Nine Up, Nine Down: What We Need To Do In Toronto

This is actually a pretty serious series for us. Toronto we’re expected to sweep, yes, so it can’t be THAT serious, but nonetheless, there are nine things I believe NEED to happen in Toronto to get a better grasp on how this season goes.
* Bronson Arroyo needs to pitch well. In his career against Toronto (20 IP) he has a 4.05 ERA. Last year, he pitched 8 IP in the Skydome, so there’s history of success for Arroyo. If he can replicate exactly what he did last year, we can expect another good year from Arroyo which will help stabilize the rotation questions that have been going around.
* Kevin Youkilis needs to get at least 4 AB, whether it’s in starting a game or coming off the bench. He also needs to get some innings at first to see if he is a viable backup at first to clear up the David McCarty spot. With Wells’ and Clement’s struggles, it might behoove the Red Sox to take a look at Youkilis NOW, so that when Schilling is activated, McCarty can be Designated For Assignment … to keep a pitcher (most likely Blaine Neal) remaining on the roster.
* Speaking of Blaine Neal, he needs to pitch again because as of now, he’d be cut when Schilling comes off the DL for April 13th. He needs to pitch at least two innings so we can look at Neal and see if he’s a good middle reliever or if we need to move someone else. I earlier theorized (theorized – no pun intended) that Theo might think the bullpen is the most overrated part of a team. Correct or not, the bullpen still nonetheless wins and loses games. (Think about it – a team gets 162 starts. If we theorize that on a good team, you get 20 wins from your #1 pitcher, 18 from #2, 15 from #3, 14 from #4, and 12 from #5, that comes to 78 wins. The bullpen is then responsible for 84 wins!)
* The Red Sox need to win two games. Arroyo goes tonight, then Wells, then Clement. We need a strong game from Arroyo to win, then hopefully Wells can notch the win. Not that I expect a loss from Clement, but Wells pitching strong will quell some outcry. Also, the need to win two games will push our record to .500, which is acceptable after six games. If we lose two games, that makes us 2-4, and that’s not something we want to see for the Fenway opener.
* How will Brad Mills respond to managing an entire series? The latest news is that Francona’s chest pains were caused by a virus. As per Rotoworld.com, ”He will be monitored over the weekend by the Red Sox medical staff, and should be ready to return to the bench on Monday for the team’s home opener,” Dr. Thomas Gill said in a statement. ”He is in good spirits, and is extremely eager to return to the team.”
Great news. But this means Mills takes the helm for the Toronto series. Hopefully his management does not deviate too much from Francona’s. Everyone has different managing styles, but it would cause the Red Sox an adjustment to go from Francona’s style to Mills’ for three games then back to Francona. Mills has worked with Francona long enough to know Francona’s style. Now it’s about execution. If Mills can go in and manage well, he could start appearing on some lists for managing jobs for other teams.
* Can Manny Ramirez snap out of his funk? Encouraging news were brought to light two days ago when Manny got a hit in the last New York series. But one hit a slump-breaker does not make. Manny could still go 1-20. It’s time for him to hit a lot more consistently, and more importantly, with power. He’s always loved the Skydome, and hits mammoth HRs there. Lifetime, Ramirez is .304/.394/.576 at the Dome (wait, isn’t it the Rogers Centre, now? SkyDome is a more cooler name. We’ll stay with the Dome). Here’s where we need to see Manny’s power.
* Another slump-breaker: Edgar Renteria. He needs to show us what he’s made of before the home opener. Let’s see Edgar go 5-12 with some doubles sprinkled in there and good defense. I know that Red Sox Nation knows how good Edgar can be, but misses Orlando Cabrera and is not too sure on Edgar. Show us how good you are, Edgar. Show us.
* Also, so far, Bellhorn has hit at a good pace, .417 in the first series. Five hits, but only one went for extra bases – a double. Let’s see some more power from Bellhorn. Let’s see some more doubles and home-runs, so you can emerge as a viable candidate for the #2 spot in case Nixon keeps struggling. Speaking of Nixon, the coaching staff has done a good job preaching to Nixon to stay steady. He’s hitless, but has walked 3 times. .000/.300/.000. However, he needs to ensure that he stays in the #2 spot because while it’s a good idea to put Nixon in the #2 spot, production matters.
* The last, and most important thing to do, is to stay loose. Have fun. Johnny Damon is pushing the ‘Idiots’ label a bit too much. The smartest players on the Red Sox (and the only smart ones) are Curt Schilling and Jason Varitek? Damon’s got the book out about last year, and I have no problem pushing the Idiots line even though I hate it. But let’s try to tone the attention down. Damon has become a HUGE celebrity (which almost ensures his signing with a big-market team when he’s a free agent, my pick is either the Mets to play left or San Francisco) and we just need to take some of the glare off Damon. Let’s focus on the 2005 Red Sox. Let’s focus on doing our job, staying out of the spotlight, and going about our job professionally. I don’t want to say not to have fun – let’s do it. But it spiraled a bit out of control last year with the idiot bit – I preferred the ‘Cowboy Up!’ bit in 2003. Just go out there, click together on the field, and find your identity off it. Cut out the idiot stuff.