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June 1, 2009

Despite early success, Sox have issues

Two months into the 2009 season, we know this about the Boston Red Sox: They are good, sometimes very good, like yesterday in Toronto.

The good guys won 8-2 and improved to 29-22 overall, just a half-game out of first place in the American League East. They got an ace-caliber start from Jon Lester (six innings, 12 K's), a clutch hit from Dustin Pedroia (three-run homer in the fourth), and an admirable performance from the bullpen (three innings, one run).

But if we want to be critical and break out the microscope, we can see that these Red Sox are quite flawed.

They are flawed in ways that a great pitching staff might not be able to overcome. Not only that, but the New York Yankees are no longer in the rearview mirror. They are here, in first place, and playing as well as any team in baseball. That's always a cause for concern, especially when they were written off as mere wild card contenders at best in 2009.

But the Red Sox are on our plate. The fact that they have unparalleled pitching depth is a good thing. But could it haunt the Sox with their entire staff being very healthy?

It's not easy being Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein. Here are five issues he and the Sox can't avoid dealing with much longer:

1. Shortstop.

Despite all the great things Theo Epstein has done as GM since 2002 — and the good far outweigh the bad — butchering this position has been the worst. Julio Lugo simply isn't good enough defensively to play the position on a full-time basis. While toting a decent bat with Jed Lowrie on the disabled list, Nick Green is even worse. Even Lowrie appeared to be entering a sophomore slump (1 for 18) before his injury in April.

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