FORT MYERS, Fla. — The Red Sox enter the all-important month of March coming off their first Grapefruit League win, but most importantly completely healthy — provided Josh Beckett is OK.
Everyone but a few pitchers and Adrian Gonzalez have seen playing time. Soon enough, the regulars will get more playing time in customary positions and in customary spots in the lineup.
Surely, questions are beginning to swirl. Here is our latest attempt to answer a few of those inquiries for you, our weekly edition of the mailbag. Going forward, drop questions here and remember to follow updates on Twitter here.
1. For all the talk of Jarrod Saltalamacchia’s potential leadership, game-calling ability, throwing and hitting, not much has been mentioned about his research. Jason Varitek is said to study opposing teams better than any catcher out there. Any word on whether that aspect of the game is being passed along during the mentorship process?
As far as I can recall, nothing specifically has been mentioned about Saltalamacchia’s work in the video room, but every pitcher that has been asked about it has said that they always value his words when they lay out game plans. The young catcher has gained loads of respect this spring. Certainly, much of that has to do with the way in which he emulates Varitek, whether intentionally or not. Varitek will most assuredly pass on his encyclopedic knowledge of how to attack hitters with whom Salty may not be familiar.
2. If Marco Scutaro does not do well in the first half, do you see the Red Sox trading him?
Such a scenario is possible due to the presence of Jed Lowrie and Jose Iglesias, but both would have to show the team plenty in the first half and there would have to be a taker out there for a struggling 35-year-old shortstop if anything was to happen. Scutaro may have had more value in the offseason, but if he limps into the All-Star break hitting .235, will there be many takers? There might be a few, and if they have something that the Red Sox need, I wouldn’t be shocked to see some discussion take place.
3. When are interleague tickets going on sale this year?
You can buy tickets for two of the three home interleague series right now on redsox.com. That’s three games against Milwaukee and three more against San Diego at Fenway Park. The tickets for games against the Chicago Cubs were offered, or at least an outside chance to purchase them, through a random drawing that just ended. If that’s what you’re after, you may need to search some alternative outlets.
4. The Rangers are pitching a left-hander on Opening Day. Will the Red Sox alter their regular lineup and put some right-handed batters in?
Indeed, C.J. Wilson is pitching for Texas in the April 1 opener, and he has owned the Red Sox in the past. Wilson was 3-0 with a 0.86 ERA vs. Boston in 2010. However, there is little need to start playing the matchup game that early in the season. Terry Francona will put out his best player at each position on Opening Day. If the Sox see Wilson later in the year and J.D. Drew is hitting .189 against lefties, then sure you might see a swap. On the first day of the year I think they would be trying a little too hard to make such moves.
5. With all the questionable decisions by the Red Sox medical staff last year (especially dustin Pedroia and Jacoby Ellsbury), has anything changed for this year?
Good question, Bill. As far as we know there has not been a formal change in anything, at least not from what we have been told. However, Francona has asked for the guys who are coming back from injuries — Dustin Pedroia, Jacoby Ellsbury, Kevin Youkilis and Mike Cameron — to be as open as they can this spring. He will not rush anyone into a situation if there is even an iota of concern over something physical. Expect this to continue through the regular season. It sounds elementary, but sometimes you need to get back to the basics and just open up those lines of communication again.
6. Would the Red Sox consider trading Jose Iglesias for a good righty bat if Jed Lowrie proves he can be healthy for a season?
— Steven Restrepo
Never say never, but I would doubt it. Iglesias is such an exceptional shortstop. He needs to only prove that he won’t be overmatched at the plate to become major league ready, and that might only take a year. As it is, Lowrie hammers lefties and can balance out the lineup on that end of things, so it’s not necessary to trade away one of their best prospects for a marginal need.
7. Who do you think will be the next farmhand to really break through and take control of a starting spot either in the field or the rotation?
— Brandon Stanley
It’s hard to still classify Ryan Kalish as a “farmhand,” but he figures to be a year from inheriting Drew’s spot in right field. It is a position tailor-made for Kalish, who proved he can at least handle the major leagues with his two-month stint last year. Realistically, there aren’t many spots on the roster or in the rotation that will open up anytime soon. Right field and shortstop are the only positions that could see a turnover in the next year, and my guess is Kalish beats Iglesias to an everyday job.
8. With all the speculation that this might be Tim Wakefield’s last year, do you see the Red Sox maybe letting him be the Opening Day starter as a gesture for his years of service to the team?
It’s a nice thought, Terry, but not possible. Wakefield will have his day, both when he officially retires and probably again down the road while in retirement. In a division where the margin for error is so slim, the Red Sox will not start the season by doing something out of sentimentality. Wakefield wouldn’t even allow it anyway. If you recall how Varitek seemed embarrassed when he was replaced late in the last game of the 2010 season, just imagine how Wakefield would feel taking the ball from Jon Lester or Josh Beckett for the first start of the year.