Red Sox Mailbag: Debunking Cole Hamels Trade, Clubhouse Tension and Josh Beckett’s Bullpen Rumors

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Red Sox Mailbag: Debunking Cole Hamels Trade, Clubhouse Tension and Josh Beckett's Bullpen Rumors FORT MYERS, Fla. — Roughly two weeks from now, the Red Sox will break camp in Fort Myers and make their way to the Lone Star State to begin their 2011 campaign.

By then, we will know who won the few position battles in camp and what the lineups will look like, at least to start out. Until then, a few items remain up in the air. I appreciate all the great questions this week as we probe those remaining items in our weekly edition of the Red Sox mailbag.

If I didn’t get to you this time around, keep dropping your questions in the bag or shoot me a Tweet and we can find room for you next time around.

Every year about this time we hear of players reporting late because of visa problems. Can you explain some of these problems? What issues arise with these visas? Can’t they be resolved before they start reporting for spring training? Thanks.
–Walter

Certainly not my area of expertise, Walter, but I can at least hazard a guess. Some of these players that have delays, such as Alfredo Aceves and Dennys Reyes did this year, did not formally sign until just before camp, even if there was an agreement in principle before then. They likely just need to iron out some paperwork after the formal signing before any visa issues can be worked out.

I am very curious as to how the Red Sox house the players during spring training. It seems like there are well over 100 guys and was just curious if the players get housed in a dorm-like setting like they do in the NFL or if the players are just scattered on their own?
–Robert

Trust me, I’ll get to some actual on-field matters in a moment, but how often can we shed light on something like this during the regular season? Without knocking on the door of every player in camp to check out their quarters, I can speculate that there is no dorm-like setting. If you’ve been to southwest Florida, you know that the area is positively littered with condominium and housing complexes named “Coral Breeze” or “Palm Meadow” or something very Floridian like that. Many of the veterans have their own places for their families each year, but younger players are likely put up in something more substantial than a dorm. Again, that’s speculation, but there is ample housing in the area.

Red Sox Mailbag: Debunking Cole Hamels Trade, Clubhouse Tension and Josh Beckett's Bullpen Rumors Just want to get your thoughts on the batting order, mostly where to hit Carl Crawford, Jacoby Ellsbury and Dustin Pedroia. I think we should have Jacoby hit leadoff and Pedroia second, but I don’t know where you put Crawford, in front or behind Adrian Gonzalez. Your thoughts?
–Cody

Cody, there are many schools of thought on this subject and you can bet that Terry Francona will keep it a relative mystery until Opening Day. Ideally, as long as Ellsbury is getting on base enough, he will bat leadoff and Pedroia will follow. Crawford had his best production as a No. 3 hitter for Tampa Bay last year and he has already hit third behind Ellsbury and Pedroia a handful of times this spring. That figures to be the configuration with Gonzalez hitting cleanup and Kevin Youkilis fifth, but it is not out of the realm of possibility to bat Gonzalez third, Youkilis fourth and Crawford fifth.

One small item to consider in this regard is whether you want slower runners like Gonzalez in front of a guy like Crawford, which could limit his opportunities on the bases. Keeping the trio of Ellsbury, Pedroia and Crawford together in front of the big boppers would allow them to cause incredible havoc as a group.

I keep hearing all the media people saying Lars Anderson has no future in Boston, and I keep saying why not? I know he’s blocked at first but I could see him as a good to very good DH if he rebounds this year. This is if David Ortiz is gone after this year, which I think is likely. Why can’t he DH? He’s perfect for it. It’s not like he plays elite defense. Your thoughts?
–Cody

Cody came with several questions this week so we are giving him a second opportunity.

To begin with, Anderson is a young 23, still younger than many of his counterparts at the Triple-A level, and is still maturing from a physical standpoint. His numbers at Pawtucket didn’t grab headlines last season, but they were solid and he finished with an extremely productive final two months. Expect him to have a nice season with the bat and remain on the radar.

Francona is fond of saying that if you produce, things have a way of working out. Whether that means a starting job with another team remains to be seen. Certainly, the path is currently blocked at first base with the presence of Gonzalez. But as 2010 taught us, that shuttle from Pawtucket to Boston can be a busy one and Anderson’s name could be called at some point in 2011.

Finally, you mention that Anderson is average at best as a defender. He has made significant progress in that area in the past year and I could see him being well above average in time. He is not just a DH-type, but more so as someone with solid and improving glove skills.

