The Red Sox are exactly a third of the way through the regular season, on pace for 90 wins. That is a large enough sample size to make more concrete assessments of the team, while still small enough to look at the big picture and make sure not to rush to judgment.
It also makes for a perfect time to dip into the mailbag and see what we can find. Here is the latest edition of our weekly question-and-answer session.
1. Does a team normally send the next day starting pitcher on to the next town ahead of the team if they have to travel after a night game?
This is rather common. When you are on the road with the team, you often see the next day's starter saying goodbye to some of the fellas and shipping off to the airport. It always makes sense to do so as having your travel dictated by when the team travels could be damaging. For instance, the Red Sox arrived around 3:30 a.m. after the Detroit game Sunday night. Jon Lester didn't need to be a part of that.
2. I know it is a while until the trade deadline, but do you see any deals that could possibly be made? Also, what is your opinion on Daniel Bard in the starting rotation? I remember how he dominated at UNC along with Andrew Miller back when UNC made it to the College World Series.
We have a handful of trade deadline questions I will address later on, so I can focus here on the Bard inquiry. This was a topic of discussion during the spring. With Bobby Jenks signed for two years and a seeming lack of starting pitching depth, some felt as if it was an option to give Bard another run at a starter's role. My guess is that Terry Francona would throw a fit if the front office said they wanted to go this route. He loves Bard out of the bullpen, so often calling him the ultimate weapon. We've seen Francona have to pull off the pedal and give Bard little breaks here and there and it always is a difficult thing — he loves to make the call for the hard-throwing righty.
While the bullpen ends with Jonathan Papelbon, it revolves around Bard. There won't be any rush to mess with that.
On a side note, Miller is doing some pretty good things at Pawtucket. He has a 2.47 ERA in 10 games (nine starts).
3. Tony, with Jason Varitek and Jarrod Saltalamacchia productive do you still see the Red Sox going out at the deadline and getting a better catcher?
There may be a few detractors still out there, but as we sit here today the catching situation is rather ideal. Neither guy will win the MVP, but together Saltalamacchia and Varitek represent a pretty nice pairing. Both have begun to hit a little bit and Saltalamacchia's throwing woes, aside from one he air-mailed Monday night, appear to be a thing of the past. Plus, he's settled in nicely with a few of the pitchers, while Varitek continues to have his partnership with Josh Beckett.
Not that a move is out of the question, but the one thing you will want to keep an eye on is how the catching corps is doing in the minors. The issue going forward will be depth, and the organization will want to have insurance in the event one of these guys gets hurt.
4. Tony, Nick Cafardo of The Boston Globe reported that Josh Reddick is drawing interest from other teams. Do you think that his call-up last week was a "showcase" to show teams that he can play at the major league level?
One has to think that Reddick is going to draw plenty of interest. If the organization is confident that Ryan Kalish will recover from his shoulder injury this year and be ready to assume right field in 2012, it doesn't leave any starting spots for Reddick, who can swing the stick and is still just 24, even though we've been mentioning his name for years.
That said, there was a need for another outfielder at the time of the move. Both J.D. Drew and Darnell McDonald were hurt. I would think that Reddick's promotion served to give the club some depth, but it can't hurt to draw potential suitors when he goes 4-for-8 with three RBIs in his first two games.
5. Do you think Alfredo Aceves can become a full-time starter for us in the future, or will they find someone to replace Daisuke Matsuzaka when the time comes?
It will be either Aceves or Tim Wakefield staying in the rotation in place of Matsuzaka when John Lackey returns, likely this weekend. My guess is they will stick with Wakefield, only because Aceves can be used in many different ways out of the bullpen, whereas Wakefield is somewhat of a one-trick pony as a reliever. As for whether Aceves can be a full-time starter who can get you through September, that remains to be seen. He never has been one at this level.
However, in the times Aceves has had a start or an extended relief stint, he has not shown any issues near the end of his outings. He says he gets stronger as starts drag on, and may get a chance to try and prove that for an extended period of time.
6. Do you think Jason Bay will ever be the slugger the Mets hoped for? So far, he has been a major disappointment. In 116 at-bats, he is hitting just .241 with two home runs. There's only so much you can blame on injuries. Maybe he's just not that good!
— Billy Joe
I read the other day that Bay admitted he is feeling a bit lost at the plate. You say that there's only so much you can blame on injuries, but he had a tricky one with the concussion. There have been guys who have never really been able to come all the way back from those things. Justin Morneau is going through his own struggles in Minnesota, and others have had to leave the game behind. Red Sox fans know how valuable a healthy Bay can be in the middle of a lineup, as do fans in Pittsburgh.
We have to remember that Bay started the season late. A lot of guys go through some ups and downs before getting into a groove and he's behind a lot of other hitters in that pursuit. Give him a little more time. Injuries or not, Bay is better than this.
7. Hi Tony! Thanks for doing all those live blogs for the games. I wanted to ask you with all the recent success the Red Sox have had, which players have surprised or impressed you the most, and why? Also, what is the meaning of life?
Well, Window, thanks for opening up to me. I'd have to say that the biggest surprise to me has been Matt Albers. What he has done for the bullpen has been enormous, especially with injuries to other relievers and some early hiccups for Bard. As for who has been the most impressive, I have to go with Adrian Gonzalez. Not only is he tearing apart opposing pitchers, but he is so smooth in the way he goes about things. Understands the game as well as anyone on the team, and shows it through his confidence.
