The talent level on the Sox is undeniable, but with a 1-4 record through five games, the beginning of this season is eerily similar to the end of last season. And that's not a good thing.
There's still plenty of reasons to be optimistic, but the lingering questions still need to be addressed. Don Orsillo dives into some of those questions in this week's edition of his mailbag.
What are your thoughts on Nick Punto in the leadoff spot on Sunday in Detroit?
–Tressa Marie Furry
I was initially very surprised by the entire lineup on Sunday, but as it turned out, they scored plenty of runs with the lineup while it was the pitching that killed them. We saw Bobby Valentine use Jacoby Ellsbury in the No. 2 spot a few times during the spring — as he likes to have a left-handed bat in that spot at times — so that was not the surprising part. The numbers that Nick Punto had as a leadoff hitter to that point were not great, so it was a bit of a shock to see him placed in that role. It worked from an offensive perspective, though, and I imagine we will see it again. I think Valentine was really trying to get everybody a start and involved early.
If Daniel Bard doesn't do well as a starter, how long do they let him go before the bullpen comes calling for him to close?
I think two things matter: how Daniel Bard does and can Alfredo Aceves settle in as the closer? Monday's save in Toronto will hopefully help Alfredo's confidence. As for Bard, I think he was one of the best and most consistent relievers in the game. He was All-Star caliber, even though he has not been one technically.
Professionally and money-wise, the paydays come to those who start and close — not so much for those in between. I understand Bard wanting to start games. However, he was groomed to be the closer and, due to the circumstances, should be that right now in my estimation. Just my opinion.
What is going on with our bullpen? Why did Jonathan Papelbon have to go?
–Michael Lonestarskin Lewsader
First, the pitchers in the Red Sox bullpen are still sort of trying to figure out their own roles. Generally, that stuff is taken care of in the spring, but because the rotation was being fought for, the bullpen kind of became a secondary option for those left out of the running for the final rotation spots. That said, I like what I have seen from Vicente Padilla and Scott Atchison.
Your last question is tough to figure, though. The Red Sox made no effort that I am aware of to keep Jonathan Papelbon. I guess they felt he wanted too many years and too much money. He got both from Philly, and that's the end of that story.
Hey Don, what is the likelihood that we re-sign Jacoby Ellsbury? I'm sure he's going to be looking for a big pay day after his season last year, especially with Scott Boras as his agent.
It depends on what kind of numbers Ellsbury puts up this year. If he finishes with numbers similar to last year, it will be very difficult. You mentioned Scott Boras, who is a game-changer as far as getting top value and not leaving dollars on the table for his clients. The fact that Ellsbury hired him makes me feel like Jacoby feels the same way. Ellsbury's home run numbers last season and finishing as the runner-up in AL MVP voting has vastly increased his value. I would say it will be tough to re-sign him unless you are willing to overpay.
Who will be the "stand out" player this season for the Red Sox?
For me, it's Adrian Gonzalez. It's amazing to watch him hit. I always enjoyed watching Manny Ramirez hit and I feel the same way about Adrian. It is truly an art form, and his swing is obviously tailor-made for Fenway. Amongst all that went bad last year, he had great season, and I expect even bigger numbers this year with more power. Remember, his shoulder was not 100 percent last year.
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.