For Red Sox, last year seems like forever ago

For Red Sox, last year seems like forever ago
April 15, 2014, 12:15 pm

CHICAGO -- The news that both Koji Uehara and Dustin Pedroia were not as injured as first feared and would escape stints on the disabled list constitute the most positive developments the Red Sox have had in some time.
     
The 2014 season has not, it should be obvious, gone swimmingly for the Red Sox, at least not through the first two weeks.
     
The Sox are already three games under .500, a year after they went an entire season without once dipping so much as a game under .500. and sit in last place in the American League East.
     
They're 10th in the A.L. in runs scored and 12th in batting average with runners in scoring position.
     
Their longest winning steak of the young season is two games, accomplished once.
     
And it's not just the big picture or the statistical evidence. There are the little things, too.
     
On Saturday, John Farrell gambled by sending Mike Carp, hardly the team's fastest runner, on an 0-and-2 pitch, hoping the aggressiveness would force a mistake -- such as a throw into center field by the catcher or a ball past the catcher.
     
Instead, Carp was gunned down easily at second and the Red Sox, having scored twice that inning to close to within two runs and with Carp representing the potential tying run, were out of the inning.
     
It was exactly that sort of play that worked for the Red Sox last season, when virtually every risk produced a reward. If the Sox needed any further evidence that the mojo of 2013 is a thing of the past, this play was evidence.
     
It got worse Sunday night when a questionable overturned call via the replay system negated an inning-ending double play and resulted in the Yankees scoring the eventual game-winning run.
     
(Another feature of that play at first which received little attention: Francisco Cervelli pulled a hamstring as he crossed the first base bag and had to leave the game. That, in turn, forced the Yankees to shift Carlos Beltran from right field to first base and insert Inchiro Suzuki into right.
     
In the eighth inning, Ichiro then made a spectacular catch to rob David Ortiz of extra bases. If Beltran had been in the game still, it's virtually impossible that he would have made the same play. Thus, the play at first in the fourth inning was doubly harmful for the Red Sox.)
     
What's clear is this much: the Red Sox are being tested in 2014 in a way they seldom were a year ago.
     
Halfway through April, they already find themselves in survival mode, hoping to get through the month without ceding too much ground to the rest of the division.
     
While Pedroia and Uehara have escaped DL stints, it doesn't mean they're 100 percent. Pedroia will likely need some down time to protect his ailing left wrist and ensure that it doesn't begin a season-long concern, the way his left thumb was a year ago.
     
And if the Sox were protective of Uehara before, managing his workload with an eye on his advancing age, they'll be doubly so now. Know this: there will be more ninth-inning save situations in which Uehara is technically "available" but not in the game.
     
In other words, you haven't seen the last of the The Mujica.
     
Further, with Shane Victorino still sidelined -- though he could return as early as Friday, when the Sox come back home -- and Will Middlebrooks gone for another week or so, the lineup that Farrell has over the next few days will sometimes be minus three starters.
     
Of course, when it comes to injuries, it could be far worse. The Sox could be in the same hole as the Tampa Bay Rays, who have lost one starting pitcher for the season (Matt Moore) and will be without another (Alex Cobb) for the next several weeks.
     
Still, the Sox have their own challenges, and circumstance, injuries and under-performance are testing them as they never were a year ago.