Boston Globe baseball writer Gordon Edes check in every Thursday with his take on the Red Sox. Ask your question now, and come back next week to see if it was answered.
Traditionally, teams want power at the infield corners. Kevin Millar and Bill Mueller are giving little power production. Will the Sox make a move this year to add some punch at the corners, particularly if Millar doesn't start hitting homers.
Steven, Cranston, RI
A: Steve, it is truly stunning to have three of the four Sox starting infielders -- Kevin Millar, Mark Bellhorn and Bill Mueller -- without home runs five weeks into the season. Mueller and Bellhorn have both been hit by the nasty flu that made the rounds of the Sox clubhouse, so they get a bit of a mulligan, but Millar has never had this many at-bats at the start of a season without a home run. Naturally, when a guy struggles like that, people start casting about for a reason, and in Kevin's case I think the early musings revolve around whether he got so big in his upper body over the winter that it somehow affected his swing. That's probably a reach, and the talk will die down when he hits a few into the seats, but if Millar's run production drops precipitously, the Sox would have no choice but to try and upgrade at the position this summer. Millar and Mueller are both in the final year of their contracts, which means the Sox could likely have different corner infielders in 2006.
What do you see John Olerud's role being with the Sox? Do you think he was brought on to give Kevin Millar some motivation?
A: Lexy, I think Olerud's role will be to serve as late-inning defensive replacement and left-handed hitter off the bench, with the occasional spot start. He can no longer put up the offensive numbers on an everyday basis that he did earlier in his career, but he is still exceptional defensively and will be a useful bench man.
Hey Gordon, do you think David Ortiz makes a valid point when he argues
that Spanish-speaking players are at a disadvantage in the steroid policy
because of the language barrier? Personally, I think he makes a valid
point; but what can be done about it?
A: Charles, It's hard for me to judge just how legitimate David's point is, though I have sufficient respect for his perspective that if he believes there is a problem, it is worth investigating. The last thing Major League Baseball wants is for steroids to be labeled a "Latin" problem, because that would be counterproductive to eliminating a problem that does not have an ethnic or racial face -- we're talking about equal opportunity abuse here. I do know that both MLB and the union generally make efforts to convey important material in Spanish to its Latin-born players; Ortiz obviously feels those efforts were insufficient in this case. I do believe that lack of regulation of supplements, both legal and illegal, in some Latin countries could be a contributing factor.
How much longer are we going to have to watch the Blaine Neal experiment? This guy is terrible. He has been scored on in 5 of his 7 outings and is just downright brutal. Please tell me I won't have to see him in a close game any time soon!!! Please Gordon, please!!!!
A: Chris, Neal is one of those guys teams see potential in and want to hold onto. A converted infielder, he's been touching 94, and if he could develop better command and a decent off-speed pitch he could become a useful pitcher. All that said, he obviously has not done the job to date. He was pressed into service in a close game in Detroit because the Sox pitching staff is so stretched by the injuries to Wells and Schilling. John Halama would have ordinarily gotten the call in that situation but was unavailable because he was starting the next day. I don't think you'll see the Sox going with Neal indefinitely if he doesn't put up better results, but he is out of options and the Sox know that if they put him on waivers someone is liable to grab him.
Gordon, do you think Schillings abrasive comments on sports radio talk shows are having a negative effect in the clubhouse? I love the Sox, but I think taking shots at Lou Piniella was a lack of respect.
Charles, Bellingham, Wash.
A: Charles, Schilling appears to feel he is the aggrieved party here. He has stopped talking, at least for the time being, with the reporters that are around the team, preferring to limit his comments to his paid appearance on WEEI, which is where he touched off the controversy with Piniella with his ill-considered comments. I can tell you that the Sox brass were not happy with what he said, but negative impact on the clubhouse? No, I don't think so. Teammates are accustomed to hearing Schilling weigh in on any number of topics, and while some guys might privately find that irksome, they'll gladly put up with it when he takes the ball every five days and delivers -- something he can't do right now because of the ankle. And remember, David Ortiz suggested Piniella was at fault, too, in the immediate aftermath of the incident, though not quite as pointedly as Schilling did.
Your Theo Epstein ... based on what you know now, at this very point in the season, are we looking for another front line starter or pitching help at or before the deadline. If so, who are your prospects ranked?
Dan, Jersey City, NJ
A: Dan, it stands to reason that the answer to that question lies in great part with whether Schilling and Wells recover from their injuries and pitch well. Both injuries are cause for considerable concern, given the types of injuries and the age of the players involved. Will the ankle permit Schilling to pitch like he did last season? Can Wells at 42 overcome an injury that not only is painful but has severely hindered a number of outstanding players, including Mark McGwire? I think most contenders look for pitching help at the deadline, but the need may be more acute than usual for the Sox. Candidates? Look at the teams that are out of contention. The Rockies, for example, probably would listen to offers for Jason Jennings, and with his sinker he could probably be very effective for the Sox, but the Rockies probably would start any conversation about Jennings with the Sox with two words: Hanley Ramirez. A wild-card name in this discussion is Wade Miller, who makes his first start Sunday. If he can be effective, the need for another front-line starter lessens.
