In advance of today's double-header against the Boston Red Sox, Brian Joiner (@bryanjoiner) of Over The Monster was kind enough to (virtually, colloquially) sit down with me and answer all of my burning Red Sox questions.
Ian Malinowski: The Rays will see Alfredo Aceves and Ryan Dempster. Can you give us a breakdown of each of them? Strengths? Weaknesses? What do they throw when? Are they doing anything different than usual? What do Boston fans know about them that we don't.
Bryan Joiner: Aceves throws hard, mostly straight and is certifiably insane. I've been waiting to use this line for a while, now's as good a time as any: If you were with Alfredo Aceves and a group of dudes and you got lost for even five minutes, he seems like the type of guy who would immediately begin talking about who would have to eat who. He's dangerous to be around, but he's dangerous to everything -- if you need someone to fight off a bear, he's your guy (as he did last week, against you), Just know that when he's done fighting that bear he's still going to eat you. Dempster is exactly who you think he is: A league-average innings eater at this point, a third or fourth starter in the AL who can win your team a game if the other bats are cold. If they're hot, they'll probably get to him.
IM: Will we get to see Ruby de la Rosa soon? Aceves isn't very good, and Buchholz is hurt. Is Rubby ready?
BJ: It sounds like Rubby will start Saturday if Buchholz can't go, which seems more and more likely. I don't know if he's ready, but I do know that we've seen a parade of celebrated pitchers make their debuts this year -- Tony Cingrani, Michael Wacha and Gerrit Cole -- only for the bubble to pop on most of them after the severely overhyped first start. Cole's still pitching well, and so was Cingrani, but Wacha quickly became just another young pitcher. The bottom line is that raising pitching prospects is just such a long process I can't get overly excited about the first start. I'm more excited to see Wil Myers than Rubby, just as a baseball fan. Between Mike Trout, Bryce Harper and Yasiel Puig, we've seen some epic hot starts by top hitting prospects in the last two years, and Myers could add to the list.
IM: Just when it seemed like the Red Sox offense might be ready to recede into the depths of average, you've gotten great offensive performances from Daniel Nava and Mike Carp (and Jose Iglesias). Are these guys for real?
BJ: There are some unsustainable performances happening right now, most notably that of league hitting streak leader as of Monday Jose Iglesias and, though we'd probably rather not admit it, Daniel Nava. I love Nava, but I'm probably the most bearish on him of all the Sox fans I know: The "Nava for All-Star" campaign seems, to me, designed to capitalize on his hot start precisely because we don't expect it to last. It would be like you explaining to me why James Loney or Matt Joyce should be an All-Star, which would sound as odd to me as the reverse likely does for Nava and you. The campaign has quieted down thanks to the Doc Rivers craziness with the Celtics, which exposed it for what it was: Something to fill the time and onto which to project insecurities. The fact is, if he was good enough it would take care of itself, as it will with Dustin Pedroia and David Ortiz.
IM: As I see it right now, you guys are sitting pretty. You're atop the AL East now, you have a top offense, and a shutdown bullpen. The only place Boston seems thin is in their starting rotation. Is it appropriate to worry, or are the Sox deeper than I give them credit for?
BJ: The Sox are in a tough spot right now with respect to their rotation, with their top two, Buchholz and Jon Lester, injured and bad. John Lackey takes a lot of gruff from the media for 2011 and for a purported bad attitude, but he's been pretty damn good this year, the near-brawl aside against your gentlemen aside. I think there's a chance Felix Doubront is going to put up some decent second-half numbers -- his FIP is 3.77 -- and things seem to be going smoothly now even though they seem held together with Scotch tape, but a lot of it has to do with Clay's long-term health, which doesn't look good. Lester's got so many issues right now that he'd be better off on the DL, but they may be too stretched for that to happen.
IM: Why was John Lackey "not man enough" (Sean Rodriguez's words) to admit that he was throwing at Matt Joyce? Also, do you still beat your wife?
BJ: Hey, I'm still mad at Gerald Williams for charging Pedro. Is it always you guys charging us? And is it always in St. Pete? (These are real questions.) I get why Joyce was mad at Lackey, but I don't think Lackey did it on purpose, given that it brought the tying run to the plate in the sixth inning of a game where he could have gotten the win. We may not care about wins, but I'll bet Lackey does. I think Lackey was probably furious at himself for hitting him, because it was such a tight situation and he knew how it looked, and was probably residually pissed about the long look Joyce gave his foul ball in the third. In Joyce's defense, that ball was absolutely murdered and deserved to be watched. But I don't see a compelling argument that Lackey hit him on purpose. That game was just a disaster from the get-go for you and for us and the less said about it the better. There are always more games.
IM: Are there hipsters in Boston and do they wear Brooklyn Dodger hats while still being Red Sox fans?
Bryan wasn't able to answer that last one, but now I'm curious. Maybe y'all can help me out?