Red Sox Mailbag: Daisuke Matsuzaka Injury Will Make Theo Epstein Pursue Starter More Aggressively As we held our breath hoping for a positive diagnosis on Dustin Pedroia's leg injury last night, many questions floated through our heads. How long will he be out? Would the Red Sox be able to survive without him?

Well, it appears as if Pedroia will be OK after a day off. That doesn't mean the questions stop coming, though. And where there are questions, there is always an answer, or an attempt at one, right here in the Red Sox mailbag. Here is the latest edition. Thanks to all who submitted this week. If you do not see your question, keep dropping them into the mailbag or begin to follow along at Twitter.


1. Does Tim Wakefield finally have a spot in the rotation now that Daisuke Matsuzaka is confirmed to be out for at least a month?
— JB

There were several questions of this nature, and I thank all of you for sending them along. While Wakefield was dynamite in his win over the Chicago Cubs on Sunday, it is not an absolute given he remains in the rotation when John Lackey returns. That final spot in place of Matsuzaka could go to Alfredo Aceves. However, if I was a betting man, which I was when I won six dollars in the 1987 Travers Stakes (my dad placed the bet), I would think that Wakefield will be your No. 5 starter for the immediate future. Aceves could have loads of value in the pen as a long man who has the ability to get outs late in games as well.

2. Tony, with the injury to Matsuzaka and the fact that the severity is not known, do you think that Theo Epstein will be more aggressive on the trade front for a starter?
— Jack

I do. Epstein has already shown a willingness to make some quick changes, as evidence by his signing of Kevin Millwood to a minor league contract last week. However, Millwood is not the savior, and the other options at Pawtucket — Brandon Duckworth, Andrew Miller and the injured Felix Doubront — are not going to provide anything otherworldly, at least not right now.

One name thrown around of late has been Kevin Slowey. Minnesota is reportedly shopping the right-hander and he could be a good fit in Boston for a few months, or at least serve as an extra arm in the event that having Lackey and Wakefield at the back end of the rotation is not working.

3. With Jarrod Saltalamacchia playing well right now, when do you think Terry Francona will give him more playing time? I see him as a 20-25 home run guy.
— Chris G.

You may begin to see that increase in playing time take place right now, and not only because he is swinging a better bat. With Daisuke Matsuzaka sidelined, that takes away one guy whom Francona likes to match up with Jason Varitek. In addition, Saltalamacchia has done a pretty nice job catching Tim Wakefield, so as long as he remains in the rotation, those two will be paired together more often than not.

Also, Varitek's workload is something worth watching, and you know Francona is mindful of making sure his captain is not too worn out come August and September. Expect a modest increase in playing time for Saltalamacchia going forward.

4. Tony, what is up with J.D. Drew's contract? Is it a no-trade contract? And do you believe the Red Sox will address lack of production from him or just wait out the year?
— TonyFan

Drew has a no-trade clause that allows him to block trades to just two teams. My guess is Philadelphia is one of them. This is the final year of his deal, and it is doubtful that many teams will take on the remainder (around $10 million entering Tuesday) of the contract for a guy who has been rather ordinary this year.

The Red Sox will probably wait it out, hope that Mike Cameron provides a little more in place of Drew when lefties are on the mound, and then turn their attention to Ryan Kalish for 2012, provided Kalish recovers from his shoulder injury.

5. What do you think will be Lackey's ERA at the end of the season?
— M

Well, we know Lackey is not an 8.01 ERA pitcher. He will get that down a bit. Still, he's going to enter June with that ugly figure in tow, so he only has four months to get it down. It will take a handful of quality starts to get it down in a respectable area. Given that, I'm going career high numbers here. I say 5.05. If he gets to that, and gives the team innings over those four months, the Sox will be pleased.

