Spring has arrived -- and so has the mailbag! Boston Globe baseball writer Gordon Edes checks in every Wednesday with his take on the Red Sox. Ask your question now, and come back next week to see if it was answered.
I just have a few quick questions about Wily Mo Pena, and his role on the Red Sox. He is obviously going to hit for Trot Nixon, and play right field when the opposing team is throwing a lefty, but do you foresee any other spot that he may be helpful in filling for the Sox? For instance maybe a DH role for Ortiz, to give him a day off here and there, and do you think that with the presence of Pena that we will see Manny Ramirez getting more time off than last year, or maybe Manny requesting more time off?
Peter Tympanick, Millville
A: Peter, I think you've pinpointed some of the ways Terry Francona will try to find at-bats for Pena. He supposedly can play all three outfield positions, though his defense has gotten worse, scouts say, as he's gotten bigger. You can certainly envision certain situations when Ortiz needs to rest and/or is hurt where Wily Mo would DH, or play left field with Manny DHing. Pena will be hard-pressed to get 300 at-bats if he plays only against left-handers. Last season, there were only 17 left-handed starters in the AL who threw as many as 162 innings, and that includes David Wells.
Hi Gordon. First time emailing, but religious devotee of your column! Could it be possible that the Arroyo/Pena trade is merely laying the groundwork for a blockbuster Ramirez for Miguel Tejada trade? Sounds crazy, I know, but consider: Theo wants Pena to get at bats, which will only happen if he is a starting
outfielder, not if he just plays against lefties. Makes no sense on its face.
Also, Alex Gonzalez's contract is not guaranteed. They can cut him or trade him
in a package. Hey, somebody has to go out on a limb!
Alan MacEwan, Portland, Maine
A: Alan, somebody's got to live dangerously, it might as well be you. Yeah, you scenario is a longshot, but not without some logic, given that both Miggy and Manny were lobbying for a change of scenery this winter. One thing I can assure you of is that the Sox are not going to cut Gonzalez. He's been spectacular in camp. The other thing that seems clear is Orioles owner Peter Angelos is no fan of Manny.
With the addition of Wily Mo Pena, I feel the Sox outfield got stronger
and more versatile. Do you think Trot Nixon feels threatened, especially since
Pena seems ready for full-time play?
Jim Gilhooly, Nashua, NH
A: Jim, Trot answered that himself upon Pena's arrival, when he told the Boston Herald he didn't interpret Pena's acquisition as a prelude to cutting ties with him next season, and his focus is just on his own performance this season. Privately, he may entertain other thoughts, but it's clear he doesn't want to make an issue of it.
Did the Sox pull the plug on Bronson too quick with Foulke, Curt Schilling,
and Wells coming off of injuries and Matt Clement a huge question mark (not to
mention Beckett's shoulder issues and Wakefield's hot and cold streaks)?
Mike Nurse, Buffalo, NY
A: Mike, it's a legitimate concern, mitigated only by this, that the Sox have Jonathan Papelbon and Lenny DiNardo as guys they could slide into the rotation in case of an injury, and Jon Lester might be ready by midseason. But if the Sox rotation were to have two or three starters go down at the same time, not an unrealistic proposition given the age and health of the Sox rotation, the club would be scrambling. Most teams would. Pena's ceiling made it worth in the risk, in Epstein's opinion.
Nice pick up in Pena, but it leads to many questions. Adam Stern, a good Canadian boy, deserves a shot after his WBC showing and his quality spring to date. Could the Sox deal Trot and platoon Stern and Pena? Or,
here we go again, deal Manny and have Trot, Pena and Stern split LF and RF? Alejandro Machado also deserves to be on this team and he is very versatile, could Alex Cora be on the move as well as Graffanino?
Rob Miller, Fredericton, Canada
A: Rob, we're all enamored with the Canadian Babe Ruth -- did you read how Ortiz raved about him this week? -- but while the Sox like Adam Stern, they need to see what he can do on an everyday basis with 500 at-bats in Triple A. But his terrific performance in the WBC obviously helped his cause. Sox do like Machado, too, but I'd be surprised if they moved Cora. He's a terrific guy to have on the bench, ready to step in at second or short.
Love the Q&A you and TC conduct: I'm sure you'll get hundreds of these
questions in this mailbag, but what do you think of the Arroyo trade? Me, I'm for
it considering that our bullpen seems to be pretty solid (on paper), leaving
Arroyo underutilized as any kind of pitcher. Personally I would have liked to
have seen Clement go so we could keep Arroyo's versatility as a SP if a starter
got hurt and an RP when everyone is healthy or to chew up some innings, but
obviously Clement's asking price would be too high. But Wily Mo (hopefully not
another Mo Vaughn) gives the Sox several options since he can play any OF
position as well as 1B if Youk is needed to fill in at 3B for a struggling Lowell.
