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Posted June 2, 2005
Depth Perception
By Paul Noonan
    The beginning of the Sox season has been filled with ups and downs. From their lack of success against the Blue Jays to their recent bashing of the Yankees, the Sox have had reasons to cheer and to shake their heads. Through it all, the Sox have still managed a decent start (2nd place in the AL East at the time of this article), and are certainly still well in contention to win the division. The reason for this can be traced back to one thing: depth.

     It was depth that helped the Red Sox to their historic World Series last year. With a deep hitting lineup and starting rotation, plus a pretty deep bullpen, the Sox had many outlets to help them find wins. This year is no different. The Sox have lost four members of our starting rotation for at least one game, yet still they are in second place with a very respectable record. While Schilling, Miller and Wells were on the DL, guys like John Halama and Jeremy Gonzales had some strong spot starts to give the Sox a chance to win games with a situation that would have put many other teams into a tailspin. Now as we enter June, the Sox rotation is almost fully intact and looking pretty strong. Clement hasn't lost yet, Arroyo has lost just one and Wakefield has been strong minus two or three starts. With Miller looking pretty good so far and Wells coming off a strong performance against the Yankees, the Sox look as though they're pulling it together a bit on the hill. And Schilling still hasn't returned yet.Yet it's not just on the mound that the Sox have some options, just as last year players like Gabe Kapler and Dave Roberts came through with clutch performances, this year that kind of play is coming from guys like Jay Payton and the newly added John Olerud. With a grand slam already under his belt, and a pretty strong start filling in for the Ramirez, Damon and Nixon, Jay Payton has taken over the Kapler role and has given the Sox a reliable guy in the field and at the plate to give the other three outfielders some rest. With Millar's fielding always questionable, the Sox have added the new version of Doug Mientkiewicz with the former division rival for the Yankees and Blue Jays, John Olerud. In the series against his former team, Olerud had a good showing both at the plate and in the field. Although Millar will likely get most of the playing time, you can expect to see Olerud in many late inning situations when the Sox are trying to protect a lead. Rookie Kelly Shoppach had a decent debut this weekend as well, when he took over Doug Mirabelli's role, finishing off game two of the Yanks' series and starting game three. Although he only got on base when he got plunked late in game two, Shoppach did a good job behind the plate and gave Varitek some needed rest. Slipping between the cracks through all of this has been Kevin Youkilis. In limited time, Youkilis has performed just as he did last year, and is currently batting well over .300 in his limited time.

     As Youkilis and Shoppach prove, it's not just the veterans who provide depth for the Sox, it's the young talent that has been there as well. We have seen Cla Meredith and Jeremy Gonzales get some time on the hill, experience which should prove invaluable down the road. Yet even aside from those we have seen this year, the Sox minor league system is stocked with talent. With talents such as Dustin Pedroia and Hanley Ramirez, who could team grow and develop together to form a dominant middle infield, waiting in the wings, the Sox have plenty of talent for now and the future. So as the Sox make another run for the title with a lineup stocked deep with backup fielders and quality pitchers, don't fret that old age will catch up to us. The Sox have long since revitalized their farm system and look to have enough depth to keep the Sox a consistent threat for years to come. With any luck, the end of the 86 year drought will open the floodgates and have the Sox reign supreme for years to come.

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