With the season rapidly approaching, the questions are getting better and better, as fans are eager to know what to expect from this Red Sox team come April.
With John Farrell now the manager of the Toronto Blue Jays, how big of an adjustment will it be for the Sox pitchers with new pitching coach Curt Young?
–Kevin, Burlington, Vt.
No doubt there will be a learning curve and an adjustment during the spring, not only in learning the staff but also getting to know both Jason Varitek and Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who are both extensions of the staff. First, let me say that the Red Sox are extremely lucky to have lost a coach of John Farrell?s ilk and then be able to rebound with a quality and previously successful pitching coach in Curt Young. He was Ken Macha?s pitching coach, who raves about him, and he also was part of the same staff of which Terry Francona was bench coach in Oakland. So there are ties here that made it work.
Now, moving into the season, I think the veterans will be fine and will continue with their normal regimens. That’s not to say Young will not be able to help them too, it?s just that they generally will know how to prepare themselves. I think the younger guys may be the ones most influenced in the adjustment period. This will not be a problem and by all accounts, Young is a very good hire.
Where does Jed Lowrie fit on the team and should he get a chance to start?
–Serena, Saratoga Springs, N.Y.
I think Jed?s time will come. I really believe he is an everyday player. I know I have talked about this for a long time, but I stand strong that he should be starting. I think he will play a lot because of his versatility and ability to move around the infield. If he plays well in this role and forces their hand, he may find himself at short every day at some point during the season. Terry Francona was quick to say in the winter that Marco Scutaro is the starting shortstop, but I still see that as a fluid situation and one to keep an eye on. I think one of the questions is whether Lowrie will break down with everyday responsibility. I think by year?s end, his contributions will be large.
With all the additions to the bullpen, is there added pressure for Jonathan Papelbon in a contract year in 2011?
If you are Jonathan Papelbon, there has been pressure every day of your major league career. He has worked on nothing but one-year deals during the arbitration period. I agree it is important for him to start well with Bobby Jenks and Daniel Bard setting him up, and they are legitimate possible candidates to replace him. The start of the season for Papelbon is big because a downhill trend can snowball and be larger than life and tough to overcome. However, I fully expect him to have a big year. I think the assumption is that when he becomes a free agent he will go elsewhere for top dollar. While the money is important to Papelbon, I do think he would like to stay on the big stage of Boston.
With Adrian Gonzalez now here, will the move back to third be difficult in any way for Kevin Youkilis?
–Geoffrey, Agawam, Mass.
I don?t think it will be a problem at all. I think the likelihood that he will remain there all season is to his advantage. He was extremely good at moving back and forth but honestly would prefer to stay in one spot and be the best he can in that spot. He proved that by learning first base and then winning a Gold Glove there. Remember, he came up as a third baseman and perhaps is most comfortable at third. His value defensively and his value to hit all over the lineup over the years I think has not received as much kudos as it deserves.