May 16, 2012; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; Boston Red Sox right fielder Ryan Sweeney (12) at bat against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-US PRESSWIRE

Ryan Sweeney, The Forgotten Outfielder

Ever since the Red Sox have been effectively knocked out of the postseason, attention has been shifted to the future. It’s true that there are lots of holes in this team’s lineup and pitching staff but one name that hasn’t been brought up enough is Ryan Sweeney. A once promising season has been derailed by injuries and ineffectiveness as Sweeney rides off the rest of his season on the disabled list.

Sweeney was acquired in a trade with the Oakland Athletics last winter, where the Red Sox parted with Josh Reddick and two prospects for Sweeney and Andrew Bailey. With Bailey, an elite closer who had put up a 2.07 ERA and 75 saves in three seasons in Oakland, the Red Sox were getting a reliable piece to the bullpen. Meanwhile, Sweeney was merely included as a throw in. While the deal looked like a steal at the time, Reddick has torn the cover off the ball with 31 home runs while Sweeney and Bailey have suffered through injury-riddled seasons here in 2012.

It seems hard to think back to a time like the start of 2012, when hope abounded throughout Red Sox Nation. However, if you can recall, Sweeney endeared himself to Red Sox fans almost immediately– hitting a game tying triple with two outs in the ninth inning of Opening Day. The Red Sox lost that game 3-2, but Sweeney had left his mark. He followed that game up with an excellent April that saw him bat .373/.394/.567 with 11 doubles.

From that point on, though, Sweeney didn’t handle the bright lights of Boston very well. He sunk to a .254 May, and in June he injured himself while making a fantastic diving catch in right field. From that point to when he injured himself slamming his hand into a wall on July 30, Sweeney suffered and when he was announced out of the season– his line had fallen to an unimpressive .260/.303/.373 in 63 games.

Since breaking his pinky on that fateful day, Sweeney has been all but forgotten in the Red Sox’ future plans. However, with Jacoby Ellsbury, Daniel Nava, Sweeney, and Ryan Kalish the only certainly returning outfielders– it’s quite possible he could play a larger role in 2013. Beyond his limited offensive value, Sweeney is an excellent defensive outfielder. His good speed and instincts in right field have led the 27 year old to a strong 5.2 UZR/150 in 2012.

It looks like 2013 will be a very strange year for the Red Sox, and if he stays healthy, Sweeney could be an anchor to all that change. He, Ellsbury, Dustin Pedroia, and David Ortiz are the only truly established major leaguers in the Red Sox lineup that will definitely be back in 2013 (barring a trade). If the Red Sox don’t resign Cody Ross, it appears quite possible that Sweeney will be the starting right fielder. And, you know? The Red Sox could do a lot worse.

Tags: Boston Red Sox Ryan Sweeney

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