Tony, I’m a huge supporter of Josh Beckett and it’s tough watching injuries ruin him. If injuries continue, could you see the Red Sox putting him in the bullpen? His mentality would be perfect. I’d rather watch him go the way of John Smoltz then Kevin Brown.
–Dan

Dan, I think it’s a tad too early to say that Beckett’s injuries have ruined him. He is a 30-year-old pitcher who has thrown over 200 innings in three of his five years in Boston. Last year was just about a wash for him, but there is no indication that he won’t be able to rebound this year and be an integral part of the rotation. I think we are being a bit too rash in thinking about moving the guy who is still considered the staff leader to the pen just because he had some back problems. Maybe five years from now, but no, that will not be happening anytime soon.

Who do think will be the Sox Opening Day starter?
–Ben

We actually asked Jon Lester about this the other day, as he is currently lined up to go on April 1 in Texas. While the lefty shrugged it off, it would be surprising if he is not the choice. Lester certainly earned the honor with his fantastic 2010 campaign, and let’s not forget that the Opening Day starter is more than just a symbolic act — that first guy to go has the greatest chance to lead the team in starts and one would obviously want their best pitcher to have that opportunity. For the Red Sox, that is Lester.

There’s been a lot of talk about Mike Cameron being trade bait. Oscar Tejeda has opened eyes this spring; the Phillies have key injuries in Chase Utley and Dominic Brown. Is it possible that the Red Sox package both of them with other pieces for a starter like Cole Hamels?
–Carlos

Oh, I love wild trade speculation. To begin with, the Phillies are not looking to part ways with Cole Hamels, so we can move beyond that. As for Cameron, it makes sense that he would be rumored as a trade piece — he has been since the Carl Crawford signing. For now, the Sox like the idea of having Cameron as a right-handed bat off the bench who can play all three outfield positions, a luxury in that the three starters are all lefties. If Darnell McDonald is enough to satisfy that need, perhaps Cameron gets dealt and somebody else slides in as a second backup outfielder.

On the subject of Tejeda, he has played well this spring but is not close to being ready for the major leagues, particularly on defense. If the Phillies need a replacement for Utley, it will not be Tejeda, at least not until 2013 or so.

I heard a rumor from another news outlet of some tension within the clubhouse — possibly related to the Daisuke Matsuzaka and Tim Wakefield trade rumors that have been denied by Francona. The rumor also included the fact that the pressure of high expectations is getting to some of the players. Is there any truth to these rumors? If so, what gives?
–Colleen

It’s March 14 as I type this. Way, way too early to wonder if high expectations are getting to players. If anyone in that clubhouse is buckling under the pressure at this stage of the season, they probably should find another line of work. Let’s wait until the regular season gets going before we wonder how the team responds to such lofty goals.

On the Matsuzaka/Wakefield front, there were rumors surrounding those two, but no indication from where I sit that there is tension in the clubhouse. As it is, the organization does not have a lot of major league-ready starting pitching depth, and we are talking about trading away the No. 5 and “No.6” starter. Not so sure the front office is itching to do that at this point in time.

What are chances that Andrew Miller, Alfredo Aceves, Felix Doubront and Junichi Tazawa (when he returns) get stretched out as starters in Pawtucket? And how lucky are we to have the amazing Wakefield for backup on April 1?
–Gerry

This speaks a bit to our prior question. Each of those guys will be taking that track and they represent some of the limited starting pitching depth. Aceves is probably the first in line if a starter is needed. Miller may need some time to get stretched out, as he is still seeing an inning or so at a time and may factor into the bullpen instead of the rotation. Doubront has been limited due to some elbow issues this spring. Tazawa is still a few months away. As for Wakefield, he is being stretched out this spring in preparation for that role.

Tony, I am not seeing any young starting pitching candidates. Why is it so important to tie a roster spot with Tim Wakefield ? His act is very tired.
–Terruso

Wakefield is certainly on everyone’s minds this week. First off, Wakefield doesn’t have an act. In fact, if there is any player in the major leagues with less of an act, I’d like to know. He gets the ball and throws it and if he can do so with a relative degree of effectiveness this season, he’ll eat up a lot of innings.

The hybrid role he was in (part-time starter, part-time long man, part-time mop-up duty) is not without value and Wakefield expressed satisfaction with being able to give the team 140 innings last year. With very few young starting pitching candidates on the horizon, as you point out, he may provide a similar workload in 2011, and it will help the team in one way or another, even if it is just to spare the rest of the bullpen from time to time.

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