OK, so the Sox probably won’t run the table, but for at least one day, Boston fans can say that their fandom once again lies with a winning organization. And although we’re only 0.617 percent through the season after Monday’s Opening Day showdown in the Bronx, there are plenty of reasons for the Red Sox to be encouraged.
Jon Lester‘s first start went well, the bullpen was impressive, the offense showed patience, Jackie Bradley Jr. approached his big league debut with plenty of confidence and the newcomers played a pivotal role in the season-opening win. But as is always the case with Boston sports, there are still questions that everyone wants answered.
Some of those questions were tossed in this week’s MLB mailbag. I decided to take those and throw in my two cents, so let’s check out this week’s edition, shall we?
What impact will Pedro Martinez have on the Red Sox’ pitching staff?
— Joseph Tingley, via Facebook
Well, let’s just say that having Pedro on your side can’t hurt.
Pedro Martinez’s hiring isn’t likely to make or break the Red Sox’ season, but bringing in the two-time Cy Young winner as a special assistant will do more than just put a smile on the faces of those who watched him make hitters look foolish during the late ’90s and early 2000s. The right-hander’s stuff was downright filthy in his heyday, but Martinez was also one of the smartest pitchers to ever play the game. Any wisdom he can impart on the pitching staff will be an asset, which is especially true at a time when the Red Sox’ coaching staff is consistently preaching the benefits of being aggressive on the mound.
Where Martinez has the potential to make the biggest impact, though, is in the future. The Red Sox’ big league pitching staff features mostly veterans, so the Sox would be wise to have Martinez focus his efforts on those still developing down on the farm. In fact, Martinez has already been very hands-on with prospect Rubby De La Rosa — whom he’s actually related to — and that relationship should help the 24-year-old’s continued development throughout this season and into next.
Martinez’s presence also has the potential to extend beyond those currently in the organization. Martinez has an infectious personality and is considered a hero in his native Dominican Republic. That could help facilitate and expedite discussions with foreign prospects, meaning the team’s overall scouting department could see improvements.
It’s hard to look at Martinez’s status within the Red Sox organization and say he’s going to do X, Y, Z, and this is going to be the end result. I think in a few years, though, you’ll start hearing more about his overall impact, and I expect it to be right in line with his big league career: all good things.
What is the status of Alex Hassan’s foot injury and his prospects for this season?
— Bob Ryan, Dennis, Mass.
Alex Hassan has battled back from the stress fracture in his left foot. Unfortunately, the injury kept him from participating in spring training with the big league club. He should contribute at Triple-A Pawtucket this season, though, and he remains on Boston’s 40-man roster, which indicates that the Red Sox are still hopeful the 25-year-old can make strides offensively. Hassan has always been a patient hitter, but he’ll need to develop more power out of a corner outfield position in order for his stock to rise any further.
Can Frank Thomas pitch as good as video games say he can?
— Joe Pati, via Facebook
Maybe. Who am I to doubt The Big Hurt?
Why didn’t the Red Sox go get Josh Hamilton in the offseason?
— William Critcher, via Facebook
Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.
That’s really the best way to sum up the Red Sox’ mindset this past offseason when it came to going after free agents. Having been plagued by lengthy contracts before, Boston was steadfast on not going over three years for anyone, and Josh Hamilton ended up receiving a five-year, $125 million deal from the Angels.
The Red Sox’ philosophy seems to be that they’ll overpay in terms of annual salary if it means they can cut down on the number of years. Sure, no team wants to overpay, but minimizing the number of years on a deal eliminates the risk of ending up with a lingering issue should the player not produce — a la Carl Crawford.
Hamilton is a talented player, but there are some red flags — most notably, his controversial past — that make giving the outfielder a lucrative, long-term deal a risky investment. If Hamilton was unable to secure a deal over three years, I would have understood the Red Sox gambling a bit. All things considered, they didn’t want to add what could amount to a bad contract just months after putting themselves in a much better position financially.
Over/under on games played by David Ortiz? 90?
— Jeffrey Ryan Perkins, via Facebook
If that’s your over/under, I’ll be an optimist and take the over. At this point, though, it’s hard to put a finger on David Ortiz’s season. Not only must he get back on the field, but he must also show an ability to stay on it. And judging by the setbacks he seems to have whenever he really starts to ramp up his rehab, that’s hardly a guarantee.
I guess “cautiously optimistic” is a more accurate description of how I feel.
Over/Under on wins by John Lackey? 8?
— Jason Tomassetti, via Facebook
I’ll go with the over here. I don’t expect John Lackey to be lights-out, but I think he’ll be effective enough to give the Red Sox a chance to win. They’ll take advantage of that chance more than eight times.
Is there a chance that if Jose Iglesias actually performs — plays remarkably in the field and manages to hold his own at the plate — Stephen Drew might get traded or benched?
— Sean Cronin, via Facebook
Stephen Drew will be the Red Sox’ starting shortstop when he returns. That doesn’t end the discussion, though.
It’s hard to envision any scenario in which Drew is relegated to the bench. The Red Sox have 9.5 million reasons to immediately insert him into the starting lineup when he’s healthy, and he’ll certainly provide an offensive upgrade over Jose Iglesias. If Iglesias performs well during the opportunity he’s been given, though, I don’t think it’s far-fetched to think the Red Sox could try to use their shortstop situation to their advantage, and at least see what the market looks like.
Iglesias’ future is as hard to predict as anybody’s right now, mostly because of the organization’s overall depth at shortstop. I know that sounds funny, as “shortstop” and “depth” haven’t exactly been synonymous in Boston since the departure of Nomar Garciaparra, but there are plenty of talented middle infielders coming up through the system.
Iglesias was once considered the shortstop of the future, but that title now belongs to 20-year-old Xander Bogaerts — assuming the Red Sox keep him at shortstop, which is the current plan. The Sox also have 2012 first-round pick Deven Marrero, 19-year-old Dominican shortstop Jose Vinicio and 19-year-old Tzu-Wei Lin of Taiwan. That means Iglesias’ long-term future hangs in the balance a bit, and the roller-coaster ride he’s been on over the past year only adds to the questions.
Iglesias had a chance last season to secure a starting shortstop job for at least 2013. All he really had to do was — as you put it, Sean — hold his own at the plate, as his defense is already among baseball’s best. Instead, he hit .118 (8-for-68), which was concerning enough that the Red Sox thought it was in their best interest to sign Drew, who could end up being a one-year stopgap. To Iglesias’ credit, though, he showed up to spring training having put on 10-15 pounds of muscle, and he produced. His offensive game looks very much improved, and he is playing his usual fantastic defense, which has effectively put him back onto the map after last season’s offensive struggles — both in the majors and in the minors — sent his stock plummeting.
At this point, the most likely scenario is that when Drew returns to game action, Iglesias gets sent down to Triple-A to continue developing. As much progress as he’s made, there’s still room for improvement. If Iglesias gets hot over the next couple of weeks, the Red Sox will have no choice but to consider their options. That doesn’t mean a trade is forthcoming, but they will have some added flexibility if that’s the route they elect to go down.
One scenario I think we can rule out is Iglesias starting over Drew. Regardless of what happens, as long as Drew’s here, he’s the team’s starter.
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