TOST Question of the Week: Having lost five of their last six games, is it time to start worrying about the Red Sox?

Todd: Am I worried that the Sox have been outscored 42-19 in their last six games?  No.  Concerned?  Somewhat.

Injuries have started to mount.  In the last week, the Sox have seen not one, but two, of their closers land on the disabled list.  Sox fans need no further proof of Andrew Bailey’s injury history than the fact he was with the team the entire 2012 season, yet did not pitch in his first game until August.  What’s even more frustrating about Bailey this year is that he was pitching lights-out as the team’s closer after Joel Hanrahan went on the DL early in the season.  Then suddenly out of nowhere, Bailey strained his right bicep.  Hopefully he will be ready to pitch as soon as he is eligible to be activated later this month.

The urgency for Bailey’s return is in part because almost as soon as Hanrahan was activated from the DL to reassume the closer’s role given to him by manager John Farrell prior to the season, he strained his forearm and is now back on the shelf for an indefinite period.  Perhaps in Hanrahan’s case, concern can be raised to outright worry.  Whenever you hear Dr. James Andrews’ name associated with any pitcher, the words ‘season-ending surgery’ tend to follow a large majority of the time.  With Hanrahan eligible to be a free agent after the season, it’s possible we’ve already seen the last of this guy in a Sox uniform before even getting the chance to loathe him in the true tradition of Sox closers (Jonathan Papelbon is probably one of the few exceptions to this long-standing tradition).

In the short term, at least the Sox bullpen has enough power arms that both Junichi Tazawa and Koji Uehara are capable of closing games, but there is no question the one area of the team which had depth going into the season has now taken a significant hit.

Speaking of hits, when previewing the 2013 Red Sox I had expressed concern about the lack of depth in the batting order.  Shane Victorino has been considerably banged up the last few years and has already missed time this season with an ailing back.  He now looks to be playing through it and even hit his first two home runs of the season this week, so here’s hoping the back issues are (literally) behind him.  Then the other night David Ross and Will Middlebrooks collided in pursuit of a foul ball and are both currently day-to-day.  If either of them land on the DL the Sox lineup will look even thinner than it already is.

The antithesis to all these concerns is David Ortiz, who has not only remained healthy (knocking on wood) since returning from his Achilles injury, but has a batting average hovering around .400, despite one of MLB’s longest hitting streaks coming to an end last night.  Before Mike mentions that 27 games isn’t even half as long as Joltin’ Joe DiMaggio’s record-setting 56-game hit streak seven decades ago, I would like to note that Big Papi’s hitting streak is certainly unique in terms of actual calendar days - 309, going all the way back to July 2 of last year.

Mike: Hey Todd, a 27-game hitting streak is nothing to sneeze at, and frankly, in this day and age, I don’t think the 56-game record is going to be broken.

But enough of that, on to the Sox.

I must admit that I am a little worried that the hot streak is coming to an end, and with the “help” of some injuries, the Red Sox are going to start to play down to their actual level. I think the team has been overachieving all season, and now that the weather is warming up, the Sox are cooling down.

But what’s really getting to me is all of the stories of cheating surrounding the team, stories, which I don’t believe for one second, by the way. First there were a couple of Toronto announcers accusing Clay Buchholz of throwing spitballs. And then, a Boston Globe columnist tosses out the idea that Ortiz is using PEDs, another story which I completely disbelieve.

What’s really bothering me is the “guilty until proven innocent” mentality out there right now. An announcer says Buchholz is cheating, so he must be. Never mind the fact that not one single member of an opposing team or an umpire has expressed any issue with Buchholz this season. Someone said it on TV, so it must be true.

The Ortiz/PED issue is a bit trickier. I can see how eyebrows might be raised at Ortiz’s return to form this season after a couple of down years. But he was hurt last year, and he certainly didn’t heal quickly enough for me to suspect PED use. But, let one person toss out that idea, and suddenly Ortiz finds himself being mentioned in the same breath as Barry Bonds. It just gets me down that we have to have all of this outside stuff that takes away from what has been a pretty fun spring.

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