New England Sports React

Youth Breathing Life

Rookies have been called on to help rejuvenate this team, and thus far, they’ve done exactly that.

We Red Sox fans knew this day was coming. We just didn’t know how soon it would creep upon us.

Wednesday night, following the release of catcher A.J. Pierzinski, the Sox started a franchise-record five rookies, and it seems to have sparked the team. Two walk-off wins later, the season appears as if it may not be over just yet. It’s not quite the roaring flames they need to ignite in order to get back in the AL playoff race, but it’s a start nonetheless. At 41-51, the Sox sit in last place in the AL East, 9.5 games behind the first place Baltimore Orioles. But with two and a half months left in the season, there is more than enough time to make up that deficit. And what better way to do so than with a group of kids who play hard day-in and day-out knowing they have to prove themselves if they want to secure consistent playing time.

There’s no doubt designating Pierzinski for assignment has had something to do with the team’s turnaround. From his questionable postgame quotes to his poor on-the-field attitude (as well as plate approach), A.J. was a cancer to this team. He embodied the poor character that doomed the Sox in 2012, leading to the departures of Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez. It seemed only a matter of time until the maligned catcher was sent packing, and thank God upper management came to the same realization that we Sox fans did a month or two ago. Brock Holt has led this youthful group, followed closely by Jackie Bradley Jr., whose defense and more consistent plate approach have given us something to look forward to in the coming years. Mookie Betts still appears to be a raw talent, but his flashes of brilliance suggest he has a bright future ahead of him.

While the bullpen has struggled of late, the starting pitching has, for the most part, produced quality starts and kept the team in the game even when relinquishing the lead or allowing early runs. Jon Lester, not surprisingly, has led the pack, being selected to the All-Star Game by solidifying his place amongst the best left-handed pitchers in the game (yes, I would consider him in the same class as Clayton Kershaw). John Lackey has struggled of late, but his overall performance this season has kept the Sox afloat. Clay Buchholz is starting to come around, attempting to anchor the back half of a pitching staff that has seen Felix Doubront depart for the bullpen while Rubby De La Rosa has graced the starting rotation with his presence. The starters will need to continue their aggressive approach against hitters if they’re to be successful, getting ahead in counts and pounding the strike zone consistently.

The Sox will need a lot to go right if they’re to make a legitimate second half run this season. Of course, it’s easier said than done. But if there’s any team that is capable, it’s this one. Remember ’04? The Sox just needed one spark (the Varitek-Rodriguez brawl) to propel them to a remarkable second half run and eventual World Series title. Maybe drinking from the Fountain Youth is exactly what this team needed.

-Ryan Hartley

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