The Red Sox are within a game of .500 and have a chance to even their mark for the first time all year. Somewhat hard to imagine, given the talent on this roster. But that's the hand we're dealt, and because of it there are loads of questions to be asked. You ask. We answer. Here is the latest edition of the Red Sox mailbag.
I've read the Red Sox have contacted Bengie Molina. Have you heard anything about this?
Molina's name has been out there since spring training as fans, and apparently the front office, seek other options in case the Jarrod Saltalamacchia-Jason Varitek tandem does not work out. I'm sure they will continue to kick the tires on some guys, but it would seem a bit rash to make an overhaul right now. Red Sox pitching just went through a historic stretch of quality efforts not seen by this franchise in almost 30 years. Certainly, the catching had a lot to do with that. Now, we know that both Saltalamacchia and Varitek have struggled at the plate, but both have shown signs of turning the corner in that department as well.
Saltalamacchia has six hits in his last 23 at-bats, good for a .261 average, heading into Monday's action. Included in that improved run are three of his five doubles this season, a couple of which were absolute bombs that would've left other parks. And Varitek is 7-for-26 (.269) over his last eight games. Those numbers will not make anyone forget Carlton Fisk, but the Sox would be pleased as punch if they got such marks from those two, while continuing to get remarkable production out of the pitching staff.
Molina has had a nice career. Just not sure Boston needs to race out and bring in someone like that right now.
Do you think we can expect to see a hefty trade package going out before the All-Star Game in return for a veteran catcher, starting pitcher or more beef for our bullpen? Something like Marco Scutaro, Mike Cameron and Lars Anderson? It seems like the Sox shake things up in July every couple of years, and this year seems as good as any.
I will agree that this is one year where a move is likely, simply for the fact that this team was put together to win now. If something needs to be fixed, you can bet Theo Epstein will try to fix it. One factor in all of this is the current injuries to Scutaro and to Pawtucket infielder Yamaico Navarro. The Red Sox had great depth at positions on the left side of the infield, with those two, Jed Lowrie and Jose Iglesias in the mix. If teams in need of a shortstop came calling, perhaps Boston could have something to offer up. Right now, they do not, and they won't until those two are healthy.
The area that could see more improvements is in the bullpen, especially if Bobby Jenks and Dan Wheeler struggle to find their old form. Those moves do not necessarily require a big package of players, but it is possible the guys you mentioned could be involved if anything goes down.
Carl Crawford seems to be finding his swing. When do you see him moving up in this lineup? He is a threat anywhere but sticking him in the bottom of the lineup does not seem to be the best place to utilize his abilities. Your thoughts?
The key guy in all of this is Dustin Pedroia. As long as manager Terry Francona is willing to wait out Pedroia's current slump, and it appears he is, then there aren't many places to which you can move Crawford. He won't bat leadoff, not as long as Jacoby Ellsbury is playing the way he is. And if Pedroia is staying put, that doesn't really give Crawford many spots until you get to the lower half of the lineup.
Surely, Crawford could be bumped up a spot or two or even three, which could get him an extra at-bat now and again. And both Pedroia and Francona have said that the speedy left fielder will eventually find his way back to the top of the lineup. But something would have to change for that to happen, either Pedroia's slump getting even worse, or an injury to someone else.
One thing we have to keep in mind. It's one thing to be the No. 8 hitter for San Diego or Minnesota or any one of these offenses that offer up next to nothing. When you're hitting eighth in this lineup, whether it is clicking or not, that's another thing. Essentially, somebody has to hit eighth. That'll be Crawford until something happens.
How is Andrew Miller doing?
It has been a mixed bag for Miller so far. He has a 2.45 ERA in six starts for Pawtucket, but an alarming 21 walks in 25 2/3 innings. The lefty has allowed only 14 hits in that span, none of which are homers, and has 19 strikeouts. It just goes to show that Miller can still be very good if he stops hurting himself. He has dominated many hitters at the Triple-A level, but he won't see the bigs again until he curbs his wildness.
Whatever happened to Dennys Reyes?
Reyes was designated for assignment after a putrid performance in Cleveland early this year. He threw just one of 12 pitches for strikes, hit two men and walked another in an 8-4 loss. He was gone within the next few days, cleared waivers and accepted an extended spring training assignment. Perhaps you will hear his name again down the road. For now, he's getting in some extra work and will likely go to Pawtucket soon.
What other prospects do you see getting time this year? I hear Josh Reddick is hitting the ball great in Triple-A right now. Do you see Andrew Miller getting some starts soon? I heard he has been good in Triple-A as well.
