One week into the games, pitchers are gradually being stretched over innings to build arm strength. Jon Lester ventured into the third inning during Wednesday's start while Daniel Bard is gearing up for more innings.
While they sharpen up, let's go over some of this week's mailbag questions.
Lars Anderson looks like a new man this spring, and I heard he worked really hard this off season to gain some strength and fine tune his swing. With Adrian Gonzalez signed long term, and with Youk who can easy shift over to first if needed along with the hype of Middlebrooks being all but ready. Is Lars a good bargaining chip for the Sox right now? -Kevin Barnes, Louisville, KY
Absolutely. Unfortunately for Anderson, he's stuck in a tough spot since there's a logjam preventing his eventual ascension to the Red Sox roster.
Like you mentioned, Gonzalez won't be going anywhere, anytime soon and Youkilis could spell him in case of an emergency or injury. As the prized gem of the prospects, Middlebrooks is higher up on the food chain.
Shoot, even first baseman Mauro Gomez is talented enough to patrol the position in Triple-A Pawtucket.
So yes, Anderson is expendable. Remember that last season, he was almost dealt to his hometown of Oakland, but Rich Harden never passed his physical. But if he continues to do well in spring training and in the minors, he'll certainly catch the eye of other teams needing an upgrade at first.
For the time being, he'll need to keep producing big numbers to catch the attention of others.
Hi Didier – In your opinion, who will be the biggest surprise player who will break camp with the Sox on the 25-man roster and who is the biggest name player who will be left on the outside, either being waived/sent down/outright released? -Phil Crofton, MD
The way he's been pitching right now, Felix Doubront may not be a surprise when the 25-man roster is set in stone. After Doubront's outing, Valentine lauded the lefty saying he was ahead ?? in terms of progression ?? of most of the pitchers.
I already did a story on his adjustment with his footwork and how it's supposed to increase his velocity and reduce the strain on his body. Once he masters the new delivery, Doubront could be poised for a good deal of success if he remains healthy.
I won't speculate just yet on who could be left on the outside, but clearly the "big names" are the veteran pitchers that are vying for the last rotation spot. In addition to Doubront, Vicente Padilla, Aaron Cook and Andrew Miller have their sights on a roster spot.
So inevitably, someone will get left out.
How good is the Red Sox pitching rotation going to be this year? -Bryan Walasewicz, Southington, CT
My man, that's the million-dollar question. You can never predict what will happen and which injuries could crop up. Right now, we only know of three surefire players ?? Bard will likely make it, but it's not official ?? in the rotation.
All the other questions are in abundance. Will Clay Buchholz bounce back? Can Bard make the transition? Who the heck will be the last starter? If Buchholz and Bard live up to the billing alongside Josh Beckett and Jon Lester, it'll be a promising season.
Beckett posted the lowest ERA in his career in 2011 and Lester is pitching with a chip on his shoulder, so it should be an interesting battle.
Hello Didier, if Josh Beckett is so hung up on having to pitch to Jason Varitek, do you think, maybe, he should retire too? Are all the rest of the pitchers on the team missing something in their game by not bemoaning the loss of one particular catcher? Do you think it will be the catcher's fault if Beckett loses a game? -Ozzie, Southport
It's not like Beckett is losing any sleep over it. Baseball players are typically creatures of habit. Since Beckett came to Boston, he's thrown exclusively to Varitek and, like most changes, it will take adapting.
He's made the strides this spring to cultivate relationships with Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Kelly Shoppach and Ryan Lavarnway, so he's putting in the work. But it's a big story because Varitek played an integral role in his success as well.
Just wondering are the Red Sox about finished with adding people who may help the team whether it is pitching or position players??? What do you think or see coming down whether via trade or signing a player or a pitcher before opening day???? I know there are a few free agents left including Roy Oswalt let me know I am interested to have your opinion on this. -Jim, Denver
For now, Ben Cherington said they're done. I believe it's true at this time. Clearly, Roy Oswalt isn't ready to commit to a team and is waiting to see if more teams come calling later in spring training ?? or earlier in the season.