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Posted May 12, 2005
Hopefuls Keep Sox Afloat
By Paul Noonan

              It was the one thing many Sox fans feared could temporarily or permanently derail the Red Sox:  the injury plague.  With a few grizzled veterans, and many freshly recuperating(ed) players, in the lineup, the risk of injuries seemed it could be abnormally high this year for the Sox.  So far that theory hasn’t been disproved as the bug has reared its head early.  The most notable injuries are those to Schilling and Wells, injuries that have thrown the starting rotation into chaos (although the return of Miller should settle things down), and have also affected the bullpen as well.  With a few old arms (Embree, Timlin, Halama) in the ‘pen, the Sox can’t afford to have too many five inning starts and be dipping into their bullpen early in games.  However, the Sox strong farm system is starting to prove its worth as young pro hopefuls who are getting their big shot amidst this calamity are bringing hope for both the present and future of the Sox.

              The highlight of the young arms who have been filling in for the time being is Jeremy Gonzalez.  The first one to get his opportunity, Gonzalez has pitched strong in his two starts, racking up thirteen strikeouts.  Though he has let up six runs accompanied with that, Gonzalez looked better in game two and even picked up his first victory of the year in game one of the Seattle double- header.  Although Richie Sexson taught him a little bit about the wrong pitch at the wrong time (he hit a grand slam), Cla Meredith still pitched fairly well in his hurried debut, and the Sox are still optimistic and enthused with his progress so far.  After all, a rookie against one of the game’s best hitters and with the bases loaded?  Anything more would just have been great.  Best of all, Wade Miller has returned and also looked solid in his debut.  Miller finished the game with 6 K’s, 1 BB, 3 hits and 2 runs in five innings of work. 

              Now that these youngsters have gotten their feet wet, they now have to fill some bigger shoes.  With Wells and Schilling both out for at least a month more, it seems, these young pitchers will still appear in a few more games before any possible demotion.  For them it is their chance to prove their worth and maybe earn the right to stick around.  The greater impact is that their successes and failures will have an impact on the Sox’s immediate and distant future.  If they can continue to string together some wins and strong outings, the Sox bats and bullpen should be able to keep the Sox on the Orioles trail.  If they falter, the Sox could find themselves in a Yankee- like situation where they will be under .500 and suddenly have to right the ship before they sink to far from resurfacing.   

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