Boston Globe baseball writer Gordon Edes checks in every week to answer your questions on the Red Sox. Ask yours now, and come back next week to see whether it was answered.
First off, I'd like to thank you for letting me chew your ear off at the local Outback. Second, as far as an opening day ceremony ...Tears. Shocking tears. They talk about having a surprise. Well Billy Buckner coming out to throw out the first pitch, just killed me. Well done to the front office and for Mr. Buckner. Now to my question. How optimistic are you on my favorite Red Sox player J.D. Drew? I am a true believer when a guy switches leagues it takes a solid year and a half to adjust. With absolutely no stats to back that up, I'm guessing a .300 25-30 HRs 95 RBIs and a plus-.400 OBP. Your thoughts?
A: Todd, I never realized what a sentimental guy you are, that Billy Buck could have you in tears! I've found it very interesting, the discussion that has taken place since Opening Day about Buckner being invited to throw out the first ball. Many fans have taken the position that the fans had long ago demonstrated that they'd gotten past Buckner's error in Game 6, with the ovations they accorded him at Opening Day in '87 and in '90, and as long-time correspondent Allan Wood pointed out to me, at the parade a few days after the Series. Buckner himself seemed to have come to terms with it, too, given his willingness to make joint appearances with Mookie Wilson and sell stuff signed by both at card shows and on the Internet. And yet, Buckner was clearly moved at the ceremony, along with plenty of other folks, like yourself. Maybe it's that this time, it came after the Sox won the World Series.
I liked this observation by someone who posts on the Sons of Sam Horn message board as gcapalbo:
"(Opening Day) was not about 'forgiving' Buckner, it was about closure. The bad days of '86 and '78 and whatever else are gone and not relevant anymore -- and that was the statement made. Perhaps yesterday was actually about something done for Buckner himself, something this ownership group, which clearly appreciates history, did to make good to the man himself, more than anything else. As the 2004 and 2007 flags in a very cosmic wind reminded us -- things have changed around here. It's different now.''
Your boy J.D. Drew, meanwhile, is off to another hot start, just like last season. The difference, I suspect, is that you are correct -- after a year of getting to know the league, the pitchers, his surroundings, and with lessened expectations -- Drew is going to settle in and have himself a very solid season. The big question is: Will the power come back? The numbers crunchers at Baseball Prospectus are betting against it: They're forecasting another 11-homer season for J.D. I think he's going to be in the 15-25 range myself.
As for the Leominster Outback, I have no problems giving props to a place that has such a great staff and always makes me feel so welcome. We should talk about having a Central Mass. Red Sox night there sometime!
Why oh why is Terry Francona platooning Coco Crisp and Jacoby Ellsbury in center field? The Sox are clearly a better team with the sparkplug Ellsbury, so are they just trying to showcase Crisp? Or does Francona really believe in Crisp the same way he believed in Dustin Pedroia last year?
A: Ron, I think it's Terry trying to make the best of a tricky situation until it can be resolved with a trade. It probably will be difficult for either Coco or Jacoby to get real comfortable as long as they're not playing regularly. Neither one of them is accustomed to part-time duty. I don't think Coco's defense should be so easily dismissed; one of the big reasons the Sox led the AL in run prevention last season was Coco's spectacular glovework in center. Can Jacoby be an above-average CF in this league? Of course. But Crisp's defense last season was far above the norm. Eventually, I believe Jacoby will play everyday, but the trade market for a CF has developed slowly and may not do so until midseason.
Hope you have time to answer this question. I read somewhere that when Jeff Lowrie was called up from Pawtucket his "contract was purchased." What exactly does it mean to purchase a contract? If Lowrie, or any other player, is sent back down to the minors, does that mean that the minor league re-purchases the contract? Does his salary rise and fall every time he is called up or sent down?
A: Daniel, it took me a while to comprehend some of MLB's procedures, and I hope I have it figured out now. The reason Jed Lowrie's contract was purchased from Pawtucket is that he was not on Boston's 40-man major league roster; he'd been invited to big-league camp in spring training as a non-roster player. In order for the Sox to call him up after Mike Lowell was placed on the disabled list, they had to place him first on their 40-man major league roster, then their 25-man active roster. When they decide to send him back down to the minors, they won't "sell" him back to Pawtucket; they will "option" him.
A: Each player can be optioned three times (one option is used up per year, regardless of how many times a guy goes back and forth from Pawtucket). Once his options are used up, he cannot be sent down to the minors without clearing waivers first, which means every other team in the major leagues would have a chance to claim him as their own for a nominal waiver price.
And yes, a player's salary usually goes up or down when he is summoned from, or sent to, the minors. You've heard the term "split contract?'' That means the player is paid a certain sum when he gets to the big leagues -- for a young player like Jed Lowrie, that means the big-league minimum, which is now up to $390,000, I believe -- and a much lesser sum in the minors. For a guy with big-league experience like Pawtucket reliever Dan Kolb, a former All-Star with Milwaukee, if he gets called up he'll be paid $650,000, a considerable jump over minor-league money.
We keep hearing here and there some Sox still complaining about the Japan trip, much like the Yankees did a few years ago. How much of an affect has the trip had on this team?
