Red Sox manager Terry Francona will be answering fan questions on NESN.com this offseason.
Here's his 18th and final installment.
Terry, there are many times during the course of a game when the bunt is definitely in order, either to score a run or to move the runner into scoring position. Why are you so opposed to the bunt? If you were to spend a day on the art of bunting, it could make such a difference in winning and losing. Most of the hitters don't seem to understand how to bunt successfully. Tommy Glavine, who was on my baseball teams all the way through Legion ball, was the best bunter in the National League because I took the time to teach all of my players the fine art of being a good bunter.
–Jim Bowley, Melbourne, Fla.
That?s the beauty of the game of baseball. Everyone has his opinion on what is best for his favorite team. We do practice bunting every day down here in Fort Myers, but I am not the biggest fan of giving away outs. Early in the game, we really like playing for big innings. We feel like if we can put up a crooked number, it really enhances our chance to win. I want all our players to be fundamentally sound in all facets of the game, though. That?s not just bunting — it?s baserunning, hitting the cutoff man, etc.
How do you see the bullpen shaping up? Who will be middle relievers, setup men and closer (other than Jonathan Papelbon)? Regarding Papelbon, what do you take for your ulcers when he pitches? I love the guy, but he sure kept us on our toes last year.
–Scott, Palm Harbor, Fla. (via Reading, Mass.)
I think our bullpen will shape up rather nicely. We have Pap closing games. [Hideki] Okajima just keeps on getting guys out, [Daniel] Bard is getting better every day, Ramon Ramirez can pitch every day and Manny Delcarmen can come in and get left-handers and right-handers. The last spot in the bullpen is up for grabs, and there are a lot of interesting names.
As for your point about Pap, I think there are a lot of managers out there that would love to be in our position. He has set the bar so high and has been one of the best in the game from the very beginning of his career. Last year wasn?t perfect, but I?ll take him any day.
Is the team monitoring Mike Cameron?s health more closely? Is it worrisome that he strained his groin early in camp, or was the setback just part of getting back in baseball shape?
–Mark, Thompsonville, Conn.
We monitor everyone?s health very carefully. I get a report every day on every player. Tweaks are not uncommon with players during the first few days of spring training. He bounced back real quick and was running well just a few days later. Mike might be 37, but his body looks like he is 17.
Which Red Sox prospects have impressed you thus far in spring training?
–Kelly, Oshkosh, Wis.
We have a number of young players in camp (some not even on the roster yet). Ryan Kalish is impressing the staff with his bat speed and overall hustle on the field. Getting our first look at Jose Iglesias has been exciting. Josh Reddick has been getting a lot of hits early on in our camp. Yamaico Navarro has tremendous bat speed and is learning to play all over the infield.
Theo Epstein has said this year's team is emphasizing defense, and many have concluded this means less offense. Do you expect less offense in 2010?
–Ed Margerum, Salem, Mass.
I think Theo has emphasized how much he wants us to be a balanced team. Pitching, defense and hitting. I think a lot of people are assuming our offensive production will be down. I am hoping they are wrong. We just need to keep the line moving from one through nine, and we will be just fine.