A few more questions: Will Wily Mo start the season in the minors to fine tune
that raw talent or will he start to platoon with Nixon from the start? Does
this deal mean that the original Dirt Dog will be gone at the end of the season?
Dan Albrecht, Braintree
A: Dan, you touch most of the bases with this question. Yes, Arroyo represented surplus, and was a better trading chip because of Clement's contract. By the way, Clement has had a very good spring and is working his butt off down here. What would be wrong with Wily Mo becoming another Mo Vaughn? I'm sure the Sox would love Pena to be an MVP-caliber player like Vaughn was. Pena is unproven at first base -- he played there some in the Dominican, including a game that I was at between Aguilas and Licey, in which he booted a ball at a key spot in the game. Sending Pena to the minors is not an option. He is out of options, meaning the Sox, prior to sending him to the minors, would have to place him on waivers, meaning any team would have a crack at getting him. A platoon with Nixon is in order, and even before the Sox got Pena, Nixon's future beyond this season was uncertain because of his pending free agency.
I keep hearing that Jonathan Papelbon will be the fall-back closer option should
Keith Foulke not be physically ready. Does that make any sense? If the long-term
plan is for Craig Hansen to become the closer, shouldn't Mike Timlin hold the fort at
closer? Keep Papelbon in a less stressful environment as a long-man/spot
starter, while also keeping his arm stretched out for starting when Wells gets
dealt or hurt?
Thompson, Portsmouth, NH
A: Thompson, you raise a valid point, and perhaps that's why Terry Francona has yet to reveal his intentions in regard to the bullpen. We should know more in the next week, as Keith Foulke is scheduled to see some game action, including some back-to-back outings. While I believe the Sox have no lack of confidence that Papelbon could handle the closer's role -- look at the success of such young pitchers as Chad Cordero of the Nats and Huston Street of the Athletics -- and I believe the Sox are leaning toward using Papelbon as closer if Foulke is judged unable to do so, your scenario is plausible.
Where is the depth in the bullpen and why does everyone I read think it is much better than last year? Bronson Arroyo has been traded, Rudy Seanez has been insanely bad, David Riske appears to be a huge risk, (every time out these two get hammered), Timlin has a tired arm, and Foulke hasn't pitched yet. So where is the depth?
Bob Noble, Lansing, Mich.
A: Bob, I would caution you not to read too much into spring training results. If we go into the last few days of camp and Riske and Seanez aren't getting anyone out, then yeah, the Sox have some decisions to make. But Josh Beckett has given up 10 hits and 6 earned runs in 8 innings this spring. Are you worried about him? Jon Lester has given up 12 hits and 13 earned runs in 6 innings; is he no longer a top prospect? Julian Tavarez has thrown only one inning for the Sox and looked good for the Dominicans in the WBC; does he count? And the encouraging thing for the Sox is if these guys do get hit, the Sox have guys like Manny Delcarmen and Lenny DiNardo and Craig Hansen who can be summoned, sooner than later. That looks like depth to me.
I am extremely disappointed that you didn't read my post, it's the third time I have submitted a post in the mailbag. I need an apology from you. It seems that Greenfield isn't recognized again.
Douglas Bruce, Greenfield
A: Hey, Doug, I can assure you that as a guy who lives almost as close to Greenfield as I do to Boston, I've got nothing against Greenfield. We get dozens of submissions a week, and I try to pick a variety of questions to answer, from a variety of places. Obviously, many questions address similar topics, so it could be that I answered a question much like yours. But by all means, keep firing away.
Should the Sox try to swing a deal for Alfonso Soriano. I know it is not a must at second, but this guy could do some damage in the two spot. He will not play outfield for Nats. Should Theo Epstein strike while there is an opening? 36 HRs last year?!
David Papazian, Wellesley
A: David, except for some relatively minor tweaking, like finding a landing spot for Tony Graffanino, I think Theo Epstein is probably through making roster moves entering the season. Soriano's defense at second base is a major liability, which is why the Nationals want to move him to left field and other teams are not clamoring to add him, especially at $10 mil per and a year away from free agency. In the last five seasons back to '01, Soriano has led major-league second basemen in errors in each season (twice he was tied) and has committed 105 errors in that span. I think the Sox are fine with going into the season with Mark Loretta as their second baseman.
Hi Gordon ... I love reading your mailbag and watching your segments on
NESN. My question is ... now that the Red Sox have acquired Wily Mo Pena and signed Juan
Gonzalez to a free agent contract, do you think the Sox are setting the table to pull off a major trade of some sort? They seem to be stockpiling outfielders all of a sudden and it seems like they
could be shopping Manny or Trot for help they need in other areas on the field.
