Slow-Starting Red Sox Still Can Win AL East

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Slow-Starting Red Sox Still Can Win AL East The baseball world lost a great man and one of the greatest legends of our profession. Ernie Harwell was class and kindness all rolled into one very special man.

He could not have been a nicer or more genuine man. You really felt like you had made the major leagues when you were welcomed by Harwell. I had the chance to meet him many times and sat with him at the baseball writers' dinner a few years back. When Ernie spoke, you listened. His voice and kindness will be missed.

Here is this week's mailbag.
 
Could the Red Sox still win the AL East?
–Art, San Diego
 
Yes. It is still very early, and the injury bug can get anybody. The Yankees have already seen Curtis Granderson go down, and you know the Rays will at some point deal with injuries. You just hope to stay healthy and win each series and see where the chips fall. I do not think the Red Sox are done yet. However, you cannot afford to get too buried this early in the season because the teams you are chasing may be the best teams in the majors. Sometimes, you start strong and then can play .500 baseball the rest of way and can coast. Hard to say how this will go, but injuries will always dictate.

What’s more likely to happen this season – Mike Lowell gets traded, David Ortiz gets released, they platoon at DH?
–Debbie, Florida
 
I think for now a platoon, depending on the pitcher, but that may not be the most popular answer. Many fans would rather see David Ortiz released before Mike Lowell be traded. It seems like an amazing statement, but pretty reasonable based on the state of the DH slot. In regards to Lowell, I think there are teams interested that were not in spring training because scouts were waiting to see Mike healthy and moving around better. But trading Lowell now may not be wise, based on the way things are going. I have been a huge David Ortiz fan, and this is sort of sad to watch.

Why does Daisuke Matsuzaka have such a difficult time getting out of the fifth inning? Is it more a mental issue than a physical limitation?
–Anderson, Holden, Mass.
 
I think his approach is the issue. He treats the No. 9 hitter the same as the cleanup hitter. He will try to make you get yourself out by swinging at pitches out of the zone. He rarely goes at hitters and challenges. He paints and nibbles and is not afraid to walk a bunch of guys. He will not give in at any point and, as a result, throws an amazing amount of pitches and rarely goes deep into games. If a team is patient with him, he will generally be out of game around the fifth. He can be maddening to watch. In his 18-win season, we marveled at how often he would load the bases and then get out of it unscathed. You are always left to wonder, if he could do this all the time, why doesn’t he? I don’t think any of this is a physical limitation, it is just his philosophical approach.

Have the Red Sox considered moving Jacoby Ellsbury back to center field once he’s healthy?
–Sean, Hartford, Conn.

I don’t think this injury has changed their thought process. I think if he returns before Mike Cameron, then he would play center field, but otherwise, heh would return to left. I think more importantly he would return to the top of the order and his game-changing leadoff abilities. Speed right now is not part of the Red Sox attack, but it would be in a hurry upon his return. You forget how Ellsbury can change a game. Even when he doesn't not run, he changes how teams defend. That element is one less thing that teams have to worry about now that he is on the DL. His return has been a slow process and apparently still painful. I would imagine he would need to get some minor league rehab at-bats due to the length of time he has been off.

Do you think Lars Anderson will get called up to the Red Sox at some point this season?
–Terry G., Fall River, Mass.

 
I would be surprised, as he just moved from Portland to Pawtucket and needs to really continue to graduate and succeed at each level. Also, the Red Sox wouldn't need to make such a move unless an injury is involved, since there is really no spot for him at the moment. You never know, but I would think if he continues to progress, that next year would be reasonable. Although I would never have expected to see Josh Reddick play in 27 games last year.

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