The Boston Red Sox enjoyed a very good month of May.
They went 18-10, moved into first place in the AL East, and outscored their opponents 182-123. Jackie Bradley Jr and Xander Bogaerts both had hitting streaks of 25 or more games. David Ortiz and the rest of the offense seemed unstoppable.
David Price, Rick Porcello and Steven Wright all pitched well. Clay Buchholz was bad, and there were some missteps in the bullpen as well, but overall there wasn’t much for Red Sox fans to complain about for the duration of the month.
May is over.
It is now June, and the first week of June was nothing at all like the month of May.
Clay Buchholz is no longer the only the starter worth being concerned about. Joe Kelly is out of the rotation. Rick Porcello is still there, but he’s not as good as he was for the first two months of the season.
David Price and Steven Wright still look good, but two good starters isn’t enough, and as good as Wright has been, there are legitimate questions about just how good the knuckleball pitcher will be over the course of a full season.
What about injuries?
Brock Holt is making slow, but steady progress as he recovers from a concussion.
Sunday saw two players hit the DL.
Back-up catcher Ryan Hanigan was placed on the 15-day DL with a strained neck.
Left fielder and converted catcher Blake Swihart is also out of action. Swihart sprained his ankle Saturday. The sprain appears to be quite severe. Sunday evening John Tomase of WEEI tweeted that Swihart may miss the remainder of the season.
Losing Swihart for the season would be a serious issue. Swihart was positioned to play a number of valuable roles for the Red Sox.
He was originally a catcher. Ryan Hanigan’s injury combined with the potential for Brock Holt’s return would have put Swihart in position to play left as well as backup Christian Vazquez.
Swihart is a switch-hitter who had yet to really find his groove at the major league level. The injury slams the breaks on his development into a viable major league hitter.
It also removes yet another tradable asset from Red Sox president Dave Dombrowski’s arsenal.
Swihart could have been a key part of any major Red Sox trade this summer. His youth, his potential, and his versatility made him an attractive prospect for other teams to take a chance on.
A player on the disabled list can still be traded, but it has to be approved by the commissioner, and an injured player tends to be less valuable than a healthy one, even if the team acquiring the injured player is doing so with an eye towards the future.
It just so happens that Swihart’s injury coincided with the first major trade of the season.
Saturday afternoon the Chicago White Sox and San Diego Padres agreed to deal that sent veteran starting pitcher James Shields to the White Sox, in exchange for right handed starting pitcher Erik Johnson and shortstop prospect Fernando Tatis Jr.
Shields isn’t the same high strikeout, effective innings eater he once was. He’s become increasingly home-run prone and he’s got a fair amount of money remaining on his four-year, $75 million contract.
He was still one of a handful of established and potentially effective starting pitchers who could be traded this summer, and now he’s already been dealt.
That removes him from the market, and also narrows an already shallow pool of starting pitching talent for the Red Sox to pursue.
The Swihart injury could also force the Red Sox to try and add an outfielder at the trade deadline. Chris Young is better suited to play against lefties. Brock Holt was struggling prior to his injury, and he may just be better-suited to a role as a utility player, than that of every day left fielder.
The Red Sox recalled Rusney Castillo from Pawtucket, but at this point he’s no longer seen as the multi-tool, major league ready outfielder that the Red Sox clearly thought they were getting when they inked him to a seven-year, $72 million contract in August of 2014.
The Red Sox are 1-4 in June. Their team ERA is 7.14, and they’ve been outscored 39-28. Not only are they percentage points behind the Orioles for first place in the AL East. The Toronto Blue Jays are now only 2.5 games back from the Red Sox.
The pressure is one. Dave Dombrowski and the Red Sox have less than two months to fully assess what this year’s team needs, and how best to go about adding those key pieces.
The Red Sox are off on Monday. They’ll be in San Francisco for a two-game series against the first place, 35-24 Giants. Rick Porcello (7-2, 4.00) will face Albert Suarez (1-1, 3.18.) The game doesn’t start until 10:15pm ET.