Buster Olney

Buster Olney on MFB: Red Sox 'deeper than anybody' in AL East

June 03, 2015 - 9:40 am
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ESPN baseball analyst Buster Olney made his weekly appearance on Middays with MFB on Wednesday afternoon to discuss how the Red Sox can play to David Ortiz's struggles, Eduardo Rodriguez's bright future and more. To hear the interview, go to the MFB audio on demand page. As it stands, the Red Sox are last in the American League East, but Olney said that they are more than equipped to fix that with what they have on hand. They are only 4 1/2 games out of first in the division, and what gives them the best chance to turn the year around is the extent of their roster. "The one thing about the Red Sox, their big advantage, I personally think, over any other American League team is that in their group of position players on their 40-man roster, they're deeper than anybody," Olney said. "In fact, the only team in the big leagues that might be deeper might be the Los Angeles Dodgers when you're talking about position players one through 18. But, of course, the way that that's used is by going through matchups, mixing and matching on a given day." One of those mixes and matches that might spring up for Boston is when and how to use David Ortiz. With a .224 batting average on the year and a .129 batting average opposite left-handed pitching, Ortiz's usage going forward might need to be adjusted. "You wonder how much longer we are away from that conversation where they bring David Ortiz in the office and say, 'Look, you know what, we'll start you against right-handers every time because your production against righties is excellent, but your production against lefties is not, and think about what a weapon you would be sitting on our bench for the opposing manager, opposing catcher, to think about as someone who could pinch hit for a right-handed hitter if a reliever comes in.' " Olney said. "And you've got to believe that as they make some of these changes, that's one of the things they're going to be talking about." How Ortiz responds to a discussion of that nature will have to be taken into account, as Olney notes the DH is very proud and not one to bottle up his emotions. But Olney said that at some point, "If the Red Sox believe that he's not going to get better against left-handed pitching and it's become an acute problem, then in the name of winning, they probably need to have that conversation with him at least about picking and choosing his spots against certain left-handers because they're at a critical point in their season, there's no question about it." Olney said that he had a similar thought last year, saying that the Yankees should have called Derek Jeter in and told him he's not the player he used to be, so to give their team the best chance of winning, he should play less or fall to lower in the order. He added that each player has a time in his career toward the end when he has to modify his game. "All [the Yankees] had to do was bring along the baseball card of Willie Mays and Hank Aaron and Honus Wagner, every great player basically at some point during their career made adjustments," he said. "They played less, they got moved down the lineup, they changed position. "David probably is going to have the best sense of that, whether or not he feels like there are adjustments to come for him against left-handed pitchers," Olney added. "But if he's starting to feel like he maybe doesn't have the answers he used to, then it's something worth considering." One of Ortiz's stats that jumps out to Olney most is the fact that he hasn't drawn a walk in his last 60-some at-bats against left-handed pitching. "When I see that, it brings me back to a lot of conversations I've had with hitters through the years," Olney said. "They say that as they get older, they do not want to get into two-strike counts, they do not want to get into deeper counts because they don't feel like they have answers." On the pitching side of things, the recent success Clay Buchholz and newcomer Eduardo Rodriguez is encouraging for the remainder of the Sox' season. Olney said that Rodriguez in particular continues to receive high praise from folks in the baseball world, including former MLB pitchers and current ESPN analysts Mark Mulder and Curt Schilling. "I actually was in the green room [the day of Rodriguez's first start] with Mark Mulder and Curt Schilling," Olney said. "It's always funny because I can watch guys and have an opinion, but when you get reactions from people like Mulder and Schilling, and what you're hearing in the green room was 'Wow! Boy!' This is like from pitch to pitch, and they're watching the free and easy delivery and the easy velocity and the dominance, and Schilling repeated what he said at the trade deadline last year, that when it's all said and done, the best player, and potentially the most one-sided deal that was made during the trade deadline last year was that deal for Eduardo Rodriguez for two months of Andrew Miller."