A: Sally, what's most useful to remember about teams traveling to Japan is that in 2004, when the Yankees went to Japan, they wound up winning 101 games in the regular season, even after a 7-11 start. Actually, I think the Sox have done a very good job of keeping their complaints about Japan to a minimum, the possible exception being Jonathan Papelbon, who has not been shy about saying how disruptive it was. This trip was definitely an endurance trip -- not just Japan, but the hullabaloo in L.A., home openers in Oakland and Toronto, the 16,000 miles in 19 days -- and when you're creatures of routine, like most pro athletes are, it definitely had a disruptive effect. But while the Sox may need a little time to settle into their normal existence, I don't think the Japan trip should be viewed as a factor in how the Sox finish in October.
Now that the Japan excursion, the extended road trip, and the home opener are over, do you get the sense the Sox are glad to step out of the spotlight a bit?
A: John, I was talking about this with Tim Wakefield the other day, and Wake mentioned that the Sox had been introduced -- called out of the dugout -- eight times this spring!: both Japanese exhibition games, both games against Oakland in Japan, the L.A. Coliseum, Oakland's home opener, Toronto's home opener, and their own home opener. That's a lot of hoohah for anybody, so yes, I think they're happy that things are back to normal -- as if the Yankee series this weekend, with two national TV hits -- can be construed as normal.
Handicap the AL East race for us ... are the Jays and Rays for real? What about dem Orioles? Still, you gotta think the Sox are still the best team in the East, right?
Steven, Potomac, Md.
A: Steven, I do believe the Sox are the best team in the division, although Mike Lowell's disablement this week is a reminder of how important health is over the course of a season. The Sox did not lose a single position player to the DL last season and won the World Series; of course, in 2004, they lost Bill Mueller, Nomar, Trot Nixon, Pokey Reese and Mark Bellhorn to the DL at various times and still won, so health isn't the only factor. Depth is important, underscoring the value of having a Sean Casey when Mike Lowell did go down.
I'm still not as dazzled by the Jays as a lot of other folks -- their everyday lineup just doesn't strike me as having enough to keep with some of the other elite teams, although Roy Halladay and a healthy A.J. Burnett will give lots of teams fits. I like the direction the Rays are headed, though Matt Garza's nerve problem in his arm raises a huge red flag. The Orioles? Don't be fooled by the first week. It's going to be a very long year in B'more.
What are the Sox' plans for the No. 5 starter spot? Do you think it's Clay Buchholz's to lose? Or will the Sox turn to Bartolo Colon once he's healthy?
Jason, Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
A: Jason, if Colon is healthy, the Sox are not going to waste him. He will pitch in the rotation if he shows his body can handle it. They feel he has a limited number of bullets, because of his medical history, but if he can give them 100 to 120 innings -- the same kind of workload they had penciled in for Curt Schilling -- they'll be happy. Will that necessarily mean Buchholz goes down? No, because things happen over the course of a season; someone else could tweak something, opening a spot for Buchholz. If everybody is healthy, I think it's likely the Sox would option Clay, and try to make sure he's still strong by the end of the season, but let's see how it plays out.
What's the deal with Julio Lugo's fielding? I remember Lowell had some issues at the start of last year, but those seemed flukey ... it looks now like Lugo forgot how to throw!
Bradley, Los Angeles
A: Bradley, you are referring, of course, to Sunday's three-error game. Yes, it was ugly, especially since the errors came on routine plays, but I think Lugo bought some slack with the way he played last season; I think he did better defensively than a lot of people thought he would. One of these days, even Kevin Youkilis is going to make an error.
Is it just me, or does Jason Varitek seem to be hitting the ball a lot harder this season?
Dawn, Fall River
A: Dawn, you wouldn't have been saying that a couple of weeks ago, when Jason wasn't hitting the ball at all! He went through a stretch, at the end of the Japan trip and the weekend series against the Dodgers, where he whiffed 9 times in a stretch of 11 at-bats. Jason said he felt "weird" in Japan, and that he found it very difficult to sleep adjusting to all the different time zones. He certainly seemed to welcome being back home, hitting three line drives in the opener, two of which fell for hits. I think the Sox hope he can approach the level of production he gave them last season -- .255, 17, 68. He is so valuable in countless other ways, the only thing that would be of major concern is if he suddenly went into a huge decline offensively. He turns 36 today (Friday, the 11th), so the Sox have to do what they can to maintain him physically. It would be a bonus if Kevin Cash could hit enough to lighten Varitek's load a little.
Has Curt Schilling had his first weigh-in yet? Just curious if he still has to do that even if he's on the shelf.
A: Mo, I'm not sure of the timing of the weigh-ins, but with an extra $2 million to be made, I don't think Schill will shy away from the scale. The only time I see him these days is when he's on the exercise bike, and that's out of sight in the home clubhouse. The contract is structured where he has one random weigh-in per month during the season, for a total of six weigh-ins.
While watching the Red Sox ring ceremony, my husband happened to notice that Eric Hinske's name wasn't called. Was he unable to make it? It would seem kind of a slap in the face not to give him a ring, seeing as how he was part of the team last year.
Jessica, Middlebury, Vt.
A: Jessica, Hinske is playing for the Rays, so he wasn't able to go. I suspect the Sox will make a point of presenting him his ring when the Rays come to Fenway to play. Hinske will always have the Mothers Day Miracle!