First pitch: Reality is it can get worse from here

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First pitch: Reality is it can get worse from here

The losses pile up now, like yesterday's trash, one on top of the other, each indistinguishable from the next.

Nobody mentions the playoffs any more, for good reason -- the Red Sox are now closer in the standings to the worst record in the league (Minnesota) than they are to the team leading the wild card chase (Oakland).

There are now more hollow promises about "getting healthy and making a run,'' no predictions that, pretty soon, things will click.

Those are all gone now. Wednesday's one-sided loss to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim pushed the Red Sox one day closer to the end, one step closer to total irrelevance.

And here's the thing: It can still get worse.

There are still 38 games remaining, almost a quarter of the season. Included in that stretch are 22 road games, almost all against teams with better records.

Actually, when it comes to the home-road split in the final six weeks, location is almost irrelevant. At 29-36, Sox have one of the worst home records in the league.

You name it, and it's a concern. Two games into the Randy Niemann Era, the starting pitching is as poor as it's been all season, though Niemann can hardly be expected to exact an overnight turnaround in performance.

The offense has scored three runs or fewer in 8 of the last 12 games and seem to limit their damage to an inning -- sometimes two -- per night.

The fight seems to have left them. Rallies are almost non-existent; comebacks appear to be a thing of the past. Over the last five games, the Red Sox have been scoreless in 36 of the last 45 innings, or 80 percent of the time.

Injuries, of course, are a factor. David Ortiz remains sidelined and there's no telling how much his mere presence is missed in the middle of the lineup. It doesn't help that Will Middlebrooks, one of just two righthanded regulars with a slugging percentage above .420, is out for the remainder of the season with a broken wrist.

And so, the lineup takes on the look of a split-squad sent to Bradenton on March morning -- journeyman and role players sprinkled in among some regulars in the hopes of passing as a major league lineup.

With Middlebrooks and Carl Crawford gone for the year and Ortiz still at least a few days away, Bobby Valentine is left to mix and match almost daily. In late August.

And it shows.

"We just can't seem to string a good inning together here and there and gain any momentum offensively,'' lamented outfielder Scott Podsednik. "When you look at good offensive clubs, they do that -- they take what's given to them, they grind out at-bats and keep coming at you.

"We're potetnially trying to do too much. Each player is trying to be that guy to get things going and it's counterproductive.''

In part because of the injuries and roster churn, the team lacks an identity, and as such, lacks consistency.

"There's been so many new personalities coming in and trying to jell,'' noted Podsednik. "You've got to have 25 guys, day-in, day-out all on the same page. So, yes, that might have something to do with it. The goal should be, each and every night, is to play for one another, pick each other up. We've had so many new faces, so many guys trying to come in and establish themselves, that I think it's hard for this whole team to get into a good rhythm and get in the right frame of mind to play, day-in and day-out.''

And here's the hard part: It's not over yet. Not by a long shot.

Biggest Red Sox busts in recent memory

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Biggest Red Sox busts in recent memory

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Farrell angered after Castillo fails to run out grounder

Farrell angered after Castillo fails to run out grounder

The Red Sox signed Cuban outfielder Rusney Castillo to a seven-year, $72.5 million contract bn August 2014. Over parts of three seasons, the 29-year-old has a .679 OPS across 337 plate appearances in the majors and spent the vast majority of the 2016 season at Triple-A Pawtucket.

Castillo had a chance to start things off on the right foot in 2017, but that ship has already sailed. On Thursday against Northeastern at JetBlue Park, Castillo didn’t run out a routine ground ball. He claims he lost track of the outs. Manager John Farrell isn’t happy about the situation. Via Evan Drellich of the Boston Herald:

“Disappointing for a couple of reasons,” Sox manager John Farrell said. “One, he has lost the number of outs. Still, regardless of another of outs, getting down the line is controllable. And for a player in his situation, every little aspect of the game is important. That’s something that was addressed in the moment. He needs to execute the game situation. And for that matter, every player. But that one obviously stood out.”

Everyone always makes far too big a deal about running out grounders. It’s a real nit to pick when it’s February 23 and your team just finished playing an exhibition game that is even more meaningless than the other exhibition games that will be played in the coming month.

That being said, Castillo has to prove himself to merit inclusion on the 25-man roster and that means dotting all his i’s and crossing all his t’s. Even if he went hitless all spring, Castillo could have at least said he couldn’t have done anything else better. But on day one, he already gave his team a reason to count him out.