Three things we learned: Craig looks lost

Three things we learned: Craig looks lost
September 4, 2014, 12:00 pm
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NEW YORK -- Three things we learned in the Red Sox' 5-1 loss to the Yankees on Wednesday night at Yankee Stadium:

1) Allen Craig appears absolutely lost at the plate.

Craig struck out in each of his four plate appearances and couldn't have looked more overmatched, flailing at breaking balls way out of the strike zone.

Since joining the Red Sox at the trade deadline, Craig is hitting just .111/.220/.250 and has just three extra-base hits in 36 at-bats. Heck, Craig has just four hits period overall and hasn't hit a handful of balls hard.

Perhaps Craig is still dealing with the after effects of a foot injury that's now more than a year old, or at the very least, bad habits he developed because of the injury.

Or maybe Craig is having difficulty adjusting to the irregular playing time brought on by the Red Sox' overcrowded outfield situation.

But his poor showing -- even in a relatively small sample size -- has to be giving the Red Sox pause. Craig has $26 million due him over the next three seasons and for now, he looks like someone unable to play and someone who couldn't be traded.

In Mookie Betts, Rusney Castillo, Yoenis Cespedes and Shane Victorino, the Red Sox already have four outfielders in the mix -- and that doesn't account for Daniel Nava and Jackie Bradley Jr. Meanwhile, Mike Napoli will
handle first base, closing out that avenue.

But that's getting ahead of things. For now, Craig needs to find himself at the plate and go into the off-season as something more than a giant question mark.

2) Anthony Ranaudo has shown a lot of poise in four starts.

Ranaudo's start was far from perfect Wednesday night. He made a mistake to Brian McCann which landed in the rght field seats and he walked three in 5 1/3 innings, continuing a somewhat distrubing trend of wildness (11 walks in 23 1/3 innings).

But Ranaudo never looks rattled on the mound and has given the Sox a chance to win in each of his four starts, during which he's averaged nearly six innings and three runs allowed.

In his major league debut, in the chaos that surrounded the Red Sox the day after the trade deadline, Ranaudo beat the Yankees. On Wednesday, he may not have been as sharp, but he left trailing just 3-1, having gotten next-to-no support from his teammates.

Pitching near his New Jersey hometown, with family and friends in the stands, Ranaudo didn't seem intimidated in the least.

If you're ranking the young starters in the organization based on what they've accomplished at the big league level this season, Ranaudo slides in behind Rubby De La Rosa and ahead of both Allen Webster and Brandon Workman.

3) Mookie Betts is showing improvement in center.

Betts isn't the equal to Jackie Bradley Jr. as a defender and probably never will be. That's OK, since there may not be three center fielders in the major leagues as good as Bradley is with the glove.

But Betts has improved a great deal in a realtively short period of time. Remember, it was only late May that Betts began playing the outfield in Double-A. Since then, he was promoted to Pawtucket and is currently on his third stint with the parent club.

The catch Betts made on Chase Headley in the bottom of the eighth inning Wednesday night was one he probably wouldn't made six weeks ago. The ball was driven deep to center and Betts immmediately sprinted toward the warning track. He briefly checked to see how much more running room he had, then continue to track the ball and haul it in on the warning track, running full stride.

Betts prides himself on his athleticism and there's plenty there to like. To see how much progress he's made in a short window is to recognize how talented Betts is and how hard he's worked at his new position.

(When Betts made another terrific catch at Tropicana Field last weekend, he made sure to note that he had failed to make a similar grab in Toronto and felt compelled to make up for it).

Again, he's not Bradley in center. But he's plenty good enough already.