FORT MYERS, Fla. — With the Red Sox about a third of the way through their Grapefruit League schedule, the questions from readers are coming in fast and furious. I appreciate everyone who dropped me a line this week.
One disgruntled reader was unhappy I didn't respond to his inquiry about a pitching matchup that very night he wrote it — we delve into the mailbag once a week. For those of you interested in a more immediate reply, feel free to drop me a line at my Twitter account. I'll try to get to everything in time.
For now, here is the best of the bunch from this week's inquiries.
What young reliever do you see earning a spot in the bullpen for Opening Day?
It's not a given any young relievers will be in the bullpen to start the year. Between the hard-throwing trio at the back of the pen, as well as probables Tim Wakefield, Hideki Okajima and Scott Atchison, there may only be one spot left, and Matt Albers, Rich Hill and a few others might have a shot at it. Certainly, Andrew Miller comes to mind as a potential young shutdown reliever, but it appears as if the organization wants to keep its options open with him and possibly stretch him out to provide depth for the starting rotation. Felix Doubront has had arm issues in camp and will probably start the year as a starter at Pawtucket if healthy.
When the Red Sox played Northeastern, who was Boston's designated hitter named Mailman?
That would be David Mailman, an outfielder drafted in the eighth round in 2007. He hit .130 in 23 games for Single-A Salem last year.
If Daisuke Matsuzaka gets off to a terrible start is there a chance Andrew Miller or Alfredo Aceves takes his spot?
A lot of Matsuzaka questions this week. We'll go with this one from Derek.
I think there is a chance that Aceves could take that spot. He has been one of the more impressive guys in camp in terms of his preparation and intensity. He also has thrown the ball pretty well (no earned runs in five innings) and has said he wants to be a starter. As for Miller, like I said before, he may remain a work in progress into the regular season. Maybe after a couple of months of starting at Pawtucket he will show the club enough to be an option for starts at the major league level.
Hi Tony, I haven't heard much this spring about how last year's draft class is doing this spring. Any updates on the rookies? Anthony Ranaudo, especially?
Hi Nick, thanks for the question. Minor league pitchers and catchers didn't begin workouts until Sunday, so that's why you haven't heard much. Certainly, Ranaudo, top pick Kolbrin Vitek and former University of Texas right-hander Brandon Workman will be closely monitored in their first camps. Also, don't forget about Ryan Westmoreland, who will actually be speaking with reporters on Thursday, at which point we will learn more about where he is in his remarkable recovery from brain surgery.
With Jose Iglesias being touted as the heir apparent to the shortstop position, and with all the other infield positions being locked up for the long term, where will Jed Lowrie end up after Scutaro's contract is up?
That remains to be seen. Lowrie sees himself as an everyday player, and so does the organization, but more so as a super-utility guy who can play somewhere around four to five days a week. If Lowrie sticks in Boston for years to come, one configuration could see him play third base with Kevin Youkilis moving back to first (again) and Adrian Gonzalez taking over as the designated hitter if and when David Ortiz moves on. That is just speculation and Gonzalez is a great defensive player that probably doesn't want to put his glove on the shelf, but it's a possibility.
Does anyone ever work with our pitchers on holding runners on base? Guys are now standing up when they steal on us. I know if I were Terry Francona that Daisuke Matsuzaka, John Lackey, Clay Buchholz and Josh Beckett would be spending a lot of time doing that.
Pete, that is a big part of the preparation for each pitcher. There is no denying that the club has had its issues with base stealers in recent years, but it is not through lack of effort. Pitchers work all season and even within their outings on varying their time to the plate to throw off runners. It is a work in progress at times, but the club was more successful at holding runners last year than it was in 2009. Perhaps this season will see a few more strides made in that department.
Tony, with NESN frequently looking over your shoulder, putting you on the air and messing with your concentration while you're trying to do the live blog, don't you think you deserve a nice laptop upgrade, something fancier with a larger screen?
With the lack of offense at the shortstop position, are there any logical trade options out there that would make the Red Sox more productive at that position?
–Chris from Nantucket
I know there is temptation to have Silver Slugger Award winners at every spot, but the Red Sox have plenty of punch. They do not necessarily need to make a move to upgrade a largely defensive position. Also, the position was not all that bad offensively, anyway. Boston shortstops ranked second in the American League with a .270 average and third with a .736 OPS last year. Additionally, if you make a move to bring in a productive bat to play the position, perhaps you are just blocking the path for Jose Iglesias. Once he comes up, he might never hit over .270, but I can just about guarantee nobody will care once they see his glove on a regular basis.
Why don't we see J.D. Drew in lots of spring training games?
Evan, Drew actually had a flu bug this weekend so he missed some time, but he returned to action Monday. Expect to see him on a pretty regular basis going forward. He did have some hamstring issues last season that lingered into the offseason, so the Red Sox will not force the issue, but you will see Drew get his 50-60 at-bats this spring.
How far away do you think Iglesias is from coming to the big leagues? He has made some pretty awesome defensive plays recently.
The fan base is itching to see this guy in Fenway sooner rather than later, but he figures to get one year at the Triple-A level. That's the organization's desire for position players. As it is, Iglesias still has not had a full season in the system. He suffered a hand injury last year that limited him to just 57 games at Double-A Portland.
Iglesias could step on a major league field today and be among the best defensive players at his position. They just need to know he can at least handle himself with the bat, and it might take a full season to prove that.