OAKLAND -- The wheels can be put back on -- and most likely will be at some point in the coming weeks -- but as the Red Sox filtered out of the Oakland Coliseum's visitors' clubhouse Monday night the need for repairs wasn't hard to find.
The Red Sox lost, 8-2, to the Athletics, in the series opener, handing the team its worst start since going 2-5 in 1996 (a year in which they went on to start the season 3-15).
But even more shocking than the team's status in the standings is the image the Sox continued to portray with two more games left on their current West Coast road swing.
There was Mike Lowell staying behind to spend the rest of his night watching video. Jason Bay walked through the clubhouse with an ice bag affixed to his injured wrist, the result of twisting it on a diving attempt of a catch in Oakland's five-run second inning. And at the far end of the dressing room was Jed Lowrie's empty locker, made vacant by the shortstop's trip to Boston where he was hoping to find the cause of his throbbing left wrist.
More head-scratchers weren't hard to find.
Starting pitcher Jon Lester appeared befuddled at the notion he could come away with a line of six innings pitched, and six runs allowed on 10 hits while seemingly throwing so many pitches the way he wanted.
And even Chris Carter, the local kid who would be distributing 50 tickets to Tuesday's game to friends and family, was left searching for answers after striking out in his introduction to the 2009 season (a seventh-inning pinch-hitting opportunity).
Then, just to complete the kind of early-season picture not seen since the days of Kevin Kennedy, Oakland first baseman Nomar Garciaparra re-enacted his first major league home run with his solo shot in the fifth.
All of the above signaled that there was some fixing to be done. But, of course, there was that last clubhouse voice to offer yet another early-season reminder.
"We are in a good groove," said Red Sox DH David Ortiz before leaving for the night. "We're going to be fine."
No matter what the future brings, we do know what happened Monday, yet another day we learned five things ...
1) JON LESTER ISN'T DISCOURAGED
Lester has now given up 11 runs in as many innings. He has struck out 10 and walked just two, none against Oakland.
The lefty very well could have gotten out of that five-run second inning unscathed. After Jack Cust's leadoff, game-tying homer (making lefties 6 for 9 with two homers against Lester at the time, dating back to the previous start vs. Tampa Bay), the starter was faced with two on and two out.
Then came Orlando Cabrera's pop up, falling just out of the reach of both second baseman Dustin Pedroia and right fielder J.D. Drew. A run was scored and an inning kept alive. The road still wouldn't be smooth for Lester.
"You bust your (butt) four days for a start, you go out there and try to execute pitches and you feel like you're executing those pitches and not getting the results you want," he said. "I don't know what else to tell you about the outing. I didn't beat myself, I didn't walk anybody so I didn't give up any free runs. I don't know what to tell you guys."
Was he better than the last time out?
"Yeah, last time against Tampa I pitched fairly well (but) I don't think I threw the ball as well as I did tonight," he explained. "Once again I was on the wrong side of the game so I guess it really doesn't matter how well or bad I threw the ball.
"It's frustrating. I don't know what to tell you. You bust your (butt) to prepare and work hard and go out there and try and execute pitches. I don't care if there are two bad starts in a row or two bad starts for a whole year, they're bad starts and they're going to go down as bad starts. I'm trying to walk away from this not as frustrated as I could be because of how I felt I threw the ball. Obviously I didn't get the results I wanted, that we wanted, but ... I don't know."
2) NICK GREEN HAS A GOOD ARM, AND A BIG RESPONSIBILITY
With the sight of one untouched locker with the name "Lowrie" hanging over it, it became clear Nick Green -- the unassuming, 30-year-old utilityman -- was going to have to play a part in helping pull the Red Sox out of their current offensive abyss.
It has yet to be determined how long Lowrie (who landed on the disabled list on Monday) will be missing from action due to his injured left wrist, and Julio Lugo won't start playing in minor league games in Fort Myers for another three or four days, so for the time being it's Green and recently-recalled Gil Velazquez.
So can Green duplicate what the Red Sox expected of Lowrie? After getting two hits Sunday, the shortstop with a rifle right arm went hitless in two at-bats before Carter pinch-hit for him.
Still, his teammates appear sold on what they witnessed of Green throughout an impressive spring training.
"Nick's a solid baseball player," said Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia of his new double-play partner. "He does a lot of things really well. He brings energy. He's got an absolute cannon for an arm. Nick's a good player. It's huge for us when our two shortstops go down and these guys are ready to step in and do a good job. I played catch with him one time and he just about bruised my palm. I'm like, 'I'm going to stop playing catch with him for a while.'"
3) DAVID ORTIZ MAY NEVER SEE ANOTHER FASTBALL
When asked if he thought he was being pitched differently than in past seasons, Ortiz's response was, "What do you think? I'm seeing a lot of (off-speed stuff), like usual. But it's part of the game. That's how the game goes. You look for that mistake."
Against Oakland starter Dallas Braden, there weren't too many mistakes to be had. But what there was were plenty of those off-speed offerings Ortiz referenced. Of the 23 pitches the Sox slugger saw Monday night, just eight were fastballs. All of this with Kevin Youkilis -- he of the .519 batting average and yet another home run -- hitting behind him.
"We've been seeing guys throwing the (heck) out of the ball and you've got to give them credit," said Ortiz, who is hitting .208 after notching a single in four at-bats Monday. "It's early in the season, you don't want to put that in your head and go crazy and make yourself miserable."
4) A WEIRD NIGHT FOR NOMAR
Garciaparra stepped to the plate, looked at Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek and, according to the Sox captain, said, "This is weird."
"It felt weird," affirmed Garciaparra after his team's win. "We hadn't done that since an inter-squad game at Georgia Tech."
The strangeness didn't stop there. A few minutes after the Oakland television broadcast showed Garciaparra's first major league homer, coming off John Wasdin on Sept. 1, 1996 at the Oakland Coliseum, he hit another ball almost to the exact same spot.
"Good aim," joked Garciaparra. "You always remember your first home run. The Coliseum will always be a special place because of that."
And then came the punctuation to Garciaparra's presence. After the game he admitted that he would have welcomed a chance to come back to Boston this past offseason.
"Sure, I was definitely open to it," he said. "I wasn't going to play this year. I was obviously in Boston rehabbing. I love that city and love the fans. I never say never. Boston will always be dear to my heart."
5) IT WAS A DAY OF MOURNING
Both clubhouses were full of fond memories regarding Phillies play by play announcer Harry Kalas and former Detroit Tigers pitcher Mark Fidrych, who both passed away Monday.
After reiterating how much he admired and liked Kalas when the two were together in Philadelphia, Red Sox manager Terry Francona noted a lighter side of their time together.
"He (announced) our first fantasy football draft," Francona remebered. "That was incredible. We didn't do a lot of good things there, but we did that good."
Curt Schilling says that Kalas was not merely a broadcaster but a teammate. Paul Flannery recalls a time when Kalas was the brightest spot for the Phillies.
Sox pitcher John Smoltz, a Tigers fan growing up, had strong words regarding the impact Fidrych had on his life as a young baseball player.
"I watched every game he pitched," Smoltz told MLB.com.