Quick hits: Sox look to rebound from sweep

BOSTON -- Some quick hits before Monday’s game against the Oakland Athletics, who come to town with right fielder Josh Reddick’s beard neatly trimmed after looking like something worn by John "Liver-Eating" Johnson, aka the wildest mountain man who ever lived.

It may have been a pre-emptive strike by Reddick, who probably figured that if he didn’t tidy up before coming here, former teammate and current Red Sox outfielder/ DH Jonny Gomes would have been waiting for him, razor in hand.

What to make of the Royals’ doubleheader sweep of the Sox on Sunday?

• Well, for openers, it hasn’t happened in a long time. This was their first twinbill sweep at Fenway since May 31, 1971, when the smallest man on the field was 5-foot-5 Royals shortstop Freddie Patek, not 5-foot-7 Royals lefty reliever Tim Collins, the kid from Worcester who did not pitch Sunday after giving the Royals four outs the day before.

The Royals have finished with a winning record just once in the last 18 seasons, losing 95 or more games eight times in that span and chewing up six managers (not including two interims). But the Royals made some big changes in the offseason, adding pitchers James Shields, Wade Davis and Ervin Santana to a core group of young talent that includes outfielder Lorenzo Cain, catcher Salvador Perez, outfielder Alex Gordon, reliever Kelvin Herrera, bopper Billy Butler and first baseman Eric Hosmer.

So far, there’s a noticeable difference. The Royals woke up Monday morning in first place in the AL Central with a 10-7 record.

• You can’t dismiss the possibility that the Sox experienced an emotional hangover Sunday. They also had won seven in a row, so they were due to lose a couple.

• The Sox offense welcomed back David Ortiz, who has five hits in his first two games, but overall the hitting has come in fits and starts. Take away the six-homer output against Toronto on April 7 (Will Middlebrooks' three-homer game), and the Sox have hit just 10 home runs in their first 18 games. Two players, Mike Napoli (20) and Daniel Nava (14), have accounted for 41 percent of the team’s RBIs so far. And there are a number of players battling early-season slumps: Stephen Drew (3-for-30, .100), Gomes (.172, no RBIs in 38 plate appearances), Middlebrooks (.176), David Ross (.143), Pedro Ciriaco (.143), Jarrod Saltalamacchia (.208).

That won’t last, but it’s indicative of how much the team’s early success can be attributed to its terrific pitching, and how even the slightest slippage -- Koji Uehara giving up a home run for the first run he’s been charged with as a member of the Red Sox, Andrew Miller issuing a bases-loaded walk in the 10th -- can result in defeat.

• You can’t say enough about how well the Sox have fielded in the early going as well. Ciriaco’s throwing error Sunday was the first error committed by a Sox infielder this season. Saltalamacchia needs to throw out someone stealing soon, too (he’s 0-for-8 with a throwing error), just for his own confidence and before teams decide they can run at will against him. He threw out 18 of 98 base stealers last season.

John Lackey, Franklin Morales and Craig Breslow are all scheduled to pitch this week in Portland on rehab assignments. Lackey is slated for four innings or 65 pitches Monday, and depending on how things go, manager John Farrell said, Lackey could be back with the Sox to make his next start. The Sox are intent on stretching out Morales as a starter, and after he goes four innings Wednesday, he’ll likely remain on rehab for a while. Breslow is just beginning his rehab assignment, so figure he’ll need at least four or five appearances.

• Rookie outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr., optioned to Pawtucket to make room for Ortiz, played Saturday and Sunday for the PawSox, leading off and playing center field in two games (he sat out one game of Sunday’s doubleheader). He had a hit and a stolen base in eight at-bats.

• Shortstop Jose Iglesias hit a home run Saturday and drove in three runs with a double Sunday, but overall is batting .206 (7-for-34) in his first nine games with the PawSox, after hitting .450 in six games (9-for-20) for the Red Sox while Drew was on the DL with a concussion.