I was reading a minor league prospects column that mentioned Dustin Pedroia. According to them, he is doing well enough that they felt it was possible he could be the starter at second base next year. Is he really that close or would it still be a few more years? Also while I guess it would be almost a crime to question any of the deadline deals from last year, I remember the thing that was kind of tough about the Nomar trade was giving up on Matt Murton, who is apparently tearing up the league. Too bad we had to lose him.
A: Chris, the Sox are very high on Pedroia, who they quickly advanced from Augusta to Sarasota last season, and have him playing in Double-A Portland this spring. One Sox official told me late last summer he thought Pedroia might make it to the big leagues before Hanley Ramirez does, and they moved him to second base to accelerate that process. If he plays well in Portland this season, there's no reason to think that they won't give him a chance to compete for a job. Matt Murton is hitting .426 in his first 25 games in Double-A with the Cubs (West Tennessee Jax), after playing with the Jax last season, too. The Nomar deal wasn't going to happen without him -- the Cubs wanted to be sure they had something to show for the deal if Nomar walked at the end of last season -- so while the Sox were reluctant to part with him, it was the price of doing business -- and I think you'd agree Orlando Cabrera and Doug Mientkiewicz, who came in that four-team deal, helped make a World Series title a reality.
Mr. Edes, as a retiree, I watch most games on satellite. After his recent play, why don't the Sox keep Youkilis at third and move Mueller to second? It's a stronger lineup, better fielding, better hitting.
Pat, Palmyra, Va.
A: Pat, I don't think Mueller's knees could take the pounding of playing second base on a regular basis. I'm not sure I agree with you that the Sox are better defensively with Youk at third and Mueller at second; Mueller is very solid at third and Bellhorn rates as an average second baseman, which when he is contributing offensively is enough. I say let Mueller and Bellhorn get past their slow starts before anointing Youkilis a starter just yet.
Gordon, are you going to be in Seattle for the series with the Mariners? Are you making any special appearances?
Charles, Bellingham, Wash.
A: Charles, I will be in Seattle ... I have no charity events planned in the NW. I am doing a charity thing in Cooperstown May 23, one in Chicago on June 10, one in southern Cal when the Sox play the Angels and one in NYC late in the season. More info will be forthcoming.
You mention in today's column that CC Sabathia is the quickest active player to get 50 wins. What about Clemens? By my math (with help from ESPN.com) he was 60 and 22 over his first four seasons -- and he would have turned 25 only in August of season 4?
Randy, Hong Kong
A: Randy, I think the item was supposed to have read, "Sabathia the quickest to reach 50 by any pitcher not named Roger Clemens .'' Nothing wrong with your math (obviously, they make a better abacus in Hong Kong); looks my history was a little shaky. Thanks for setting the record straight.
As a life-long Red Sox fan I applaud the organizations commitment to rebuilding the farm system. I was wondering how long it will be before we see pitcher Jon Papelbon in a
Red Sox uniform. I have been impressed with his results so far in Portland. Thank you very much.
Trevor, St. Peters, Mo.
A: Trevor, I like Papelbon's chances of competing for a job in camp next spring, and even if he starts 2006 in Pawtucket could be in Boston before the end of the season. The organization likes him a lot.
Mr. Edes -- I am a 71-year-old die-hard fan of the Red Sox. I have lived long enough to see the Red Sox win a World Series. However, there is one thing that troubles me. I believe that Johnny Pesky's number 6 should be retired and hung in Fenway Park along with the numbers that are already there. There are several reasons why No. 6 should be retired. I'll list the ones I know and you can fill in the rest.
When you stack him up against the other players whose numbers have been
retired he is arguably at the top of the list. He has given more to the Red Sox organization than any of them. He never complained when disrespect was shown him by individuals in the organization. At his age only God knows how much more time he has on this earth. It would be a wonderful and fitting tribute if his number were retired with Johnny Pesky there to personally receive the honor. I ask you to be the catalyst among the
Boston sports media to promote the retirement of No. 6 and make it a reality
real soon. Thank you for listening.
A: Mr. Bruno, I have a great deal of affection for Johnny Pesky, and was gratified to see what a prominent role the Sox gave him during the Opening Day ceremonies; I know it meant the world to him. He has, especially since the death of Ted Williams, become the historical face of the team, and has been, as you noted, a remarkable ambassador for the club. Not to mention a physical marvel -- until this spring, he was still hitting fungoes, amazing for a guy in his 80s. Having said all that, I understand why the Sox have been reluctant to retire his number -- they have very specific criteria that must be met, first and foremost that the player be a Hall of Famer. Pesky was a very good player, but he fell short of Cooperstown caliber. Could they make an exception in his case? Sure, but that opens up arguments made for others, then, like Tony C. I hope the Sox find a meaningful way to honor Pesky permanently, but I suspect it won't be by retiring his uniform number.