Hey, everyone, and welcome to the first mailbag in 1 A.D. After Deliverance! Camp has been proceeding rather routinely so far .a little hoo-hah about A-Rod that had some entertainment value, but little else, and the first steps toward the remaking of the pitching staff, with Terry Francona proceeding cautiously with Schilling, Wells and Wade Miller. Hope to hear from many of you this season as always, it will be a riveting one, even if theres no guarantee that the outcome will be as satisfying for Sox fandom as last years was.
On to the questions:
I know you are going to be asked these questions ad nauseum, so let me be the first. What is your assessment of the Clement, Wells, Miller, Mantei and Halama trade for Pedro, Lowe, Williamson, Adams and Meyers. It seems like an upgrade to me if Miller stays healthy, Clement can cut down on his walks, and Wells can pitch at least 180 innings. Also, what is the first base situation going to look like. Now that Millar has arms like Giambi, is he going to hit 40 home runs or what? Isn't it nice to be able to say "World Champion" Boston Red Sox....finally!
Larry Delhagen, Allentown, PA
A: Larry D, youre covering a lot of ground here. I think Tim Wakefield had it right last weekend when he told me that you dont replace a Pedro Martinezfor most of his term here, he pitched great, at times pitched hurt, and while he got under the skin of some teammates, was not the giant pain in the butt he was portrayed as when he left. Sure, he got more than his share of special treatment, and probably struggled with being upstaged by Schill, but there are numerous instances all around MLB of resident superstars getting the velvet glove treatment from their bosses. It remains to be seen if Theo and the Trio may one day rue letting Pedro walk, though I wouldnt have given him a guaranteed fourth year, either, and have my doubts about Pedros story that he would have taken a three-year deal from the Sox had they offered it.
That said, Theo did what on paper looks like a good job of rebuilding the Sox rotation, though well have to reserve judgment because Miller looks like he wont start the season in the rotation, we dont know if Wells can avoid breaking down, and Clement has yet to prove that he can be a big-time winner, though frankly, I like his chances with this lineup behind him.
Millar will get much of the playing time at first base, with the Sox looking at some options as backup. Youkilis will have to show he can play first to win a backup job, but the Sox also are looking at some left-handed hitting options, like Roberto Petagine and Dave Berg. David McCarty is also trying to win a job as right-handed backup DH/first baseman; hes here on a minor-league contract.
Its also the kind of situation that Theo should be able to address fairly easily toward the end of camp, when teams are cutting down rosters and a good backup could become available.
Gordon...We all pretty much know who the starters will be but could you shed some light on who we will see on the bench this year? What about surprises in the pitching staff?
Stephen Furbush, Abington
A: Steven, I think the Dave Roberts deal cemented Theos first choices of players to fill the backup roles on this club: Jay Payton, who once roomed with Nomar at Georgia Tech, will be the backup outfielder, and Ramon Vazquez, a one-time starter at short for the Padres, will back up at second and short and also played nine games at third last season.
The Sox have suggested they plan to go with 11 pitchers, though that could change depending on guys health. That leaves five bench jobs open: Doug Mirabelli, Payton and Vazquez are locks. Roberto Petagine, a two-time International League MVP who has spent the last six years playing in Japan (and posting better numbers than Hideki Matsui, as Hall of Fame scribe Peter Gammons noted), is trying to win a job as a backup first baseman and left-handed hitting DH. David McCarty is here on a minor league contract also trying to win the backup 1B spot. Adam Stern, the Rule 5 pick who hit .322 in Double-A for the Braves last season, is a left-handed hitting OF who will try to persuade the Sox to keep an extra outfielder. Veterans like Dave Berg (who can also play the infield) and Billy McMillon are trying to win jobs as well, Roberto Petagine, a former minor-league stud who has played in Japan for the last and Kevin Youkilis would much prefer to stick as a backup corner man than go back to Pawtucket.
What's the deal with Roberto Petagine? I was wondering if reports of his signing were exaggerated or if he's working out with the team. If so, what is there to know about him? And while we're somewhat near the subject, what's the situation regarding Denny Tomori. Also, what are some good sources for stats on baseball in Japan?
