It’s crazy to think that I was worried about this Red Sox team. It may only be the third week of the season, but so far, everything’s coming up Red Sox. They lead the league in just about everything, and they’ve started the season with a franchise-best 17-2 record, winning 9 of their first 10. They’ve also beat all five of the teams they’ve faced and won each of the six series they’ve played so far.
In this week’s series versus the Angels, the Red Sox outscored them, 27-3. Even without the highly-productive Xander Bogaerts, the lineup had 11 homers (including a grand slam by Rafael Devers) and 43 hits on their way to a series sweep. They’ve also swept the Marlins, Rays, and Orioles since the season began.
Drew Pomeranz made his return from the DL last night, and it was by far the most interesting and stressful appearance by a Sox starter thus far. He needed 45 pitches just to get out of the first inning, during which he also allowed 3 runs, the most allowed by a Sox starter this season. He settled down somewhat, pitching a perfect 3rd, but ultimately, threw 88 pitches with 7 strikeouts and he lasted just 3.2 innings.
Luckily, the offense was able to correct Pomeranz’s mistakes. Thanks to a 3-run homer by Jackie Bradley Jr. and a grand slam by Mitch Moreland, the Red Sox led 7-3 by the 6th inning. It was their fifth grand slam of the season, a shocking turnaround for a team that had ZERO salamis all last year.
But the real question or issue here is why Pomeranz was even rushed back at all. The Red Sox rotation has been unbelievably strong without him. Earlier this week, the starters led MLB with a collective 2.05 ERA. Eduardo Rodriguez, Hector Velazquez, and Brian Johnson have proven they are all more than capable of filling in, while Pomeranz’s performance last night indicates that he is not ready to rejoin their ranks.
Think back to the beginning of Spring Training. It seems so long ago already. But throughout Spring Training, even by the end, when the Red Sox had won a league-best 22 games, it was easy to be unsure about the team. Dustin Pedroia spent the off-season recovering from surgery. Pomeranz, arguably the Sox’s second-best starter of the 2017 season, sustained a flexor injury during Spring Training. Hanley Ramirez and Eduardo Rodriguez were both starting the season after undergoing off-season surgeries. No one expected any drastic success from a team with a brand-new manager and the worst home-run record in the 2017 American League. They definitely didn’t expect this.
Against the odds, this team is playing even better than we ever could’ve hoped. But now the issue is that the players on the DL are unnecessary. Worse yet, they’re risks this extremely successful team shouldn’t take. In the words of Mary Poppins, the Red Sox are “practically perfect in every way,” so why mess with that? Baseball is finicky; a single grain of rice can tip the scale.
I’m not saying that these players, once healthy, shouldn’t be allowed off the bench, but I think it’s worth noting just how successful the team has been without them. Cora should proceed with caution when introducing new elements into his finely-tuned team; no fans would blame him if he kept everything exactly the way it is, first place with the best record in franchise history.
Sometimes, a team succeeds without the player they thought they needed the most. The 2004 trade of Nomar proved that in spades when the Red Sox won their first World Series title in 86 years. The team that Alex Cora currently has is a World Series team. I wouldn’t mess with it.