Josh Beckett had a fair first start of the season. Three of the five runs he gave up came via a grand slam that Manny Delcarmen gave up when Beckett left the game with the bases loaded. Beckett was throwing well throughout the first three innings, but looked as if his strength was running out heading into the fourth inning. The Sox will be happy with the performance, and by his next start, Beckett should regan a form similar to last year.
Kyle Synder turned out to be the odd man out as he was desginated for assignment to make room for Beckett. It was anticipated that the Sox would designate either David Aardsma or Bryan Corey, mostly because Synder could fulfill more duties as a long reliever/emergency starter and because he had been with the team since the 2006 season. However, in retrospect, it seems like a sensible move. Synder filled the same role as Julian Tavarez, but Tavarez has more experience and is, by all accounts, a better pitcher. Corey had his second consecutive disaster outing yesterday, so it would seem that he would be the most likely pitcher to get dropped when Mike Timlin comes back, but the ax could easily fall on Aardsma or Javier Lopez.
J.D. Drew continues to hit well in this early season, being the most effective hitter for the Sox thus far. Drew seems to have imporved his swing much like he did last September, but he did start out batting over .333 for the first few weeks of the 2007 season only to finish with a .270 average. It is encouraging that he is hitting consistently with power, something he never did last year. However, even though Drew, Kevin Youkilis, Dustin Pedroia and Jason Varitek are holding their own on offense, the fate of this team's offensive hopes rest on getting their 3-5 hitters going. Manny Ramirez is doing OK, but Mike Lowell and David Ortiz are really struggling. All three picked up a hit today, but they need to show that they can up their production when they return to Fenway.
Frank Thomas has Manny Delcarmen's number. Some hitters just "figure out" certain pitchers, and Thomas has Delcarmen lined up perfectly, after he took him deep twice in two days. Delcarmen has now been struggling, his 4.50 ERA not showing the inherited runners that he has allowed. As Hideki Okajima and Jonathan Papelbon both pitched perfect innings, with Papelbon striking out the side in the ninth, the question of who will handle the seventh inning gap has not gone away. Delcarmen seems to be on a different level than Aardsma, Lopez and Julian Tavarez, and should be the guy to handle that role, he needs to show that he is a better pitcher than he has shown in this Toronto series. However, he is pitching as if he didn't have much of a spring training, which is typical of the young pitchers, by leaving off-speed pitchers up in the zone and not trusting his outstanding fastball.
Look for this recap after Tuesday's home opener when the World Series rings are presented. (To view previous recaps, follow this link.)
Keep the Faith.