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John Kruk on M&M: ‘I’m still going to stick with the Red Sox’ in the playoffs

09.08.11 at 12:45 pm ET

ESPN baseball analyst John Kruk joined Mut & Merloni Thursday to share his thoughts on how the American League playoff race is shaping up as well as who the contenders are for postseason awards.

Kruk noted that the American League playoff picture is more cloudy considering the injuries to Josh Beckett and Clay Buchholz, but he said he still believes the Red Sox will pull through.

“I’m still going to stick with the Red Sox,” Kruk said. “I picked them early and what the heck, they’re still there.”

If Beckett’s sprained ankle turns into a lingering injury, however, Kruk said the Red Sox could easily have their October cut short.

“With this injury to Beckett, you don’t know now if he can go on three day’s rest if they were even going to think that way anyways,” Kruk said. “If Beckett’s not healthy and he tries to come back and he’s not healthy and pitches poorly, the Red Sox might be a quick out against whoever they’re going to play, Detroit or Texas or the Angels.”

Kruk agreed with Curt Schilling‘s comments from his appearance on Mut & Merloni on Wednesday when Schilling predicted that either Curtis Granderson or Jacoby Ellsbury will win the AL Most Valuable Player award.

“I think it’s the center fielders in the East, Granderson and Ellsbury,” Kruk said. “And the thing is, it’s two unexpected great years. You thought Ellsbury would be a good player. You didn’t know he’d be a great player. You didn’t know what you’d get from Granderson because he really struggled last year. When you have a guy who’s hit seventh and eighth and even ninth in the lineup, and now all of the sudden, he’s hit third every single day against righties and lefties like Granderson is doing, driving in runs and hitting home runs.

“Both guys are so vital to their team’s success and if either one of them got hurt and was out for awhile, both teams would really really struggle to win games because that’s how great these two players have been for their teams.”

Kruk acknowledged that Detroit’s Justin Verlander, who won his 22nd game of the season on Wednesday, is having a great season, but said he does not think pitchers should win the MVP because of the limited number of games they participate in.

“In the clubhouse, it’s the pitchers and the regular guys,” Kruk said. “The pitchers hang out amongst themselves. They should have their own award and they do and that’s great. I know what Verlander does has been spectacular. And any pitcher, [CC] Sabathia‘s like that, [Jon] Lester‘s like that, the guys in Philly are like that.

“It’s not what they do the day they pitch, but it’s what they do the day before and the day after they pitch that really is vital to the team and can save a bullpen. They only play 35 days, 34, 35 days. It’s hard for me to say this guy is our most valuable guy because he’s only played 35 games. I’ve always struggled with that.”

Following are more highlights from the conversation. To hear the interview, go to the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page.

On how he sees the AL race shaping up right now: “This is the most difficult year now. I think if Buchholz is going to be healthy and Beckett is going to be healthy with Lester, then you have to think that the Red Sox are the team to beat because the way they can defend and the way they can hit and their bullpen. I don’t know how to handicap this by now because I thought the Yankees would come back to the pack a little bit, but they are just so explosive offensively. I didn’t expect that from them. I really didn’t. I thought they would be great offensively but I didn’t think they’d be this great. Texas, they get hot and run off five or six seven in a row and then they come back to the Angels. And Detroit, Verlander didn’t pitch great. They won, but he didn’t pitch great. I don’t know how to handicap this thing. I’m still going to stick with the Red Sox. I picked them early and what the heck, they’re still there.”

On Tim Wakefield’s quest for 200 wins and its effect on the team: “It kind of does. I think the respect that Wakefield has in that clubhouse, I think the players are starting to really feel bad for him. I think they’re trying like heck to get him that 200th win and get it out of the way. The first two or three starts, it probably wasn’t as big of a big deal, but as this thing has dragged on and dragged on, now it’s starting to be a burden to the guys in the clubhouse to try to say let’s try to get him one, a cheap one, anything we can do to get him a win. I don’t know what Terry can do. I really don’t.”

On Mike Scioscia’s ability to keep the Angels in the playoff race: “He’s got really good arms but he only has a couple of them. That’s the thing. [Joel] Pineiro‘s been hurt. [Scott] Kazmir, of course they had to get rid of him. But [Ervin] Santana‘s been pitching good lately and of course [Jered] Weaver and [Dan] Haren. You look at their offense, the thing is those young guys are stepping up. [Mark] Trumbo‘s really helped out when Kendrys Morales went out again for the season. Trumbo’s been a godsend for them, driving in runs. When you can take a rookie like that and just stick him into the middle of the lineup, you never know what you’re going to get. He’s really come through in a big way with that team to help out because Vernon Wells is still struggling. He hasn’t put together any consistency all year. Torii Hunter is starting to pick it up. But what Mike Scioscia does, and you look they get four or five guys it’s like now they’re done and the next thing you know, they’re a game out and knocking on the door again. It’s the most unbelievable season I’ve ever seen from a group of players.”

On Stephen Strasburg’s recovery from Tommy John surgery: “I didn’t know him at all. I talked to Tony Gwynn who was his coach at San Diego State about him and Tony said be cautious about him early but this kid has a chance to be one of the special guys we haven’t seen in a while. And he really has been. . . He’s a great guy. It seems like the players love him. He could have came in and could have gone the other way and you’ve seen that before with young players when they come in and it’s hey, I’m here, everyone bow down to me. He came in and did his job and the players absolutely love him. And that’s the big thing is he didn’t come in there with an attitude. But you’re right, to come back this quick throwing 98, he even hit 99 once on the gun. And that changeup at 90 miles an hour, he made [Andre] Ethier and Matt Kemp look foolish for two really great hitters. I just don’t see it happening but this could be a bad thing for young kids because a lot of young kids now want to have Tommy John just to get it out of the way.”

On if Strasburg’s pitches are some of the best in terms of raw talent: “Yeah, there’s no question. You have to stuff-wise. He’s pretty mature. He locates pretty well too. That’s what’s going to be scary for National League hitters. He’s really, really good right now and he’s going to be better once he figures out tendencies of hitters and other things and pitches he can throw to get guys out early in counts so he can save his pitch count. To me, stuff-wise, he’s right there with Verlander.”

Read More: Curtis Granderson, Jacoby Ellsbury, John Kruk, stephen strasburg
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