I'm still trying to find out the meaning of life, but I'm pretty sure chocolate and peanut butter are involved.
8. Tony, with Jonathan Papelbon's upcoming free agency, do you think Red Sox are getting worried? Do you think they will try to extend him now, go after someone like Heath Bell or just wait to end of season and let the dice roll.
The thought coming into this season was that with Papelbon coming off his worst season and Daniel Bard and Bobby Jenks on the roster, the Red Sox could begin to look beyond the Papelbon era. But he has been so good while Bard has been inconsistent and Jenks has been hurt. It has to be giving the front office some more thought to the future with Papelbon.
The Sox closer has given every indication that he will test the free agent waters. While many other players signed early long-term deals with the club, Papelbon has waded through his arbitration-eligible period on a year-by-year basis. Consider this season a powerful contract push, but I imagine both sides will have their time at the bargaining table together. Jenks is a question mark right now due to physical issues this and last year, and Bard is such a valuable force in his current role. Bringing Papelbon back provides loads of stability at the back end.
9. Hey Tony, I know we have a lots live arms, but do you think the Red Sox need to add a Pedro Martinez pitching experience for the playoffs? Or give him a chance to pitch again before he retires?
I was waiting for a Pedro question. As fun as it is to imagine him summoning the ghosts of 1999 and getting the Red Sox through a round, it isn't happening, and it certainly isn't going to be done just to "give him a chance to pitch again before he retires." The organization already did that when it called Martinez back to throw out the first pitch on Opening Day last year. That's enough.
Also, it's May 31. Are we already talking about what the Red Sox need on their playoff roster? They need to get there first. If and when they do, my guess is there will be plenty of quality starters with playoff experience to choose from, and just as many in the bullpen. Nice dream, but it's time to wake up.
10. Any update on how Anthony Ranaudo is doing?
There is actually some very fresh Ranaudo news, so this is a timely question. After beginning his career in the organization by going 4-1 with a 3.33 ERA for low-Single A Greenville, he has been promoted to Salem. Ranaudo had 50 strikeouts in 46 2/3 innings for the Drive. Expect to see him in Double-A by next year and on the radar perhaps by the end of 2012 or early 2013.
11. With the influx of infielders — Jed Lowrie, Marco Scutaro, and now Drew Sutton — do you see the Red Sox packaging one of them off for another pitcher, or maybe even a catcher? I know Scutaro was mentioned before he went on the DL.
It's possible, but now is not the time. It is evident how needed Sutton has been of late. He has filled in for injured infielders at three positions, including Lowrie on Monday night. And Scutaro, who was cleared Monday to take batting practice, has some work to do to get back on the field. If he can come back fully healthy, and if the club is OK with either him or Lowrie holding down the fort until Jose Iglesias is ready, it is not out of the realm of possibility that a trade could involve one of these guys. Just wait until the dust settles and then we can speculate a little bit more.
12. What is the likelihood that the Red Sox acquire Jose Reyes or Carlos Beltran in a trade with the Mets this season?
I can't put a probability on anything like that, but I can say that there is a good likelihood those two will be involved in many rumors. One thing to keep in mind is that they will probably have many suitors, especially with Reyes. Shortstop is an extremely thin position around baseball, at least offensively. The Red Sox are actually one team that can boast of some pretty good production out of the position, and if Scutaro comes back healthy they will have multiple options. I expect Reyes to be dealt, but I think others will pursue him with more vigor than Boston.
13. Do you think that as we get towards the trade deadline, the Red Sox might try to make a major deal. Something like Jacoby Ellsbury and other players for Hanley Ramirez?
It is May 31, but the trade talk is rampant already. At the risk of being too blunt, my response is no. Ellsbury has been the catalyst to this offense since mid-April and a potential cornerstone for years to come. Ramirez, while a great talent, has fallen off the map this year after a down year in 2010, and currently is wrestling with some back issues. I know your proposal was hypothetical, but I just don't see a blockbuster needed for this team. At all. They have a talent-laden roster that will be right in the mix if everyone stays healthy. Trades at the deadline will be of a cosmetic nature, a fix for the pen, a No. 5 starter, a backup catcher, or whatever is needed at the time.
14. What are the REAL chances of unloading John Lackey? I don't think he has what it takes to pitch in this division.
Slim to none, unless you want to pay a massive chunk of his salary not only this year but for the remainder of his five-year deal. That's well over $50 million.
15. I've noticed Jacoby Ellsbury puts a brace or glove of some sort on his left hand when he gets on base. What's that about? Just curious.
— Susan Cassidy
It is to provide some support for any head-first slides he needs to make, during which he obviously leads with his hands. You will see many players do this, but particularly guys like Ellsbury who are very active on the bases.
16. Hey Tony, my friend and I were having an argument. If you had to pick one pitcher and one infielder/outfielder to start a team around, who would you pick?
— David Soolkin
Great arguments. Always fun. Since we are building a team rather than trying to win just one game, youth should be considered. I would love to have Felix Hernandez as my ace for years to come. He is not only great at what he does, but is a big, strong guy that should remain relatively healthy going forward. If I had to win one game, Roy Halladay would get the ball.
About 18 months ago, Joe Mauer would've joined Hernandez as the other cornerstone. Hanley Ramirez would've been an option. But those guys are hurt and having lost seasons.
In their place I would lean toward one of the good young Rockies players, Carlos Gonzalez and Troy Tulowitzki, or one of a handful of slugging first basemen, including Joey Votto, Miguel Cabrera or our own Adrian Gonzalez.
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