Wyatt Finberg, Burlington, VT
A: Wyatt, no exaggeration re Petagine, as I noted in my answer above. Denney (he prefers to spell it with an e and has his first name on the back of his uniform a la Ichiro) has a lot of mileage on himhes 37 and has pitched 14 years in Japan. He was signed on the eve of camp to a non-guaranteed contract with a big-league invite, and is a longshot to win a spot in the pen. Try baseball-links.com as a place to find Japanese stats.
A lot of fans have raised the question about who will be left out of the starting rotation if and when all the starters are healthy at the same time. Has the prospect of a six-man rotation been considered? Stats show beyond a doubt that pitchers really benefit from an extra day of rest, and since Schilling and Wells are up there in years, this could really help them to be fresh come September. With Halama as the long reliever, there's no reason to waste a talent like Arroyo by sticking him in the pen. I say, if they're healthy, start 'em.
John Corrado, Port St. Lucie
A: John, I dont think youll see the Sox go to a six-man rotation. Right now, theyre hoping for five healthy arms, with Schilling coming back from the ankle, Wade Miller coming slowly because of a frayed cuff and David Wells back always a magnet for trouble. If Miller makes it back, I think the Sox might stick Arroyo back in the pen; both he and Wakefield have shown they can do both jobs, but Arroyo may be able to bounce back better on back-to-back days.
Hey Gordon Edes, what team do you see Byung-Hyun-Kim going to be traded to? Wouldn't it best for the Red Sox to stay with him until Wade Miller comes back from injury and take the chance of his value going up? Word out of Spring Training is that BK is throwing the best he thrown in the last 2 years
Billy Gonzales, Lynn
A: Billy, its in the Sox interests to pump up B.K. if they want to trade him, so I wouldnt put too much stock in early reports. Hey, if he proves me wrong, more power to him, but I dont think Kim would be a hard sell in the Sox clubhouse, and that both the pitcher and the club would be better off if he were traded. Keep an eye on the Rockies; theyve been interested right along, but so far the sides havent made it work.
Now that Pedro is gone, who was often viewed as somewhat of a distraction at times, do you think the atmosphere in the Sox clubhouse will
be even looser?
Looking ahead to 2006, what do you think the chances are of Johnny Damon re-signing, considering his agent is Scott Boras?
Patrick Espey, Hoboken, NJ
A: Good Lord, Patrick, can it be even looser than it was last season? Pedro was very much a part of the antics; he loved fooling around when he wasnt pitching, dashing around the clubhouse naked, cracking wise on guys, etc.
Damon, I think, will be a tough call. No way, in my view, that the Sox sign him before the season, or that Damon takes their offer now.
I agree with Barry Bonds that the media is out to get him in a way (he never liked them, they never liked him) and I also understand why (connection to BALCO, etc). But if he passes the drug tests this year and continues to put up monster numbers (in the "post-steroids" era) will reporters back off and admit they might have been wrong? Also, what is the status of the BALCO case? It seems like the government is dragging their feet letting all these rumors fly around. We want CLOSURE on this issue, not more idiots stepping to the podium trying to destroy baseball because they werent as good as Mark McGwire.
Colin Crowley, Brooklyn, NY (from Newton, MA)
A: Colin, the BALCO grand jury investigation remains ongoing. I agree with you that there is no love lost between Bonds and the media, but it was a
federal grand jury that placed the spotlight on Bonds alleged steroid use when it indicted his personal trainer and others, not a crusading newspaper reporter. Passing a drug test this year neither proves nor disproves Bonds used steroids in the past, and there will be no testing of human growth hormone. And a number of prominent baseball people, while holding their noses, think Cansecos book will ultimately prove a service by forcing baseball to deal with the issue.
Thanks to you and everyone at Boston.com for keeping this former New Englander in the loop despite now living in Texas. My question is - I've read that it's not necessarily set in stone that Renteria will hit second this year. Why not? Seems to me having him at 2 would be a huge upgrade over last year, and Bellhorn can settle in at the 9 spot, providing a little pop at the bottom of the lineup. Are you pretty confident that that's how things will end up, or do you see Bellhorn or Mueller hitting 2nd, and Renteria down in the 6 or 7 slot? Thanks.
Brian Nicholson, Frisco, TX
A: Brian, I do believe Renteria will hit in the 2-hole, though he has over 1,800 at-bats in his career hitting either No. 6 or No. 7, compared to
2,500 at-bats in the 2-hole, and has been productive everywhere he has hit.