I do not see where all these outfielders can be in the Red Sox plans.
What are your thoughts Gordon?
Robert Goodell, Montpelier, Vt.
A: Robert, No, I don't see that scenario developing. For one, I'm guessing we never see Gonzalez. Never mind Juan Gone, we never saw Juan coming. Trading Manny no longer appears to be an issue, and I think the Sox like the Nixon/Pena combo. One side benefit of getting Pena for that right-handed platoon role, Francona contends, is that opposing teams might think twice about bringing in a lefty when Nixon is due up, which could actually lead to Trot getting more ABs.
How is Francona setting up the starting rotation? I have heard he is thinking of putting Wakefield in between Schilling and Beckett and he is going to skip Wells's spot in the beginning of the season. So is the rotation going to look like this: Schilling, Wakefield, Beckett, Clement, Wells?
Bob Peterson, Aurora, Colo.
A: Bob, you're seeing clearly from the mountaintop (although I exaggerate slightly ... Aurora isn't exactly Aspen, right?). That's precisely the way the Sox rotation lines up on March 22. Wells will be skipped the first go-round, then make his first start April 12 in Fenway. That's the plan for now.
I must admit to having been a bad Red Sox fan in the past. This really became
apparent to me during the 2004 ALCS when I was one of those calling for Todd
Walker's blood before he, uh, saved the series. Anyway, after the Sox won in
2004, I vowed never to boo any player who had contributed to the World Series
win. And, for about a year, it really worked. Whereas I usually would have booed
Todd Walker and Kevin Millar in 2005, I stopped myself and defended them
instead. Problem: As you may have heard, Johnny Damon is now a Yankee, and every
time he speaks he seems to want to hurt Sox fans even more. It seems that
becoming a Yankee may give me a right to give him a hard time, but I also (reluctantly)
remember his stellar performance in Game 7 of the ALCS, among other things. What
is your policy on whether it is acceptable to boo Johnny Damon?
Zachary Hill, Chicago
A: Zachary, I think your memory is a little faulty. If it's '04 you're talking about, the second baseman you were booing was Mark Bellhorn, not Todd Walker, until Bellhorn hit a couple of big home runs. Walker was the 2B in '03 and had a great postseason. Damon is posing quite the dilemma for a lot a Sox fans. I think his accomplishments in Boston warrant recognition when he shows up for the first time as a Yankee in May 1 -- I expect him to be cheered, like Orlando Cabrera was when he came back with the Angels last season. But the affection probably disappears after his first AB -- then he becomes just another Bomber.
The addition of Willy Mo is great, the kid has potential. But now the Red Sox have also a surplus of backup outfielders trying to make it to the team. Juan Gonzalez, Mohr, Kapler and Stern. Any ideas on what will happen to any of these? Obviously some of these players will start the season in Triple-A. Also, any
update/progress with Gabe Kapler? Thanks!
Juan Espinel, Guayaquil, Ecuador
A: Juan, nice to hear from Ecuador ... you'll have to let us know how many baseball fields you have in your country. I addressed the outfield situation earlier in the bag, but I expect Mohr to go elsewhere -- maybe the Phils -- Kapler to stay back in extended spring as he rehabs from the torn Achilles, Gonzalez to stay in Puerto Rico or sign with someone else, and Stern to open the season in Boston, because as a Rule 5 pick last year he still must spend 17 days on the big-league roster to satisfy requirements (a player must spend 90 days in all). I suspect the Sox may go with just four outfielders.
Here's how I see the roster shaping up (after Stern gets sent down and Lenny DiNardo is called up)
Pitchers (12): Josh Beckett, Matt Clement, Lenny DiNardo, Keith Foulke, Jonathan Papelbon, David Riske, Curt Schilling, Rudy Seanez, Julian Tavarez, Mike Timlin, Tim Wakefield, David Wells.
Catchers (2): Jason Varitek, Josh Bard.
Infield (7): Alex Cora, Alex Gonzalez, Mark Loretta, Mike Lowell, David Ortiz, J.T. Snow, Kevin Youkilis.
Outfield (4): Coco Crisp, Trot Nixon, Wily Mo Pena, Manny Ramirez.
Long time listener, first time caller. So I'm hearing a lot of chatter about Lowell not being up to snuff at third and that we may need to move Youk back to third and trade some pitching to get a
"traditional" first baseman (read: power hitter, defensively average, slow). In all of this, I haven't heard anyone talk about the one move that makes most sense -- play Ortiz at first. He has experience at the position and is in every aspect a "traditional" first baseman. That would also give us the opportunity to spell Manny and his hammies with the newly acquired Willie Mo in left and Manny at the DH position. Any chance we could see Papi flashing some leather this year?
