On the heels of Ryan Sweeney‘s clutch hitting on Opening Day, there should probably be an article about him on just about every Red Sox blog. I’ll be handling the BoSox Injection’s take on Sweeney-mania (too soon?). Entering the season, it didn’t really appear Sweeney would be much of a factor with the Sox. Strong springs by Cody Ross (.370/.431/.826 with 6 home runs and 16 RBIs) and Darnell McDonald (.447/.512/.816 with 2 home runs and 6 doubles) made things look like Sweeney could even be relegated to fifth outfielder duty. However, with the righty Justin Verlander on the hill to start the season– Bobby Valentine gave Sweeney the start in right field in today’s game.
I was impressed with Sweeney before his game-tying triple with two outs in the bottom of the ninth– that just sealed the deal for me. He looked composed against reigning MVP and Cy Young Justin Verlander, no small task. In his first time up, he worked Verlander to a 2-2 count before grounding out to second. In his second at bat, he had a 2-1 count before delivering with a bloop single to left-center field. He struck out in the seventh, but still worked a 2-2 count off the Tigers’ ace. In his final at bat he delivered the mighty blow, however. With two outs and a 1-2 count in the ninth inning, he drove an inside slider to right field with authority. He showed the power over which scouts have been gushing by hitting a low line drive which caromed off the right field wall for an RBI triple to tie the game.
To me, Sweeney appears to be a guy who could help the Red Sox in more ways than one. He was very patient, working at least four pitches in each at bat, but was also aggressive when he needed to be. Believe me, it wouldn’t be easy to adjust from a 98 mile per hour fastball to a slider in the 80′s– but Sweeney still stayed back and drove the pitch. I feel that Sweeney could certainly outperform his career numbers and his disappointing 2011 season which saw him bat .265/.346/.341 with only one home run and 25 RBIs. He probably won’t be huge in the counting stats (home runs, doubles, RBI’s, etc.) as he will be splitting time with Cody Ross and Darnell McDonald– but it wouldn’t be out of question to see him bat .280/.340/.380 with a couple of home runs. Bobby Valentine has certainly talked about having him grow into himself at the plate– but you never know, it could also be a one game fluke.