Trailing 5-4 with two outs in the bottom of the ninth last night, the Red Sox were down to their last out against San Diego closer Heath Bell with J.D. Drew at the plate.
Drew, who has struggled all season and has been indecisive at the plate, fanned on a 96 m.p.h. fast ball to end the game.
The 5-4 loss to the Padres was not devastating. After all, the Red Sox are 44-29 and hold a one-game lead over the Yankees in the American League East. Yet last night’s game further illustrated Boston’s most glaring problem – right field production.
With Carl Crawford on the disabled list with a mild hamstring strain, Josh Reddick started in left field. The 24-year-old left-handed hitter was 2-for-4 with a double, a triple, a run and an RBI.
In his brief stint with Boston this season, Reddick is 9-for-21 (.429) with a 1.147 OPS, seven RBI and three walks. The ball rockets off his bat, and even many of his outs are loud.
Meanwhile, Drew was 0-for-4 and saw his average slip to .230. Drew has hinted that he will retire after this season, the last of a five-year deal with the Red Sox. It seems he already has one foot out the door. He is slugging a putrid .328, has a .660 OPS and his usually high OBP is .332.
Since he arrived in Boston for the 2007 season, I have defended Drew. True, he never became the perennial All-Star that many scouts envisioned when he was drafted out of Florida State. Yet, for the Red Sox, Drew has delivered in the post-season, and he has been an ideal No. 6 and No. 7 hitter who gets on base and provides solid defense in right field.
Now, Drew seems helpless against right-handed pitchers and left-handed pitchers alike. He looks lost at the plate, though his shortcomings this season have been mostly hidden by a potent Red Sox lineup.
Yet it is almost July. The All-Star break is drawing closer, as is the July 31 trade deadline and the stretch run in the pennant race. It is time for Theo Epstein to start considering right field options.
Drew is not the only Red Sox outfielder scuffling. Mike Cameron has not adjusted to a part-time role and is hitting .153 with a .221 OBP and a .282 slugging percentage for a .503 OPS.
Darnell McDonald, who unexpectedly shined last season, Darnell McDonald, a right-handed hitting outfielder who is batting .114 in a limited role (35 at-bats).
Reddick is ready for the majors. Maybe not as a full-time outfielder this season, but at least as a platoon outfielder and a fourth outfielder. He plays all three outfield spots well, and he is a run producer. Ryan Kalish, who is recovering from a shoulder injury, is considered Boston’s top outfield prospect and has a high ceiling, but for now, Reddick is the best internal option to generate production in right field.
At Pawtucket, though Reddick was hitting just .230, he had 14 home runs, 36 RBI and a .841 OPS. Reddick admits that, at this point, his adrenaline flows much higher in the majors because he feels he belongs here. He is right.
When Crawford returns from the disabled list, Reddick should stay. He has a greater upside than McDonald and Cameron, who is in the final year of his contract.
Today on WEEI, Peter Gammons suggested that the Red Sox are interested in acquiring a right-handed hitting outfielder since Cameron and McDonald are not producing. Chicago Cubs outfielder/infielder Jeff Baker is one option, he said. Colorado’s Ryan Spilborghs, who has been linked to the Red Sox the last two seasons, is another.
If the Sox can cut ties with McDonald and find a taker for Cameron, who is more comfortable with a full-time role, that would be ideal as long as they bring in another right-handed hitting outfielder. Reddick can fill a role as the other extra outfielder, providing the Sox with a promising left-handed bat and a strong defensive outfielder who can play all three positions.