Seeking out the silver linings in the first half of the Red Sox season

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — John Farrell gathered his team together in the Tropicana Field visitors’ clubhouse late Monday night because he saw what anybody watching can see — a reeling Wholesale Boston Red Sox Jerseys and this team not playing up to its capabilities. A win and a loss in the two days following left the Red Sox 5 1/2 games out of first place, only a half-game ahead in the wild-card standings.

Farrell also gathered his team, however, because he wanted to emphasize that he still was seeing effort and performance he appreciated. Just that night, for example, a worn-down Xander Bogaerts sprinted down the first-base line to beat out an infield single on a ground ball to second with the Red Sox down seven runs in the ninth inning, a display of effort Dustin Pedroia later lauded.

Along with focusing on areas in need of significant improvement, Farrell said afterward, “it was also a time to acknowledge some of the positive things that continue.”

There have been positives, the widespread consternation of the fan base notwithstanding. A Red Sox team that has finished last in back-to-back seasons remains in playoff position, six games over .500, even after a June that saw them go 10-16.

Among those positives:

* Bogaerts, Mookie Betts and Jackie Bradley Jr.: At long last, a class of prospects has lived up to the hype for the Red Sox. All three homegrown youngsters could start the All-Star Game for the American League, and at least two of the three would receive American League MVP votes if the season ended today. Betts at times has felt like he’s had trouble putting it all together, but he still has hit 16 home runs and is slugging .501 — and he has stolen 12 bases while being caught just once. Bogaerts has shown signs that his long-awaited power has blossomed, hitting nine home runs while, until recently, leading the American League in hits. Bradley put to rest the idea that last August’s outburst was a fluke, slugging .558 while dramatically improving his walk-to-strikeout ratio and continuing to play terrific defense in center field. So far this season, he’s probably been the best of the bunch.

* David Ortiz: What Ortiz has given during his retirement tour has been so much better than what he’s received. He’s getting on base at a remarkable .431 clip and slugging .672, and he’s still on pace to make a run at the all-time single-season doubles record. He’s hitting so many doubles, in fact, that John Farrell has to be careful about how often he lets Ortiz play, lest the iconic designated hitter see his retirement tour end before October.

* Steven Wright: At a time when the Red Sox seem unable to develop starting pitching themselves, the wholesale jerseys 2012 acquisition of Wright in exchange for Lars Anderson now stands as a remarkable coup. Wright endured his worst start of the season on Saturday at Texas, yielding eight runs (three earned) in 4 2/3 innings pitched, but he still has a 2.18 ERA in more than 100 innings and could be headed for the All-Star Game.

Leave a Reply