Making his weekly appearance on Mut & Merloni Thursday afternoon, ESPN baseball analyst Buster Olney talked all things Red Sox, including pitcher Daniel Bard, whose spotty effectiveness has been a concern all season.
Bard pitched 5 1/3 innings and earned a win on Wednesday against the Orioles to improve his record to 4-5, but his ERA stands at 4.69 and he has more walks than strikeouts. Olney said that league scouts are concerned not only with Bard's fastball but his control as well.
"They're saying to me what really concerns them is how much he's missing his target by," Olney said. "They're watching that the target is down and in and the ball is high and away. He's missing his target by a couple of feet, and for them that's a concern. And the feeling is: How good can he be if he's missing by that much, and what is the reason behind that?"
Adrian Gonzalez made an appearance in right field in the series with the Phillies and Orioles in order to stay in the lineup. Olney said it might not be the last time that Gonzalez gets asked to play there.
"If you're the Red Sox and you have all these competing motives, they probably will occasionally put Gonzalez out in right field to keep all of these guys in the lineup," Olney said.
One of those competing motives is Kevin Youkilis, who recently made a return to the Red Sox from the disabled list. Youkilis is 3-for-6 with a home run in his two games back, and if the Red Sox are looking to trade him, Olney explained, he'll have to stay in the lineup regularly in place of other teammates such as Will Middlebrooks.
"We know this, they want to keep Middlebrooks, and if Adrian Gonzalez is going to be in the lineup, and at the same time if you want to re-establish value in Youkilis for any kind of a trade, you have to put him in the lineup," Olney said, adding: "GMs are telling me, 'We're not interested in seeing Youkilis play in left field, we're not interested in seeing him play in right field. We want to see if he can play first base or third base.' "
Following are more highlights from the conversation.
On if pitching coach Bob McClure is to blame for the staff's difficult start: "He's really well-respected. In fact, I had a general manager say to me if he had an opportunity to hire McClure as his pitching coach he absolutely would have gone after him. ... It's too early to say that any type of the issues [the pitching staff] has had is on his shoulders."
On David Ortiz' future in Boston: "I still think at the end of the year, if he has a good year, that his best salary would be coming from the Red Sox saying, 'You know what, we'll offer you arbitration, we'll make a one-year deal,' and I don't think that dynamic is going to change. I don't think it's a lack of respect from the Red Sox. They like him enough to offer arbitration. I just think that the market has sort of been pulled out from underneath these older, DH types."
On the rumors that the Steinbrenners are selling the Yankees: "I don't think there's anything to it at all. I really think it comes out of people in baseball sort of saying, 'Wow, after the Dodgers sale, what would the Yankees be worth?' The first thing I thought of when I read this story -- which basically suggests that this is a good time to cash in -- was if the value of the Yankees was going to go down.
"It's not as if the Steinbrenner kids are dying for dollars. I really think it comes down to: Are the Steinbrenner children interested in running a baseball team and continuing the work that George [Steinbrenner] did? I talked to four executives this morning and every single one of them told me, 'Hal [Steinbrenner] loves running the Yankees.' And as long as that's the case, why would you sell it?"