6. Why is Carl Crawford continuing to struggle? Do you think this will finally change?
— Adam

This was another question that was asked multiple times in one way or another. I admired Adam's simple form, so he gets the direct response. The primary cause for Crawford's issues remains his inability to do anything against left-handers. That was never his strong suit, as he had a .270 career average with limited power and very few walks against lefties, but what he has done in 2011 has been abysmal.

Crawford enters Tuesday hitting .121 (7-for-58) against lefties, with just two walks against 12 strikeouts. Will it change? I think it will to some extent, but I would not be surprised to see Darnell McDonald get a couple of starts a month in left field against left-handers, unless Crawford turns it around.

7. Do you think the Rays and Yankees will really even compete for the rest of the year? We clearly have the best overall team and now we've figured out how to win. Also do you think the Indians are a legitimate team?
— Someone

I did read a report out of New York that suggested the Yankees were considering giving up, and the Rays may follow suit with another loss or two. I mean, what's the point? The Red Sox are on par, or better, than the 1927 Yankees, and nobody will catch them once they break out.

Of course, I'm being sarcastic. New York and Tampa Bay are not perfect, but neither is Boston. I expect a pretty good race out of those three and perhaps even one more team in the American League East. Unless that report from New York is true.

And yes, Cleveland is for real. They do everything pretty well and could be even better if and when Grady Sizemore and Travis Hafner return healthy.

8. Why is Cameron getting all the at-bats in right field replacing Drew vs. lefties? Darnell McDonald is a much better hitter and is a good outfielder, too.
— Peter King

Hey Peter, isn't there something going on with Bill Parcells that needs to be addressed? Just kidding. Thanks for the question.

First off, as much as I like McDonald, you can't say he is "a much better hitter" than Cameron, who has been around for a long time and has had plenty of success. For his career, Cameron has a solid .860 OPS against lefties. Last year, in limited action because of injuries, that number was 1.128. For whatever reason, Cameron has not had many good swings vs. southpaws this year, but he is the replacement for Drew in those situations.

Francona had Cameron pegged for this role back in spring. McDonald, while he can play all three outfield spots, was ticketed to spell Jacoby Ellsbury more often than Drew or Carl Crawford. But Ellsbury has been so good, it's been hard to find playing time for McDonald.

9. Hey Tony, an AL East question for you: I have a bet with my co-worker that Baltimore will not finish third or better. I see the Orioles and the Jays in the bottom this year. What do think, good bet or should I have the cash ready?
— CJ

Anytime you bet on the Orioles to finish near the bottom of the AL East, you have to like your chances, but they are an improved club and the division is incredibly tight now so it is hard to say. If you are looking for one factor in Baltimore maintaining relevance, keep an eye on the status of Brian Matusz. The lefty is expected to be activated from the disabled list soon and could make his season debut as soon as Thursday.

Matusz is the best pitcher on the staff, with all due respect to the solid Jeremy Guthrie. If the youngster, who dominated the Red Sox in five encounters last year, can return to form, the O's have a chance to stick around. And you have a chance to lose money. For now, I think you are safe.

10. Tony, do you think it is time to dump Cameron and Varitek? Neither one is hitting the ball. I think Varitek is the only player without a home run. Get rid of the bums.
— Fan

Wow, harsh treatment for some quality veterans. I would agree with you that Cameron's struggles are not helping. As mentioned earlier, he is relied upon to produce vs. left-handers and he hasn't done so yet. It would not shock me if Cameron was involved in some sort of trade package later in the year, but for now they just want to get him going a bit, which is hard when his playing time comes in small doses.

As for Varitek, his presence was one of the key factors in stabilizing this pitching staff early on and helping Jarrod Saltalamacchia to get his feet under him. The captain has been extremely valuable in that regard, and there is no "time to dump" him, nor will there be any time soon. Also, Varitek is actually hitting the ball pretty well right now. He is at .357 (5-for-14) over a modest five-game hitting streak, and at .286 (12-for-42) over his last 12 starts, including three doubles, three walks and five RBIs.

