The Boston Red Sox currently have two former Tigers in their starting rotation: reigning Cy Young winner Rick Porcello, and 2012 Cy Young winner David Price. The Tigers have former Red Sox players Victor Martinez and Jose Iglesias on their bench. The two teams have gone head to head in heated competition many times over the years, but meeting up with the Red Sox always feels more like a reunion than a rivalry.
This weekend, the Tigers will be headed to Boston to face off against the Sox at Fenway. Detroit is hoping to have a different outcome in Boston than they did at home against the Angels earlier this week, and perhaps finally climb over the .500 mark.
They won’t be facing David Price, who started on Thursday in New York, or Rick Porcello, but they will see former division rival ace Chris Sale on Saturday. We talked to Matt Collins, managing editor of SB Nation’s Red Sox blog Over the Monster about Price, about the Sox mascot Wally, and about the upcoming draft.
BYB: David Price is back! Do you feel like he’s already in fighting form, or are there still some kinks that need to be ironed out?
OTM: (Before I start I will note that I am writing this before Thursday’s start in New York, so these statements are only based on his first two starts.) Price has mostly gotten back to his old form, which is huge for the Red Sox. They are still taking it a little easier with him, and for good reason, but the stuff looks all the way back. His velocity is up the mid-90s and his breaking balls are spinning like they have when he’s been at his best. On the other hand, he has had some spells in which he loses his command and control. That’s not terribly uncommon for a pitcher who missed such a big chunk of time, but it’s a minor concern right now until he proves he’s figured it out. All things considered, though, his return to the rotation is huge for the Red Sox.
As we quickly approach the half-way point of the season, how do you think Boston fans are feeling in general about the work Dave Dombrowski and John Farrell are each doing?
This one really depends on who you ask, but I think generally speaking people are upset with the state of the Red Sox. Farrell has always had a target on his back, and people are still clinging to that. There aren’t a lot of specific complaints with the manager this year, though. There are specific gripes with Dombrowski, specifically with his trade targets in the bullpen. Craig Kimbrel has been a revelation this year, but Dombrowski also made big trades for both Tyler Thornburg and Carson Smith, neither of whom have really pitched for the Red Sox to this point. In Thornburg’s case, Dombrowski dealt Travis Shaw to acquire him, and the Red Sox just so happen to have a major problem at Shaw’s position. So, yeah, people aren’t in love with Dombrowski right now.
Wally the Green Monster just ranked 67th out of 70 in the Deadspin list of mascot rankings. Do you think he deserved to be higher?
If anything, he deserved to be lower. Wally is a legitimate monster whose reign of terror needs to come to an end.
The Yankees have a young, exciting team right now, but the Red Sox have one of the best pitching rosters in baseball. Do you like the Sox’s chance at taking first place in the division?
I do, although I don’t think it’s a given or anything along those lines. The Yankees are a legitimately scary team, and the rest of the division has real talent as well. Still, with Price back in the mix and Drew Pomeranz starting to look like the guy Dombrowski traded for last summer, the pitching should be good enough to keep them in the race. When you combine that with a bullpen that should be better with the addition of Carson Smith and an offense that appears to be catching fire at the right time, this is still the most talented roster on paper in the division.
Any insights into who you think the Red Sox might be looking at with their first round draft pick?
There haven’t been a ton of hints here, although based on the chatter around the prospect world it seems like they’ve been connected mostly to college players. Keston Hiura is one player that has been speculated about a lot, and he’d make sense given how much the Red Sox seem to lean on hit tools when selecting early-round players in the draft. Nick Allen would also make some sense as an undersized athlete, as the Red Sox have had some undersized players make huge impacts in their organization in recent years.
With Eduardo Rodriguez likely gone for the next month, how will the starting pitching be adjusted?
This is a big blow for the Red Sox rotation, as Rodriguez has seemingly taken the next step towards being a consistently effective starter in this league. The good news is the recovery may not be as dramatic as previously believed, and he’s already back to throwing. There’s a chance he’ll be back in the first half after all. In the meantime, the Red Sox will lean on Brian Johnson in the fifth spot of the rotation. The lefty is a former first round pick who has had numerous off-the-field difficulties to overcome. Most recently, he had to take a long period of time off last year because of anxiety issues. Fortunately, he’s doing better now. He doesn’t have huge stuff, but when the command is working he can be really effective, which was evident in his last major-league start when he tossed a complete game shutout against the Mariners.