This week's mailbag is rotation-oriented, as many Sox fans are trying to read the mind of skipper Bobby Valentine to figure out who will fill out the last two spots of the Red Sox starting rotation. So let's jump right into it and see what you guys had to say for this week's mailbag.
I know Bobby Valentine says that none of the spring training lineups are the permanent regular season one, but it seems like on most days that aren't split squad games, Mike Aviles is the shortstop. Do you think Mike Aviles will be the starting shortstop and if so do you think Jose Iglesias will make the 25-man roster along with Nick Punto?
–Stephanie Z., Somers, Conn.
I am surprised by how many different combinations we have seen and expect more of the same and during the regular season. I am not sure there will be a set lineup everyday. I think matchups and player production will play large roles as to who plays and where they hit. I think Mike Aviles has been given the opportunity to lose this starting job receiving the majority of time at short and he has stepped up and played well. Jose Iglesis has battled a groin injury. I still think Iglesis will start the season at Pawtucket and that Nick Punto will be the utility infielder. My only hesitation is knowing that in the past Bobby Valentine was comfortable with a slick-fielding shortstop who could not really hit already in Rey Ordonez.
Do you think that a new manager can help get Dice-K back to his old form?
–James Spaulding, Burlington
I believe he may be the most qualified person among major league managers to do so. He was very candid about his thoughts on how the previous regime handled Daisuke Matsusaka and tried to change what it was that he was doing in Japan previously. I am very excited to see when Daisuke comes back how comfortable he will now be with Bobby Valentine at the helm who is very well versed in Japanese pitching philosophies. I think Matsuzaka will have comfort that he has never had previously here.
Who do you think will be the fourth and fifth starters?
Daniel Bard I think will be fourth. I think he is still sort of settling into the roll and the transition. I think he is a good enough pitcher and his three pitches are good enough for him to be successful. The fifth spot is a little trickier. I would go with Alfredo Aceves. However, Felix Doubront has been pretty good this spring including shutting down a regular full Yankees lineup in Tampa last week. He allowed some baserunners Monday but allowed only two runs. Vicente Padilla also has looked good at times. I am sticking with what I would like to have seen in September of last year. Aceves is in the rotation.
How does a closer, especially one with a new team like Andrew Bailey, use spring training to prepare for the regular season?
–Tom, Somerville, Mass.
Andrew Bailey told me last week he only needs around seven outings and seven innings to be ready. So the fact that he got a late start is not consequential this spring. It is very different than the way Jonathan Papelbon would prepare. A lot of years Papelbon would pitch multiple innings to build up and of course there was the year they toyed with making him a starter. I think Bailey knows exactly what he needs to do and will be ready. I am very excited to see him close out games. He has really been one of the really good new guys in the clubhouse.
The back end of the bullpen looks to be set with Andrew Bailey and Mark Melancon. Any idea what the rest of the pen will look like?
–Jackson, Bernardston, Mass.
Not a clue, mostly because the guys who are out of the conversation for the fifth starter will likely shift to the pen. You also have Matt Albers and others who are likely in it already besides the eighth- and ninth-inning guys. Also, how many pitchers will they have? Bobby Valentine has said he may start the season with 12 or 13. We asked him over the weekend and his answer was that it is not any more clear than it was two weeks ago. They still have a couple of weeks and a lot of games to break it down and compile what should be a good bullpen. I think the fifth starter situation will come to a head here in the next few days.
Have a question for Don Orsillo? Be sure to send it here. He will pick a few questions to answer every week for his mailbag.