11. The Red Sox seem to play better ball when they get their uniforms dirty. With baseball being the most superstitious sport ever, maybe they should all get a little dirty before each game?
— aelarsen

I can see it now. Twenty-five guys rolling around on the infield dirt after batting practice.

12. Tony, Justin Masterson was recently ranked one of the top pitchers in the AL. Hanley Ramirez has been among the top batters in the NL for a few years now. Not that either one of these was a bad trade (Victor Martinez, Josh Beckett, and 2007 World Series MVP Mike Lowell), but these players could be considered "the one that got away." Historically, which other Sox trades have resulted in that? Do you think any of the prospects traded for Adrian Gonzalez will become part of that list?
— Adam

The Red Sox are perfectly content with those trades, even if Masterson and Ramirez star for years to come. Sure, Martinez went elsewhere this offseason, but he gave them a much-needed bat for over a year and his departure allowed the team to pursue Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford. As for the prospects in the Gonzalez trade, I do think you will be hearing plenty from them, but don't take their rise to stardom as any indication that Boston made a mistake. To get a guy like Gonzalez, you have to pony up, and that's what Boston did.

Anthony Rizzo is tearing apart the Pacific Coast League right now, Casey Kelly is 4-1 at Double-A and Reymond Fuentes is batting .311 with 17 steals at high Single-A Lake Elsinore. All three will be factors in San Diego's future, but this is no Jeff Bagwell for Larry Andersen swap. Gonzalez is the real deal and likely worth the cost of three top-notch prospects.

13. Who do you think is the best player on the Red Sox right now? And who do you think is the best baseball player in MLB?
— David

So many factors can come into play in such a debate. For instance, Jacoby Ellsbury obviously has the base-stealing edge on Adrian Gonzalez and David Ortiz has more power than Jason Varitek, but you could make a case that each of them excels at what they do. If I had to pick one it would be Gonzalez, simply because of how superior he is at the plate and the fact that he is phenomenal in the field. He is an all-around threat (aside from the slow-footedness) who understands the game as well as anyone in baseball.

Looking outside of Boston, I always point to Josh Hamilton as my choice for the best player in the game, but he can never stay healthy. He has every tool you need, just has to find a way to use them. Since he is sidelined, I'll take Jose Bautista of Toronto. Not only is a monstrous threat at the plate with almost no real way to get beat, but he's a fine outfielder with a very good arm. Apologies to St. Louis Cardinals fans, who will always stand behind their man, Albert Pujols.

14. Why did NESN take away the old theme songs when the games started? The new one just doesn't get me pumped like the other.
— Jerry

Sorry to hear you aren't as pumped like you were last year and in years past. I'm working on something of my own, a little piece on the synthesizer, and hopefully it will catch on with the production team. I call it "Jerry's Song," and it's sure to get fans excited.

15. Do you see Jed Lowrie taking over the starting shortstop job this year if he keeps up the hitting he's showing?
— Soxfan34

Well, he already has, hasn't he? Certainly, Marco Scutaro's oblique injury made the decision a whole lot easier for Terry Francona, but Lowrie was getting the bulk of the starts even before that. Now, Lowrie has cooled off some. He's hitting .270 with no home runs in May. Also, his defense has been shaky. If and when Scutaro is ready, it might end up being a 70-30 split in terms of playing time in favor of Lowrie. For now, he is your starting shortstop.

16. Hey T, when reading about the Sox' "throwback" uniforms for the Cubs game on Saturday, the Globe stories insisted the team did not have lettering on their uniforms in the 1910's and 20's. But they also ran a photo retrospective on the 1918 World Series and there was a picture of Babe Ruth with "Red Sox" on his jersey. What's the skinny on this?
— Gary

As far as I know, the lettering only appeared on road uniforms that year and for a few years around then. I didn't see the photo, but if you get a glimpse of Wrigley Field in the background, that would make sense. If it was at Fenway, then I'm at a loss.

The Red Sox began to use numbers and lettering on a full-time basis by the time the 1930's rolled around.