn the ship around, if they don't, we might be in full blown panic mode by the early summer.
1. Does Jacoby Ellsbury know where first base is? Everyone's favorite Native American is batting .194 (below the Mendoza line), his OBP is .256, and has only walked 3 times in 36 at bats. Jacoby has to get on base and set the table for the rest of the order, otherwise it's the equivalent of Pedroia leading off with 1 out already on the board.
2. Who bat's lead off if Ellsbury can't? Candidates would be Pedroia, Drew, and Baldelli. Of the 3 I like Pedroia and move Drew to the 2 hole where he should see some fastballs. I'm still not sold on Baldelli. I'm not wild about any of these scenarios but I do wonder why Theo traded Crisp this past off season. Bill Simmons asked the question, why did we trade Coc0 when Tito benched Ellsbury in the playoffs last season?
3. Will David Ortiz return to at least 75% of the player he once was? Ortiz has 0 home runs, 3 RBI, and is batting .176 (below the Mendoza line). Obviously the Sox have struggled offensively and there haven't been a ton of RBI chances for Big Papi, however if our #3 hitter can't adjust to seeing more off-speed pitches and drive the ball to the gap all the sacrifice flies in the world won't matter.
4. Will Jon Lester be affected by his dramatic jump in innings pitched from last year? This was a question already being asked before the season started, however Lester's first two starts haven't done much to quiet the skeptics. I personally think it has more to do with Lester hitting his spots and leaving pitches up than it does his work load. Bottom line, Lester has to pitch better than he has.
5. Who is going to play short stop? Julio Lugo is down on the farm getting some rehab work in and Jed Lowrie got an injection to his ailing wrist and is "feeling better". Right now the starting short stop is Nick Green and Gil Velazquez is our utility man. I'm not saying they can't win with Green and Velazquez, but the health of Lowrie and Lugo is important. When healthy, it looks like Lowrie can be a good ball player, unfortunately we haven't seen him healthy for a long period of time yet.
6. How will the WBC affect Daisuke Matsuzaka this season? We all watched Dice K get hit harder then a pinata on Tuesday night, the cause we're told is arm fatigue related to the WBC. Currently Dice K is on the 15 day DL and I don't expect he'll be rushed back. The Sox have a stable full of arms and Masterson seems very capable of holding down a spot in the rotation.
7. Will JD Drew continue to bat 5th all year long if he leaves the bat on his shoulder? I know Drew is an OBP guy and the Sox philosophy is all about taking pitches, but if the tying run is on 2nd with 2 outs you better swing that friggin bat. I know the logic for him batting 5th is to keep the line up going right/left so the opposing managers have harder decisions to make later in the game regarding the bullpen. Personally, I'm not buying into that, I want Bay batting 5th, I don't care if it's Youk/Bay, Drew drives me crazy!
8. Who is going to be the bridge to Papelbon in the 8th inning out of the bullpen? One of the strengths of the Sox this year is clearly the bullpen, however with Masterson going to the starting rotation (we think), Okjima struggling out of the gate and Tito hesitant to overuse Saito, I'm a little concerned going forward. Ideally I would hope by the summer someone steps up and takes the ball in the 8th, I like Delcarmen in the 7th. Ramon Ramirez has been impressive early on, maybe he steps into the role. It's way too early to count Okijima out, he struggled early last year and figured it out, however I don't think we'll see Okijima post numbers like his first year. There are certainly options down on the farm with Bowdin and Bard.
9. How will the team deal with under achieving if that should happen? In 2004 the Sox were 10 games or so behind the Yankees in July. They didn't win the division but caught fire after the Nomar/Cabrera trade and won the Wild Card. If the Sox continue to under achieve (this is making big assumptions after 9 games) and this team finds themselves 10 back of the division leader, does it take another trade to shake things up or do they have it in them to battle back? I was more out of things to write about then I am concerned about this, but given the current play it's a legit mate question.
10. If Ortiz is truly in a rapid decline when does Theo pull the trigger on a deal for a bat? I thought Ortiz was capable of hitting 30-35 home runs this year, however with every at bat I become less certain of this. If Youk continues to kill the ball maybe Ortiz sees some more fastballs and that helps his power numbers out, but if he can't hit for power the Sox might have to do something creative. Presumably a team like the Tigers might be out of contention by July and be looking to deal a high priced bat, Magglio Ordonez anyone? However where this new addition would play is a question that can't be answered right now. We'll see how the team looks closer to the trade deadline, but they might need some pop in that lineup.