The Red Sox have twice traveled to Cleveland in 2011, though the circumstances couldn't have been more different.
After being swept in Texas in the opening series of the season, a struggling Boston squad headed north, looking to get their season on track against a team that was supposed to be one of the worst in the league.
Just under two months later, the Sox again headed to northeast Ohio, but this time, they had won eight out of their last nine, and they knew they would be facing a juggernaut.
Are the Cleveland Indians for real?
–Blake, Waltham, Mass.
When we were last here in Cleveland and they swept the Red Sox, my answer was no. Now that we have a much larger sample size, the answer is clearly yes. Their payroll is less than $50 million, and they have two guys on the DL who take up almost half of it in Grady Sizemore and Travis Hafner. Even so, they are for real. They do everything well. Heading into Monday night, they led the league in batting average and were second in runs scored. They get timely hitting, batting .320 with runners in scoring position. Also, Their pitching is in the top five and their bullpen ERA is the best in the league. Their defense is solid as well. Add it all up, and they are for real, especially in the AL Central. Asdrubal Cabrera was the hero again Monday night for them, after going 5-for-5 on Sunday. Props have to be handed out to manager Manny Acta, who had a tough task with a rebuilding club. They are now rebuilt and believing in themselves.
Will Tim Wakefield remain in the rotation?
–Chris, Concord, N.H.
If it were my decision, my answer would be yes. Sadly, I don't get to make personnel decisions. I like Alfredo Aceves, but in my opinion, he would be more productive from the bullpen, serving as a guy who can give you long outings. I think — good or bad — Tim Wakefield is an innings eater. How many times have we seen him have a bad inning or two, figure it out and then blank a team for five more innings? As we have seen in the past, he can be very streaky. Maybe Sunday night is the beginning of one of those stretches. I would leave him in Daisuke Matsuzaka's empty spot when John Lackey returns.
Where will Marco Scutaro play when he returns?
–Joel, Hartford, Conn.
I think he will become the utility infielder that he was in the past. He is an expensive one, but with Jed Lowrie winning the shortstop position, there is no other choice. Marco Scutaro was very good at moving around in his days with Oakland, and he really only got a chance to play every day with the Blue Jays before signing with the Red Sox prior to last year. I think he was given the nod to start at shortstop because of what he did last year, playing hurt so much when others couldn't go. Also, I think there was some uncertainty as to whether or not Lowrie could physically handle playing every day, based on his prior health issues. The circumstances have changed, and Jed continues to hit.
Now that Jarrod Saltalamachhia is starting to hit, will we see more of him?
–SoxChiq, Cambridge, Mass.
I think we will. I think he was pressing to begin the season. He was dealing with a pitching staff that was failing out of the gate, and fingers were being pointed at him. That has a way of affecting all parts of your game. People were clamoring for Jason Varitek to see more action, which he has, but it had to be hard for Saltalamacchia to relax and succeed with all that swirling around. Now that things have calmed down on that front, he is clearly more relaxed and his power, based on the weekend, has returned. Also, since the pitching has improved, the spotlight is not shining so harshly on Jarrod. It's amazing how under-the-microscope things become when a team loses.