Steve, New York, NY
A: Steve, Ortiz started 10 games at first base last season, and I can't see him playing any more than that this season. Ortiz actually has pretty good hands, but that's about the extent of his defensive upside, and the Sox aren't going to risk such a valuable bat getting hurt out on the field.
You're probably my favorite Boston journalist, but an agent that works for Clemens is "Clemens' agent", not "Clemens's agent". I'm disappointed that snafu passed both you AND your editor. That's all... keep up the great coverage!
Mike Rogers, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
A: Mike, I probably wrote it the way you state it -- I've always thought the s-apostrophe-s was weird -- but here is the rule on such things, according to the Globe stylebook:
"Use the apostrophe as follows in forming possessives:... SINGULAR NOUNS (INCLUDING PROPER NAMES) _ Add an apostrophe followed by s: the church's needs; the girl's toys; the horse's food; the ship's route; the fox's den; the VIP's seat; the justice's verdict. This applies to nouns that end in s and z: jazz's riffs; the circus's animals; the hostess's invitation; the witness's answer; James's novel; the Times's layout; Parcells's game plan; a week's time. Exceptions: Drop the final s when two or more sibilant sounds precede the apostrophe: in Jesus' name; Moses' followers. Also drop the s in certain expressions in which the word following the apostrophe begins with s: for appearance' sake; for goodness' sake."
But I'll take all the grammar tips I can get.
Every other worker gets a vacation, so why not baseball players? Manny,
for example, instead of contriving some pre-All Star Break injury or crisis,
should just get a scheduled few days off, and come back happy and refreshed.
Same with Varitek, who'd have to be forced. Same with all of the every-day
players. It would also have the benefit of guaranteed playing time for bench, or
even PawSox players. Your thoughts? Thanks
Art Gorman, Hilton Head, SC
A: Art, I would think that October/November to February constitutes a vacation, no? But that aside, I actually like the idea of a week's break in July. I do think players would come back refreshed. But give Manny a few days off in July while games are going on and calling up a fill-in while he's gone? Nah, that's not workable.
In your Schilling/Clemens story you said Clemens would be 44 on Aug. 2, but
his birthday is my wedding day, Aug. 4, 1962.
John Bradley, Cincinnati, Ohio
A: John, I can guarantee you this. Aug. 4 will be celebrated as a special occasion by more than just you and your wife if the Rocket comes back to Boston. Thanks for setting the record straight.
I know this question has been brought up before, but being from Haverhill, and a Carlos Pena fan and friend of the family, I have to ask. I read on the Fox web site that the Tigers may be releasing Carlos. Why do the Red Sox show no interest in Carlos? They picked up J.T Snow, an aging left-handed first baseman
on the down side, when Carlos is available. He's around 27 years old, left handed, an above average first baseman. Maybe being with Big Papi and Manny along with Papa Jack, they could help him with his hitting.
Bill Augusta, Haverhill
A: Bill, it seemed like Carlos turned a corner last year after he was sent down, then came back and tore it up for the Tigers. But he's had a really tough spring (.178, 8 for 45, 2 extra-base hits), has little chance of making the Tigers -- he had 95 K's and 31 walks in just 295 plate appearances last season, not the Sox' kind of player -- and hasn't done enough to make himself attractive to other clubs. It's possible, I suppose, that the Sox would take a look, but not too likely. Too bad, because as a local guy, many people around here are pulling for him to succeed.
Love your work. This Sunday, you had this to say about Doug Mirabelli: "For all he did while he was here, there is some feeling among club officials that the time had come for Mirabelli to move on." What is the insight as to why that feeling exists?
Carl Bruce, Ridgefield, Conn.
A: Carl, I made that deliberately vague in the paper, which I suppose raises even more questions and probably wasn't fair, for that reason. Let's just say I heard from a club official that while they appreciated the contributions Mirabelli made while he was here, there were some minor aggravations that made them willing to look in another direction.
Just moved here and miss the Sox. How can I get, if possible, a web stream to listen to games? BTW, I sent to the Red Sox a photo of the embattled Prime Minister here with a Red Sox cap on. Refreshing as Thais wear the Yankee caps without knowing how much it upsets me!
Michael Bedford, Bangkok, Thailand
A: Michael, we can't have you going without Sox in Thailand. MLB.com offers a package that allows you to listen or watch all big-league games on your computer. I subscribe; I recommend that you check it out.
Lived in Boston area for 70 years, followed Red Sox all that time
through good and bad times. Why are the Red Sox staying with Arroyo?
I get chills and stomach problems every time he goes to the mound.
Look at this spring. He is bad. Get rid of him.
What is your opinion?
Albert Cibley, Lake Worth, Fla.
A: Mr Cibley, This should feel like your lucky week. I hope you feel better.