The argument for hitting him lower is that he is a good RBI man and a clutch hitter, but certainly from a purists standpoint, a contact hitter would be preferable to a strikeout guy like Mark Bellhorn, though Bellhorns high on-base percentage made him more effective than many of us predicted.
Hi Gordon. I'm excited about Jay Payton in a Boston uniform, much as I was thrilled when Dave Roberts was acquired late last season. But I'm concerned with how Payton fits into the club's plans this season. Trot is obviously healthy, so right field is spoken for. Payton is such a valuable asset that not playing him every day seems like a waste. Are the Sox just trying to hedge their bets in case Nixon or Damon get injured? What other qualities does Payton bring to the team and the clubhouse as a part-time player?
Matt Hemeon, Methuen, MA
A: Matt, I have an interview scheduled with Payton tomorrow (Tuesday) so
stayed tune for more on him, but he will be called upon to play the Gabe Kapler role for the Sox, platooning with Trot in right and spelling Damon occasionally in center. Payton was an everyday player as recently as 2003 with the Rockies, then signed with the Padres as a free agent and played 143 games. The switch from Coors Field to Petco Park took its toll on his power numbers, as he dropped from 28 HRs to 8. Hes 32 now, more inclined to accept a part-time role, and has always been considered a strong clubhouse guy wherever hes played.
Gordon, do you think there is pressure on Francona to use his bullpen differently this year with Williamson gone, replaced by a guy with a medical history, and with Timlin and Embree being used so much last year? Do they need one more guy on the "a" list of relievers?
Chris Fontecchio, Seattle
A: Chris, Matt Mantei has been getting a lot of attention early in camp, and deservedly so, because he has been throwing free and easy; if he can stay healthy, he should be a huge asset in the pen. But theres a big if attached there, and I think the Sox will definitely be looking for possible bullpen fits during camp. Keep an eye on how Anastacio Martinez does in camp, too.
Since he was recently inducted into the Hall of Fame, do you see the Sox retiring Wade Boggs number ? Furthermore, do you think the Sox will retire Jim Rice's number if he is not elected into the Hall or is that a strict criteria as to whether a number gets retired?
Carlo Rosentini, Revere, MA
A: Carlo, neither Boggs nor Rice fit the teams criteria for retiring a number, at least as it is presently stated. The criteria: election to the National Hall of Fame; at least 10 years played with the Sox; and finishing a career with the club. Now, the Sox fudged that last one in order to retire Carlton Fisks number 27; he, of course, finished his playing career with the White Sox, but was brought back in a consultants role with Boston, in part so they could say he finished his career here. Rice, of course, has yet to be elected to the Hall of Fame, though his best chance may come this season. Boggs played his first 11 seasons with the Sox, then played for the Yanks and D-Rays, so I doubt theyll retire his number.
How close did the Sox come to trading Manny this winter? I had read reports, down here in NY, that a deal with the Mets was all but done until a few last minute snags killed the trade. Was a trade involving Manny that close to happening?
Matt Minutaglio, NYC
A: No, Matt, my understanding is that it wasnt. The teams never came close to an agreement on the money. The Sox would have done it, though; they were prepared to sign free agent J.D. Drew.
Do you think the main reason Mientkiewicz was traded instead of Millar had to do with how much the Sox got in return ? More importantly, do you feel comfortable with Millar defensively at first base ? I have to admit he scares the heck out of me even in the outfield. He has no range and I never feel at ease when the ball is hit to him. I just believe that a good glove at first improves the entire infield so it puzzled me when Mientkiewicz was sent packing.
KC, New Jersey
A: No, I think what it showed, K.C., is how much more value the Sox place on offense than defense. Millar was one of the teams most productive hitters in the second half and as a right-handed hitter, gives the Sox lineup much better lefty-righty balance. Im like youI loved the way Minky could pick it, but the Sox statistical models have proven pretty accurate so far, so I think youve got to give Theo the benefit of the doubt on this one.
Do you think Brian Cashman Will leave the Yankees after this season? Between dealing with George, Giambi, and everything else that goes with being Yankee GM?
A: Jon, If the Yankees dont win this year, he may have no choice. They win, and George pays a premium to keep him, because his contract is up. Hes a terrific GM and a very down-to-earth person.