If there is a one-month stretch that will determine the fate of the Boston Red Sox in 2010, it is the month of July. By the time we hit the dog-days of August, we will have a good idea of where this team is going.
The Sox are missing Pedroia, Ellsbury, Hermida, Victor Martinez and Beckett right now. That's three starters, a key bench player and a top pitcher. Toss in a tweaked-but-playing Buchholz and a less-than-healthy Mike Cameron and the picture is even bleaker.
Then comes the news from last night that the reason Delcarmen served up a run fest to Tampa in Boston's 9-4 loss is because he has injured his elbow. The extent of the injury could be known as early as today. This is bad news since Delcarmen was, until recently, one of three reliable pitchers in the bullpen. Now it's Bard, Papelbon and cross your fingers.
So what to do? Well, the immediate answers have been to call up Gustavo Molina from the Bucket to act as Varitek's backup and to trade for Eric Patterson from the A's. Molina is definitely a stop-gap measure, but at least brings some solid defense behind the plate. Patterson is more interesting. He's a career bench player but he has a good glove and is fast. His bat isn't great but he did hit a career high .287 in 110 plate appearances for Oakland in 2009.
Theo will have to make a further decision today about the bullpen with Delcarmen's injury. We could see someone like Tommy Hottovy called up from the Bucket. I can't imagine that Theo wants to deal away more prospects, even if they are mid-level ones. But baring more trades, this is pretty much the team we will see for July. And while someone like Martinez may be back earlier, the earliest we could have everyone back is the end of July.
And once that happens? Well, if the Sox have been able to hang in the race then they'll be well-poised to make a stretch run for the AL East title. Eric Patterson could possibly be a valuable trading chip by then if Hermida is all the way back. And it wouldn't hurt that a couple of AAA guys have gotten some solid playing time.
But that's the big unknown. And in two games with the Rays...we still really don't know which way they are headed. But by month's end, we will.