The severity of Andrew Bailey‘s injury, which is expected to sideline the closer for between two and four months, has left a gaping hole at the back end of the Boston bullpen.
There are a few options for the role, as Mark Melancon and Vicente Padilla both have experience closing games in their careers. But it may actually be Alfredo Aceves that fits best in the role for the Red Sox, especially given his impressive spring as well as the consistency he displayed during the 2011 season.
The bullpen issue is the talk of Red Sox Nation right now. But there remains a number of questions about this team heading into the 2012 season.
Don Orsillo took a swing at answering some of those questions in this week’s mailbag.
What is the single biggest obstacle the Red Sox face in winning the World Series this year?
–BostonNutinOhio, Mason, Ohio
Likely the teams in their own division. The New York Yankees and the Tampa Bay Rays are as good as any, and the Sox will have to battle them so much during the regular season. From a team standpoint health will be the No. 1 obstacle as always. Your roster can change in a heartbeat. Lastly, their pitching depth is a concern. The starting rotation especially is a concern. I am not worried about scoring runs, just preventing them.
Will Big Papi reach 30 home runs and 100 RBIs this year?
— Reed Gomperts
I believe he will. He came very close last year and is operating on a one-year deal, which will make this a very important season. His contract moving forward will be based on what he can accomplish this season. He very much wants a multi-year deal and would like to stay with the Sox. He came into camp looking much slimmer and has stayed in very good shape, so I expect him to have a big year.
Don, from what I have read, Alfredo Aceves seems to be pretty upset about not being named a starter. He did have better numbers this spring than Bard. Is Bard getting a spot in the rotation due to management’s stubbornness to try this out, or is it simply because they want Aceves in the bullpen that bad? Also, how does the Andrew Bailey injury affect this?
Well, I think baseball operations did want Daniel Bard in the rotation, and I can understand why. I also agree that Aceves is valuable in the pen because of his versatility. I think the Bailey situation has really highlighted that because Aceves could now actually finish games as the closer. I understand Alfredo’s disappointment, but he will be a huge part of the pitching staff if the Sox are to be successful.
When do you see Dice-K being back in the rotation? Who do you see going back to the bullpen when that happens?
Hard to say at this point. It always seems to work itself out. You never plan on injuries, but they always seem to pop up and create a need especially in the starting pitching department. It sounds like barring setbacks, Daisuke Matsuzaka will be ready by June 1, and I believe the influence of Bobby Valentine will really help Matsuzaka. I think Daisuke will be comfortable perhaps for the first time with how he will be handled thanks to Valentine’s experience with Japanese pitchers. You can never have enough starting pitching depth.
Who will get more time at shortstop, Nick Punto or Mike Aviles?
I think Mike Aviles will get the majority of the time. Nick Punto will be all over the infield and be along the lines of what Jed Lowrie was in the last few years as a utility player. Aviles really came in and won the job with a great spring. He handled everything at him all spring. Weird for him because he spent the offseason getting ready to be an outfielder, and then Marco Scutaro gets traded and he’s instantly in a battle for short and wins the job.
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.