John Tomase

Andrew Bailey, biggest offseason pickup? And other Red Sox thoughts

The Red Sox pitching coach continues to make a noticeable impact on the rotation.

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Random observations on a Red Sox team that's off to a surprising 5-2 start despite not really hitting much at all. ...

Maybe it really was partly the game plan. In Nick Pivetta's first start vs. the Mariners, he shockingly threw more sweepers than four-seamers. He pitched brilliantly, with 10 strikeouts in six innings, but took the hard-luck 1-0 loss.

He followed that up with a messier outing against the A's that nonetheless ended in a 1-0 win, and in that one he lacked a feel for the sweeper, so he leaned heavily on his four-seamer, throwing it 37 percent of the time and maxing out at 97 mph.

New pitching coach Andrew Bailey, who is already turning out to be the team's most impactful offseason acquisition, believes fastballs should be treated as secondary weapons that can be used to set up the pitches with spin that are traditionally the hardest to square. He has spoken matter-of-factly about this approach since the day he arrived, but it really is turning conventional wisdom on its head, especially in an era obsessed with velocity.

That said, he won't force it if the off-speed stuff isn't working, and credit to Pivetta for finding a way to keep the A's off the board without his full arsenal. ...

It's only a matter of time for Triston Casas, who's off to a slow start, but who thus far hasn't received much help from umpires regarding his keen eye.

Casas has already struck out eight times in seven games while hitting just .192, but at least two of those K's came looking at sliders well below the strike zone, from Seattle's Andre Munoz and Oakland's Alex Wood. In the Munoz at-bat, in fact, all three strikes Casas took were actually balls.

Patience is particularly virtuous in the batter's box, and eventually, Casas' will be rewarded. ...

It's getting to the point where Jarren Duran may as well run every time he reaches base, because no one's come close to catching him.

Duran is 30 for 32 on steals since the start of his last season, and his only two failures were outliers: The Rockies picked him off first last June, and Giants catcher Patrick Bailey nailed him six weeks later with a throw so bad it was good, practically hitting a sliding Duran in the helmet wide right of second base before it could sail into right field.

Duran is 6 for 6 in that department already in 2024, and it was shocking to see him only bluff during Wednesday's series finale vs. the A's despite going 4 for 4 at the plate. He had ample opportunity to run, and the fact that he didn't suggests Duran is comfortable picking his spots, which points to a greater maturity as he gains experience. ...

Ceddanne Rafaela is worth the price of admission in center field, where his jumps are so good, he actually overran a deep drive to center on Wednesday that he tried to Willie Mays before it clanged off the heel of his outstretched glove. He appeared outraged with himself before making up for it moments later with a leaping catch against the fence.

The issue for Rafaela, as manager Alex Cora feared, has been selectivity. After lashing a triple to left on opening day, Rafaela hasn't anything hard. His average exit velocity of 82.9 mph grades as well-below average, as does his .579 OPS. He has struck out seven times and walked just once.

He nearly bunted for a hit on Wednesday, and if he keeps making circus catches in center, the Red Sox will be tempted to keep him on the field purely for his glove. But needs to hit, too, so his swing-at-everything approach bears watching. ...

It's worth checking in on a few offseason targets who had been linked to the Red Sox. Dodgers righty Yoshinobu Yamamoto, who got blasted in his debut vs. the Padres in Korea, bounced back in his second start to throw five shutout innings vs. the Cardinals.

Meanwhile, Cubs left-hander Shōta Imanaga outshined his more ballyhooed Japanese countryman by throwing six shutout innings in his debut, striking out nine, walking none, and allowing only two hits.

Offensively, a couple of potential right-handed bats to balance the lineup are mashing. Dodgers outfielder Teoscar Hernández is off to a fast start, with four homers and 10 RBIs. A few hours north, division rival Jorge Soler has homered twice with a .987 OPS for the Giants.

The Red Sox so far have to be pleased with their own choice in this department, though, because Tyler O'Neill leads the club with two homers and a 1.145 OPS, while also solidifying the corner outfield defense. ...

How has the relatively hot start affected the secondary ticket market?

While $5 and $6 tickets remain available for the back of next week's series against the Orioles, the cheapest price available on SeatGeek for the home opener is $47. That's a four-fold increase from the $11 tickets that were available three weeks ago.

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