Fans, I invite you to meet Kevin Heller, the newest Boston Red Sox draft pick. Heller, an outfielder, dominated the program at Amherst College, an NCAA Division III school in Western Massachusetts:
Last month Heller graduated from Amherst as the baseball program’s all-time leader in hits (172), runs scored (136), RBIs (126) and total bases (275), also sharing the career home run record (18). He was 41-for-45 on stolen base attempts during his four years as an outfielder and designated hitter, and he is one of only two players in program history to record four consecutive 40-hit seasons.
This is the coolest thing, and not just because the 40th-round pick looks like he swings a great bat. I went to Amherst, and let’s just say that, although we take athletics very seriously and we like to win (and usually do), I don’t think any of our student-athletes really seriously expect to play professional sports.
But here, we have a winner! Heller’s expected to head to Florida next week to compete for a spot in the rookie leagues, and we wish him the best. He’ll join a long list of Amherst alumni working in the Red Sox organization, including current general manager Ben Cherington ’96.
Meanwhile, the big-league Red Sox continue to muddle along. Currently at 29-28, it seems like this team’s been at .500 or a game over .500 forever. They lost to Baltimore and pitcher Wei-Yin Chen 1-2 on Wednesday night (I know this is true because I was there). Josh Beckett pitched a great, efficient game (eight innings, two runs on five hits, five strikeouts), but it was wasted by the absolutely anemic offense. And frankly, sitting in the stands, the only Red Sox hitter that got the crowd even kind of into it, was Will Middlebrooks. Middlebrooks went two for four, and Mike Aviles knocked in Boston’s only run.
Last night, the Red Sox finally, but still just once again, showed us what this team is capable of. Clay Buchholz pitched a four-hit complete-game shutout, and the offense showed up for seven runs. Bobby Valentine told the Globe that Buchholz’s performance was “spectacular.” And, it was – Buchholz was literally the worst pitcher in baseball early this year, and it’s nice to see some flashes of what the organizations’ always thought he could be. More good news: Adrian Gonzalez is starting to heat up. He went three for four last night, with one double and two RBIs. The Sox need him to produce from the middle of their lineup, so it’s good to see him waking up a little.
But still – what is this team’s problem? It’s basically mid-June by now, and the season’s a third over. The growing pains should be done, the rust should be shaken off, and the team should be able to put together a streak that shows what it’s made of. I love the big wins here and there, and the headline performances – but I’d much rather see a team that can pull out a win two out of every three days. We’re not seeing that yet, and that’s cause for concern at this point. Maybe the Sox will prove me wrong in the coming days and weeks, but I’m still not sold on this team.
Tonight, the Nationals come to town for an interleague set. Felix Doubront (6-2, 3.75 ERA) takes on Stephen Strasburg (6-1, 2.35 ERA). This should be a great game – two young pitchers having great seasons, plus Bryce Harper.