Cody, you can see my earlier response on Miller, who remains very interesting but is just too risky right now. Reddick has had a nice start with nine homers in his first 30 games. He'll get the call in the outfield if someone goes down. The one name among position players I was hoping to see at some point is Navarro. He looked really good this spring, particularly with the glove, and opened up on fire for the PawSox. Navarro's path was somewhat blocked by Kevin Youkilis at third and the Lowrie-Scutaro pairing at short, and now he has an oblique strain, so who knows what will happen with him?
Among pitchers, expect to see Felix Doubront and Michael Bowden once again. Doubront has a 1.98 ERA through his first four starts, including 18 K's in 13 2/3 innings. Bowden has a 1.93 mark and four saves out of the bullpen. We all know how the need for arms is a constant in this game.
Do you expect that Tim Wakefield will be on the Red Sox' 25-man roster after the All-Star break? If not, how should the Sox handle what is truly a "difficult" situation in terms of the emotional factor?
Luke, I do expect him to be here. While our last memory of Wakefield was his difficult start against Minnesota the other night, he has provided some very nice value early on. You will recall his excellent start against Seattle on May 1, as well as several relief outings in April that saw him eat up valuable innings while the rotation struggled. The numbers are not always pretty, but the versatility Wakefield provides gives Francona insurance in several situations.
Do you think it's time the Red Sox trade Daisuke Matsuzaka? If they are able to trade him, who do you think would take his spot in the rotation?
I think we get a Matsuzaka trade inquiry every week, and for some reason I keep answering them. Guess I'm a sucker.
First, you have to remember that Matsuzaka has a no-trade clause and can block moves if he wants to. Some think he may welcome a trade to the West Coast to be closer to his native Japan. But right now, I can't imagine shipping him to San Francisco or Seattle is in Boston's best interest. As maddening as he can be, you are talking about a guy who is 3-1 with a 1.80 ERA over his last four starts.
If by some chance a trade was made, I would expect Felix Doubront to get heavy consideration for that job, especially if he keeps throwing the ball like he is in Pawtucket.
It seems that Clay Buchholz is struggling to find himself and repeat last year's performance. Do you think it is mechanics, or internal pressure he is putting on himself?
We've been down that pressure road with Buchholz before, but I think we are beyond it. He has become a pretty mature pitcher over the last year or so, and no longer has issues with runners on or is overly analyzing himself or anything like that. I think what you saw from Buchholz early on was a matter of him not quite at full strength leaving spring training. He had some rocky starts near the end of Grapefruit League play that kept him from getting fully stretched out, and because of that, he has still been building up.
That said, I think he is just about there. Buchholz's pitch count increased through each of his first six starts before his valiant, rain-interrupted outing the other day at Fenway. He only went five in that one, but it was five scoreless, which makes him 3-1 with a 2.66 ERA over his last four starts. That seems just about on par with what he did in 2010, don't you think?
Tony, thought it was great to see Jose Iglesias out at shortstop in the ninth inning Sunday. Shouldn't the team be careful to make sure he gets the experience (especially with his bat) at Triple-A before he is brought up long term?
Yes, ideally Iglesias will continue to play at Pawtucket, learn the nuances of the game and try to improve as a hitter. But the injuries to Scutaro and Navarro opened up the door for him. Frankly, as long as it is not a month or more, this could be a very good thing for the 21-year-old. His progress will not be derailed even if he only gets five or 10 at-bats over a two-week span, and whenever he gets called up for good, he will already know the routine. There won't be as many jitters. He'll know how to get to Fenway Park. He'll know the names of the clubhouse attendants. Consider this a great chance for him to get his feet wet, see what being on a major league club is all about. Then, he can hit the ground running when the shortstop job is his.
In the recent games where Kevin Youkilis did not play, who would have gone into the infield to play if Lowrie, Scutaro or Pedroia got hurt? They only have one extra infielder on the bench at full strength.
The Red Sox ran into this quandary the other day when Scutaro was hurt and Youkilis, who was serving as the DH, had to take over at third with Lowrie moving from third to short. It caused them to lose the DH, which put Jonathan Papelbon in the ninth spot in the lineup. The game never lasted long enough to see the closer swing a bat, but it spoke to this issue. If Youkilis was out and then one of the others you mentioned got hurt during the game, you would be left with Adrian Gonzalez at first, Jose Iglesias at short and one of the others at second. Perhaps Mike Cameron or Darnell McDonald would have to play third.
One problem with this situation is that if the team thinks one of the infielders is going to miss any more than two games or so, it's almost imperative that they DL him. Scutaro will probably need the entire stint on the DL, and maybe more, but there could come a time when someone just needs six days or so. However, because the Sox didn't want to be thin in the infield they would have to disable him, giving him an extra nine days on the sidelines while healthy.
Thanks for the info on your blog. I'm a Twins fan in Minnesota and your blog is the ONLY source I could find about what's going on at the park weather-wise.
Happy to help, Dan. Tell your friends and family.