Buster Olney

Buster Olney on MFB: Dustin Pedroia's power biggest takeaway from Opening Day

April 08, 2015 - 7:58 am
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ESPN's Buster Olney made his weekly appearance on with Middays with MFB on Wednesday to talk about the Red Sox after their impressive start to the season. To hear the interview, go to the MFB audio on demand page. The Sox opened the season with an 8-0 victory over the Phillies, hitting five home runs -- two each from Dustin Pedroia and Hanley Ramirez. "The fact that Pedroia hit for power to me was the thing that jumped out," Olney said. "Because I know all of last year -- and look, nobody engenders more respect around baseball than Dustin Pedroia does, and people love the way he plays, but I heard it from a lot of people, whether it was scouts or other players, they wondered if Dustin was ever going to get back to being able to hit for any kind of power, because he's had so many nagging injuries -- wrist, hands, the whole thing -- and that was a great sign on the first day that he was able to do something. "When you're playing the Phillies right now it is a little bit Christians and the lions situation because they are really bad. But that's a great start for them." The much-maligned Clay Buchholz pitched like a No. 1, allowing no runs and just three hits through seven innings. "We've seen it in the past, he's certainly capable of pitching really well," Olney said. "And you're right, it's a good sign, it doesn't matter who you're facing. You can only compete against the guys who are in front of you. ... Everything that I saw, he looked in command. Most of the time you liked the tempo, which I always thought was a barometer when you watch Buchholz is how quickly is he working between pitches. The faster he works, the better it seems he is; the slower he works, the more uncertain he seems to be. The other day he seemed like he was very comfortable. "It's a great first sign from a team that needs, let's face it, contributions from all ends of their rotation." Also on Opening Day, new Red Sox right-hander Rick Porcello signed a four-year, $82.5 million contract extension, something Olney says makes sense for both sides. "No question about it," Olney said. "I thought the Red Sox made a huge mistake last year with their handling of the [Jon] Lester negotiations, the fact that they lowballed him out of the game. But you can't call them anything but consistent in terms of their approach. They get Rick Porcello in the type of deal that they're comfortable with, a four-year deal. Because let's face it, if you're not willing to pay five, six, seven years for guys, you're not going to get Johnny Cueto in the fall, you're not going to get Jordan Zimmerman, David Price. Because that's what those guys are going to command. "I think a good [comparison] for Porcello ... is James Shields, who's not an elite starting pitcher in terms of being a guy like Max Scherzer. But he's a pretty good starting pitcher. And I think that's what Rick Porcello is. And Shields got four years and $80 million from the San Diego Padres. You're paying Porcello [$82.5 million] over four years. And here's the other thing, too, is that in the case of James Shields he's 33 years old. With Porcello you theoretically have the best of what's in front of him at age 26." Added Olney: "He's a really impressive guy. And I know that part of the Red Sox' thinking about trading for him was that they thought that his mentality fit in in New England. There's some guys that wouldn't necessarily be able to do that. And I totally agree that he's going to be comfortable drawing this scrutiny, and this contract is going to put him as someone who's going to have to be regarded as one of their prime pitchers." Following are more highlights from the interview. For more Red Sox news, visit the team page at weei.com/redsox. On Jon Lester's first game with the Cubs and his issues throwing to bases: "It's really interesting because I actually talked with an official yesterday with an American League East team and he said, 'Look, everyone's known that he's had this issue throwing to bases,' he said, 'but I don't think it was really exploited' -- this was his opinion. "On the pitching end of it, real quick, I kept on hearing from people, 'He doesn't look like himself,' and maybe it's just a case where he wasn't 100 percent in spring training and he's just behind in his preparation and with time he'll be OK. But I do think the thing with the throwing to bases is going to be a big deal. ... You're talking about a division where you've got Andrew McCutcheon and Starling Marte and Billy Hamilton and Jay Bruce, Carlos Gomez -- they're going to push him. And keep in mind, too, they already have a guy in that division, Matt Garza, who struggles throwing to bases, and other teams will bunt on him on a regular basis. And I've got to believe since Jon's almost two years now since his last pickoff throw that they're going to push him on that." On why teams haven't been more aggressive in trying to take advantage of Lester's issues: "It just feels like in the American League that hitters are just not as comfortable feeling that they're going to push that advantage. I mean, shoot, go back to the game [Curt] Schilling pitched against the Yankees [in the 2004 ALCS]. I think everyone still wonders why Derek Jeter and other guys weren't bunting in the first inning when he had the ankle issue." On concerns about Yankees ace Masahiro Tanaka: "I read all the stories, and the narrative is certainly that his velocity is down and it's a huge deal and why don't the Yankees get surgery now. Look, he's a ticking time bomb, he's got a partial tear in his elbow ligament, it's not going to heal on its own. At some point he's going to need surgery, and that might be next week, it could be in three months, it could be in three years, no one knows. But it is interesting when you actually go back and look at the data, his velocity is almost identical to what it was last year. His fastball usage the other day was down, but he had a number of starts last year where it was very close to what he did the other day. "I think it's probably too early, and we need more information to know whether or not this was a giant red flag. And we probably ought to remember that the Blue Jays lineup is pretty good. But there's no question about it that the Red Sox are going to be a tremendous test for him [this weekend] and where he is physically. It will be very interesting, because you guys remember last year when he had his first start against Boston it was fastball/splitter. And the next day, I was talking to Red Sox hitters and they were telling me, 'There's no way he can hold up throwing that many splitters.' And they were absolutely right. We'll see what kind of adjustments he makes against them this time around." On the Red Sox' outfield situation and Rusney Castillo's future: "I think it's just the Red Sox maxing out on their assets and trying to figure out a way to get the most value out of the guys on the roster. The alternative, if you want to play Castillo, you basically -- you can't have Shane Victorino sit around your team as a part-time player. That's just not him. As John Farrell has pointed out, he's earned better than that. I suspect that they'll go one of two ways. Victorino will remain in the outfield as long as he stays healthy. Or, if at some point Castillo forces their hand and Shane's playing well, then they actually could get some decent trade value. Shoot, we just saw Oakland this week scrambling around looking for an outfielder, signing Cody Ross. There's going to be teams that need outfielders. And if Shane shows he's healthy, there's going to be teams that are going to want him."

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