Ryan Lavarnway’s Talent, Potential Undeniable, But Young Catcher May Need More Triple-A Seasoning to Begin Season

Ryan Lavarnway's Talent, Potential Undeniable, But Young Catcher May Need More Triple-A Seasoning to Begin SeasonThe MLB season is officially under way, with the Mariners and Athletics kicking things off in Japan on Wednesday.

While most Red Sox fans probably didn't sacrifice sleep to see those two West Coast teams duke it out overseas in what were the wee hours of the morning in the States, the game at least signifies that it's not long before the games start counting back in Boston.

Sox skipper Bobby Valentine has made the decision to go with Mike Aviles as his starting shortstop, sending Jose Iglesias to Triple-A for some more seasoning. But there's still plenty of questions that remain unanswered as we get set to flip the calendar to April in a few days.

Don Orsillo took a stab at answering some of those questions in this week's mailbag.

Will Bobby Valentine continue to play a lot of small ball during the regular season?
–Christie, Nashua, N.H.

I think you can plan on seeing all of the things you've seen in spring training again during the regular season. Valentine's style has always been very aggressive, but his time in Japan has added to his arsenal of choices. I don't think it will ever be boring, and he will always keep us on our toes. We have already seen more squeeze attempts in spring than we have in the last two regular seasons. And Valentine has a deep enough roster of guys that can do a lot of different things. More than small ball, I think he will be aggressive.

Daniel Bard or Alfredo Aceves: Who starts and who goes to the bullpen?
–Bruce Katzman

I think Bard stays in the rotation and Aceves goes to the pen. I have changed my mind on this four times already, though. I think the Red Sox brass has decided that Bard is going to start the year in the rotation, and Aceves is now in a battle with Felix Doubront for the fifth spot in the rotation. Based on how Doubront has pitched, I think he will get the nod. I also think the Sox will need Aceves in the pen. But ask again next week and I may have a different answer.

Is there any way the Red Sox could put Ryan Lavarnway in right field? That way we can have his bat in the lineup and it would give us more bench flexibility?
–Stuart, Boston

I know what you're saying about Ryan Lavarnway and having his bat in the lineup, but I cannot see him in right field at Fenway. It's too hard a place to play. There's no question he would have the arm, but range would be an issue. I think he still has an outside shot of making the team. However, based on our conversations with the baseball operations guys during games, they have expressed that he needs more work at Triple-A. Maybe they will change their minds, but so far there has been no indication of that.

Do you think the Red Sox will score enough runs on a regular basis to be able to make it to the playoffs? Do you see this area as their weakness?

P.S. I love watching the "The Best of Don and Jerry". Keep the music clips coming — they are hilarious.
–Grace Mekelski, Lehigh Acres, Fla.

Thanks, Grace. We will always continue to have fun. As for your question, I do not think scoring runs will be a problem for the Red Sox. The area that worries me the most is the starting pitching. Heading into the season, I think the Sox are behind both the Yankees and Rays on paper. However, injuries can change a roster in a hurry, so anything can happen — as the Rays found out last year. The second wild card is huge and will allow a lot of teams to be in the mix a lot longer than ever before.

What do you see happening with Aaron Cook and Vicente Padilla following spring training?
–Brian T., Hartford, Conn.

Not sure about Aaron Cook. He's had mixed results and is behind the other starters work-wise. I think Vicente Padilla could be in the pen. I know it's not what he wanted when spring training started, but he had the hamstring setback and was then out of the running for the fifth-spot competition. I think he could be valuable out of the pen, though. It also depends on whether Alfredo Aceves is in the bullpen, as Padilla may not have a spot if he is.

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.

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