Red Sox focused on overcoming early adversity
Amid uneven play, defending champs awaiting word on status of Pedroia, Uehara
After enjoying the euphoria of a ceremony at the White House and collecting their championship rings a few days later at Fenway Park, the Red Sox have subsequently tasted the cold, hard reality that inevitably seems to strike the team trying to defend a title.
There's a reason no team has repeated in 14 years, and manager John Farrell's club is now fully aware of the kind of struggles it will have to overcome if it intends to be the exception. Getting through all of October to be the last team standing is a grind on the human body, and it seems as if the training room has already had more activity in two weeks than it had for months last season.
Dustin Pedroia, the best all-around player on the Red Sox, has a left wrist sore enough that it required him to spend Monday's off-day getting a full exam from the medical staff, rather than accompanying the team to Chicago. There's no word yet on whether Pedroia will be in the lineup Tuesday night, when Boston opens a three-game series at U.S. Cellular Field, but some rest might be in order for the second baseman.
"He's a big part of our team," said first baseman Mike Napoli. "We're going to need him. I'm hoping he's gonna be all right. He's a tough kid. I'm pretty sure he'll be able to play through some stuff."
The Red Sox have no interest in finding out what life is like without Pedroia, and they'd say the same about closer Koji Uehara. The righty has been dealing with shoulder soreness, and he didn't pitch at all in a four-game series in New York, in which Boston lost three out of four.
Uehara was also set to be examined by the medical staff on Monday, though the club is relatively optimistic he'll return against the White Sox.
Shane Victorino, the invaluable right fielder, hasn't played a game yet as he recovers from a right hamstring injury. The hope is that he'll return during the next homestand. Third baseman Will Middlebrooks played the first four games of the season before injuring his right calf. Perhaps he'll be back before the end of April.
These are trying times for the Red Sox, who are off to a disappointing 5-8 start that has them in last place in the American League East. The best news is that nobody in the division has played consistently, and the distance from first place is all of two games.
However, even aside from the injuries, the Red Sox haven't quite looked themselves. The offense has been sporadic in clutch situations.
How will the Red Sox shake out of their current doldrums?
"To compete every pitch, whether it's offensively or when we're on the mound," said Farrell. "We've got to get back -- not that we've drifted away from a simple, focused approach -- but that's the only way we right this and get back on track. That's to go out and try to win every pitch that we execute, offensively or defensively."
It isn't as if Boston is getting blown out. Three of the eight losses have been by a run, capped by Sunday night's 3-2 heartbreaker.
"I think it was a hell of a game," said David Ortiz. "Lot of good plays, lot of hard balls hit, good pitching match. Good game, somebody's going to end a winner."
And of his team, the one he inspired to greatness last October, Ortiz said, "I think we're going to be fine. It happens all the time."
By "it", Ortiz refers to the struggles that impact any baseball team over the course of a long season. The Red Sox just happen to be going through theirs out of the gate. How swiftly they can minimize the slide and start playing winning baseball again will determine how successful they will be this season.
"It's always frustrating, but it's baseball," said catcher A.J. Pierzynski. "It's ups and downs. We have a good team. We know we're going to be fine in the end. Bottom line, we've just got to find a way to win games. Hopefully we go to Chicago, play well, win the series there and get back home and get on a roll."
Heading into Chicago, Boston will be facing a team that has scored 80 runs, the most in the AL. The Red Sox have scored just 46 times over the first 13 games.
"We show some signs of it, but we just need to play better baseball on the offensive side. We're just not really getting too many things going," said Napoli. "Hopefully Pedroia is all right and we get him back in the lineup, just to kind of find our identity and who we are."