Ryan Sweeney is proving to be a ninth-inning hero for the Boston Red Sox early this season. In the opening day match up against the Detroit Tigers, Sweeney hit a game–tying triple against closer Jose Valverde. Just a few days later, in the bottom of the ninth against the Toronto Blue Jays, Sweeney hit a two-out single to drive in the game-winning run. The Sox may have just caught lightening in a bottle with Sweeney.
Last season with Oakland, Sweeney only had 299 at-bats and hit .265. But when he was given 534 at bats in 2009 he hit .293. Sweeney is making a strong case he deserves a 500 at-bat season.
Sweeney is an above-average fielder, has shown an early flair for the dramatic, and grinds out every at-bat.
After all the starting pitching and bullpen worry to start this young season, the Red Sox have a nice dilemma on their hands: Who plays when Carl Crawford returns?
Cody Ross and Sweeney have both been excellent additions for the Red Sox outfield depth. It was assumed that Ross would take over most of the right field action for Boston when Crawford returned to the line-up, but Sweeney is the one making all the noise.
It’s early, and numbers can change drastically from day to day, but Sweeney has eight hits, one double, one triple and two RBIs in just five games. Ross has just three hits in six games. Ross will be a respectacble hitter in the Red Sox lineup this season, but Sweeney should be given first crack at the right field job.
Another thing to consider is Crawford’s lackluster 2011 campaign and his recent injury woes. Crawford has encountered a minor setback and returned to Boston from extended spring training in Fort Myers to get his elbow looked at. But even when Crawford does return to Boston’s lineup, there’s no need to play him every night.
Manager Bobby Valentine should make every effort to get Sweeney into the lineup as much as possible. Whether he platoons Crawford and Ross when Crawford returns, or flat out gives Sweeney the chance to be an everyday outfielder, Valentine has to ride Sweeney’s hot hand.
The Red Sox need something to feel good about, and right now Red Sox fans should feel good about Sweeney.
Contributor: Brian Hendrickson