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Red Sox ascendant

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Red Sox ascendant AP Photo/Elise Amendola

Maybe it's all the Vitamin D I've soaked up from playing in a few golf tournaments this weekend, but I am filled with optimism. I don't think it's the sun, I think it's the Boston Red Sox slowly but surely climbing in the standings of the American League East. Don't look now, but the Sox are in third place! The pain of injuries that were like a swift kick to the groin back in April and May is subsiding and Boston is getting healthy. Look out Major League Baseball - here they come.

David Ortiz continues to drink from the fountain of youth like my friend Jimmy at an open bar wedding. He's been swinging the bat like Thor would a hammer. Sitting on 399 career HRs, my hope is that he can wait to hit fateful number 400 at Fenway Park. Honestly, if someone would have said to you that Big Papi would have 20+ dingers at the All-Star break you would likely have offered them some water and said 'sober up.' But here he is, the team's club house leader and easily the best Designated Hitter in baseball. We can talk about legitimate MVP candidacy at a later date.

Aside from Ortiz, there has been an endless line of minor league call ups and scrap heap signings that have contributed game in and game out. Scott Atchison has been money in the bank out of the bullpen. Aaron Cook tossed a gem on Friday night by sticking to that age-old adage, 'Just throw strikes.' I wish Dice-K would listen. The never ending line of outfielders that have played on a regular basis has been amazing. This is what will lead to a few tough decisions after the break.

It's not exactly a bad problem to have, but once even more people get healthy, who stays and who goes? As Jacoby Ellsbury and Carl Crawford rehab in the minors, they will be back somewhere around mid-July if all goes according to plan. Jacoby should have been the AL MVP last year; Carl Crawford makes $1.7 billion dollars a year, so there is no question or debate. They start every game. Darnell McDonald was designated for assignment on Saturday. That leaves Ryan Kalish, Daniel Nava, Cody Ross, Scott Podsednik and Ryan Sweeney competing for two or three remaining spots. Not to mention Brent Lillibridge, who can play both infield and outfield. Ross for sure; beyond that my guess would be Nava and Sweeney. But it could be tough for Bobby V in the coming weeks.

Speaking of Lillibridge, he and a bag of balls come over for Kevin Youkilis in the trade with the White Sox. Sad to see Yook go, but it had to happen; Will Middlebrooks needed to play every day, as did Kevin. I wish the Sox could have gotten a bit more in return, but there's not much market for an aging infielder struggling to hit his weight. It was fantastic to see the ovation he received in his final Fenway home game against the Braves. I had friends in attendance who said the ball park was as loud as they had ever heard it. Two World Series wins later, it's the least you can do right?

Side note: Kevin Youkilis traded to the White Sox; Big Papi is now the only member of the 2004 World Series team still on the roster.

As long as the starting pitching can hold up its end of the bargain, which has been shaky at times, but still good enough to get by, the Boston Red Sox are in position to make a run at the playoffs. Don't look now, but these guys are going to start barking as the dog days of summer approach.

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