The Red Sox were 3-4 this past week. They keep fluttering around the .500 mark. For the season, they are 9-9 and tied for second place with the Toronto Blue Jays, two-and-a-half games behind the division leading Baltimore Orioles (11-6), who have come back to earth following a 7-0 start.
Stock Rising: Junichi Tazawa
Junichi Tazawa has been nothing short of spectacular for the Red Sox this season. He has pitched in an incredible 10 of the first 18 games. That would put him on pace to pitch in 90 games this season — which would tie the American League record set by Minnesota’s Mike Marshall in 1979. The Major League record is 106, also set by Marshall in 1974 with the Los Angeles Dodgers. How long can Tazawa go at this pace before his arm falls off? Farrell is going to ride him hard for as long as he can. More than any other player on this team, Farrell’s job may hinge on how good and durable Tazawa is this season.
Stock Rising: Rick Porcello
Don’t look now but Rick Porcello is 3-0. Yes, that Rick Porcello. He has, uncharacteristically, even become a bit of a strikeout machine. Porcello has struck out at least seven batters in his last seven starts. He has actually been pretty good since he gave up seven runs in two innings to the Toronto Blue Jays last July 1. He has given up more than four runs in only two of his fifteen starts since then. Red Sox will take it.
Stock Rising: Heath Hembree
Who? Heath Hembree was acquired from San Francisco along with Edwin Escobar (who was just designated for assignment by the Red Sox this week) for Jake Peavy in 2014. The 27-year-old has been a closer every step of the way in the minors — compiling 117 saves. There has just never been room for him in the majors… until now. Hembree is the reason the Red Sox ended the week with a 3-4 record and not a 2-5 record. After Craig Kimbrel blew a two-run lead to the Astros Sunday night, Hembree followed with three solid innings (two hits, no runs, no walks, four strikeouts) allowing the Red Sox to win the game. Hembree may slide into the role envisioned for Carson Smith. Matt Barnes should be concerned.
Stock Falling: Craig Kimbrel
Who would have ever dreamed that Craig Kimbrel would be Joel Hanrahan repackaged? Okay, maybe Kimbrel is not that bad, or, more importantly, he won’t be that bad. Kimbrel has struggled with his command and missing spots. Hitters have punished him when he has missed. Remember the Chris Davis long home run to straight away center field at Fenway? Sunday night, it was Colby Rasmus’ turn to punish Kimbrel when he golfed a game-tying two-out, two-run home run in the ninth in Houston. The Red Sox would go on to win (thanks to Hembree), but Sox fans are starting to turn on “The Finisher.” This should just be a hiccup… should be.
Stock Falling: David Price
Like Kimbrel, don’t expect to see David Price on this list too many times, but when you blow a 5-1 lead at home to the Tampa Bay Rays, that’ll get you here. Price’s worst month has always been April, so don’t worry… too much. He has, however, given up more that five runs twice in his first four starts — including eight in 3 2/3 innings to Tampa. He has gotten past the sixth inning in only one of those four starts. Needless to say, the Red Sox need much more out of Price.
Stock Falling: Joe Kelly
Great things were expected of Joe Kelly this year. He was dominant in the final two months of last season and looked great in spring training. He had to exit the game after only recording two outs last Tuesday. He was immediately put on the disabled list with a “shoulder impingement.” The Red Sox are hoping the injury isn’t a long term one, especially after watching Henry Owens’ performance Sunday night.