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Opinion: Interleague Play and the Return of Youk
Posted By Erika Leigh On May 18 2012 @ 2:22 pm In Boston Red Sox | 12 Comments
With interleague play picking up, you can certainly expect a shakeup in the Sox lineup. In the first series of interleague play, which starts tonight for the Red Sox at 7:05pm, they’ll take on the Philadelphia Phillies (20-19) in Philadephia. (Bard (3-4) vs. Hamels (5-1) NESN/CSN).
Who’s going to play and where?
We’ll likely see Big Papi perched at 1B, giving Gonzalez some time in the outfield because there’s no DH in the National League and Bobby V. will definitely want both Ortiz and Gonzalez’s bats in the lineup. Gonzalez has never played in the outfield but he’s had experience in played in other infield positions, whereas Papi has never played anywhere other than 1B.
It’s likely we’ll continue to see Daniel Nava, Cody Ross and Ryan Sweeney in the outfield as well and they’ll be rotated with other potential outfielders. Nava, batting .409, is most likely to play in every game. Whoever is batting the lowest (currently Ross .262) and Marlon Byrd may sit some of interleague play out so that Gonzalez (.273) can stay in the lineup and keep swinging the bat. (Don’t forget, he promised us a home run a few days ago …and we’re still waiting for it). Gonzalez has been practicing in RF in preparation for interleague, Ross’ position, so that is look probable. Darnell McDonald is still on the 15-day DL and when he returns, he can potentially be added to the roster in the outfield as well. Ellsbury and Crawford are sitting pretty on the 60-day DL and will both probably need to do rehab stints in Pawtucket before they return to the Red Sox lineup, so they’ll probably be sitting interleague play out this season.
And when Youk returns…
Kevin Youkilis is coming back. Soon. When he does, it’s unclear whether he will stay at 3B (Sox GM Ben Cherington says so, but Youk doesn’t have the range for 3B anymore…if you ask me) or whether he’ll play at 1B. Youk may even see time in the outfield, where he’s played in 22 games previously, which is many more games than most of the players who are currently in the Sox outfield have ever played in the majors. Youk’s return may mean that we may start to see a little less of Will Middlebrooks, at least for now.
Middlebrooks is a former SS, so he has the option to give Mike Aviles a day off should BV choose to use him in that position, but based on the few minor fielding errors we’ve seen him make at 3B, he may not be an option at SS. Bobby V. could also potentially put Middlebrooks in the outfield, where he’s never played before, which could be a good opportunity for him. Middlebrooks will probably go back to Pawtucket until the management decides whether they can keep Youk and use him in a different position or if it’s time to say goodbye and trade him away (maybe for another pitcher?…hint, hint..nudge..nudge).
Since we have so many able-bodied 3Bs and 1Bs, Nick Punto and the new-kid-in-town from Pawtucket, Mauro Gomez, will maybe see one or two games of interleague, and could even only see play in the late innings if the Sox have a big lead. Since Gomez doesn’t really have a spot in the lineup right now, he could potentially be sent back to Pawtucket sooner, rather than later to stay in shape and keep playing daily.
But we can’t get rid of Middlebrooks!
No one’s getting rid of him. He, along with Daniel Nava, are two players that have come from the minors that I personally couldn’t be more excited about, and in order to keep both of them in tip-top shape and to help keep their momentum, you can’t bench them, and that’s what’s going to happen when Youk returns if Middlebrooks stays in Boston. If Middlebrooks goes down to Pawtucket he can keep playing every day, swinging the bat and hitting those long home runs we all like to see until the Sox decide what to do with Youk. Middlebrooks isn’t going anywhere, except maybe to Rhode Island, and then we’ll likely see him again this season or next, since he is potentially the next long-term third baseman for the Red Sox.
What’s the interleague schedule look like?
The next few days 5/18-5/20 will be spent in Philadelphia taking on the Phillies. The Sox will then go back to playing AL teams until 6/8 when they’ll take on the Washington Nationals (at home), followed by the Miami Marlins, Chicago Cubs on the road. The Sox will play Miami again and a series against Atlanta at Fenway before the month of June raps up to close out their interleague schedule for the 2012 season.
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 he promised us a home run a few days ago: http://fullcount.weei.com/sports/boston/baseball/red-sox/2012/05/18/matt-moore-adds-to-the-drama-of-adrian-gonzalez-home-run-guarantee/
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