Editor's note: Part 1 of Tony Lee’s All-Star break mailbag ran on Wednesday. You can read it by clicking here. Below is Part 2.
Hey Tony, I am a first-time writer, but a long-time fan of not only the Red Sox, but also your mailbag. Why hasn’t Hideki Okajima been recalled from Triple-A? He is 5-0 with a 1.57 ERA, and has been absolutely dominant. Even though he struggled somewhat this year with Boston, shouldn’t they give him one more chance to redeem himself, since he has been so valuable in the past?
The organization is well aware of Hideki Okajima's success at Pawtucket, but that's another world. He has been inconsistent at the major league level for two seasons now. If there is a need for a lefty down the road, it’s nice to know he is there and throwing the ball well. But as long as the bullpen is performing well and Franklin Morales is getting some outs in his limited chances, there won't be any need to bring up Okajima. Not right now.
With Ryan Lavarnway tearing up International League pitching, does he project himself into 2012 DH/catching options? May he also be a September call-up?
Yes and yes. It's impossible not to notice what Ryan Lavarnway is doing with the PawSox. After earning Offensive Co-Player of the Year honors in the organization last year, he has taken his offensive game to a whole new level. Lavarnway is hitting .343 with seven home runs and 22 RBIs in just 26 games in International League play. And that's after he hit 14 home runs in 55 games with Double-A Portland. To recap, that's 21 homers in 81 games, and with a very good average as well.
Lavarnway is still working on his game as a defender and may not quite be ready for major league duty as a catcher. However, if by some chance this is it for Jason Varitek (we're not suggesting it has to be), perhaps Lavarnway gets a shot to team with Jarrod Saltalamacchia next season. And if he is not given some major league at-bats in September, I would be very surprised.
What do you think of the possibility of getting Coco Crisp back to help out in the outfield?
–William T. Gardner
Considering the Athletics have virtually tumbled out of contention, they may want to get something for Coco Crisp, a free agent-to-be. It's not out of the realm of possibility that he could be used as a right-handed bat (Crisp is a switch hitter, but is usually better against lefties) to platoon with J.D. Drew if by some chance Darnell McDonald is not the answer going forward. However, Crisp is a legit center fielder and will probably find a home where he can play that position on a regular basis.
With all the injuries, does Scott Kazmir deserve a look? He's always pitched well in Boston when he was a Ray. I’m sure he’s better than John Lackey and Kyle Weiland and could be insurance for Wakefield late in the season?
Wow, a Scott Kazmir mention. Like the way Sonny is thinking outside the box, although I’m not so sure he would be an upgrade over John Lackey or Kyle Weiland, or anyone else the Sox have available right now. Kazmir was waived by the Angels after posting a 6.17 ERA in parts of two injury-riddled seasons in Anaheim.
Texas worked him out recently. If you see reports that Boston does the same, you’ll know that one of the injuries to the starters is more severe than was originally thought.
When will Clay Buchholz get back? Could it be next week?
Clay Buchholz has been out long enough now that it is very likely he will need some rehab starts before returning to the big club. The fact that he has not even thrown on a mound since he went on the disabled list suggests he needs some time. Buchholz was planning on throwing (flat ground) last Sunday, but that was put off. He may throw during the break, and perhaps the team can plot a path for his return once they get back to action.
How do you think we measure up to the Yanks?
Ah, a question from the great town of Grafton, Mass.
The Red Sox entered the break leading the Yankees by one game (even on the loss side), and I don't expect there to be much separation between the two teams in the second half. Both have some injury concerns (Boston with the rotation, New York with Alex Rodriguez), but both are loaded. One thing to watch with the Yankees will be whether the rotation and bullpen, both of which have been very good, hold up down the stretch. Of course, the Yanks figure to be players for some arms at the deadline.
Why can't major league pitchers be trained to be better hitters? As teenagers, they were probably the best hitters on their teams. Are they afraid that they will get hurt during batting practice? When is the last time anyone got hurt during batting practice (other than a pitcher shagging flies)? I really don’t understand why pitchers can't be competitive batters also.
Well, these ain't teenagers anymore. They are professional pitchers who likely haven't hit much since entering the professional ranks. In a game of specialization, that puts them behind their colleagues in a heartbeat. Many of the best hitters were probably among the best pitchers on their teams as teenagers, but they would be lit up if they took the mound.
Also, the reason you do not hear of any pitchers getting hurt in batting practice is because they aren't taking it. If they did, you would become more familiar with oblique strains and other various ailments. As it is, we've seen our fair share. It was just last year that Josh Beckett had to miss a start because he aggravated a back strain taking cuts in preparation for interleague play.
You may recall that Bartolo Colon was injured at the plate while with the Red Sox in 2008. He made just one start after that injury in June, which he suffered when he took some mighty hacks at a few Cole Hamels offerings.
Jon Lester suffered a lat strain in his first start after a few games in National League parks. Might just be coincidence, but those injuries would be more common if these guys were needlessly taking BP all year just to get ready for a few hacks in the middle of June.
I like Jed Lowrie a lot. I think the kid has talent. He can hit and can play the field. He reminds a lot of Dustin Pedroia (I may be wrong but that's how I see it). Has he squandered his opportunity with the Red Sox, or is he on the verge of doing that? I sure hope not. It’s just every time he seems to put it all together, he gets hurt again. Maybe he is just too fragile. What do you think?
Jed Lowrie has had a series of physical ailments with the Red Sox, from wrist problems to the debilitating bout with mono to the current shoulder problem. He certainly hasn't squandered any opportunities, and the team is looking forward to getting him back at some point in the second half.
Is it just me or does it seem like there are lot more injuries than there used to be 10 or 20 years ago? Are people just that much softer today or are the training regimes so specialized today that anytime someone does something out of the norm they are not conditioned to be able to do it?
I think much of it has to do with the bigger contracts. Teams aren't willing to let a guy play through pain as readily as they were in the past. He may hurt himself even more, and then the organization ends up throwing millions at a guy stuck on the sidelines.
Also, there is increased knowledge about medical issues now. A few decades ago, a player with a sore side might just think he has a sore side and that it will go away. Put me in, coach. Now, a test and an exam can show this to be a strained oblique, something that needs attention in order to avoid a complete flare-up.
Do you think the Red Sox will re-sign David Ortiz? He and Adrian Gonzalez really make that lineup. Also, if Papi stays with Boston and retires with the team do you think his number will be up with the greats like Williams, Fisk, Rice and Pesky?
Many thought David Ortiz would be one and done after the team picked up his one-year option for 2011, but he's putting forth the quintessential contract push right now. It would be hard to imagine the organization not figuring out a way to bring back someone who is producing like Ortiz is, especially with a DH market that has been somewhat favorable to teams in the past couple of years. Ortiz is the best in the business at his position, but his one-dimensional nature means he will not necessarily cost an arm and a leg to bring back.
The numbers you see retired with the Red Sox are those of players who have been elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Pesky, because of his lifetime of service to the organization, was the one exception. If Ortiz winds his way to Cooperstown somehow (that's a debate for another time), then No. 34 will sit high above the grandstands in right field one day.