Dennis: you're not seriously driving and answering questions at the same time are you?
Amalie Benjamin: Nope, I think that might be a wee bit dangerous. I'm a more responsible driver than that, which you can all see in the Prius race video on boston.com (minor plug). No, I'm letting someone else do the driving for me.
jimmyG: Hello Amalie, I have a question about the Hall of Famers at last night's All-Star Game. Where were Fisk and Yaz? Why was Boggs wearing a Yankee cap ? He was inducted into the hall as a Red Sox. Does he still hold ill feelings toward the Sox ?
Amalie Benjamin: I've gotten a lot of questions about the absence of Fisk and Yaz. To be honest, I'm not entirely sure if they were invited or not. I don't believe this type of ceremony tends to be Yaz's thing. As for Boggs, I've gotten a lot of negative feedback about his decision to wear a Yankees cap last night. Obviously the setting had a lot do with it, though I didn't get a chance to ask him. It would have been a nice gesture for him to come with both (like a couple players did). Or he could have just gone with an old-school Devil Rays hat. The rainbow ones are retro now, aren't they?
Boog: Francona undermined the O's, running Sherrill out there for 7 outs last night. Sherrill is a CLOSER. All because the O's had the temerity to win Friday's game. Pretty classless, Francona.
Amalie Benjamin: I don't think that's very fair. I'm not sure people entirely understand how difficult it is to manage an All-Star Game. With all the demands being put on Francona, whether from MLB or from individual teams, there's not a lot of wiggle room. Because he was trying to get every player into the game, he was left a bit short at the end. That was also partially because of the Rays' request that Kazmir not pitch. Sure, he could have used starters for more than one inning at the beginning, but by the end he had little choice but to use Sherrill for longer than he wanted. He also got five outs from Soria and five from Rivera, too.
hoonose: Hey Amalie, I love your work - keep it up! I'm just wondering exactly how well Ortiz is recovering from his injury. I know he's scheduled to come back at the end of this month, but I have to wonder - what's the most realistic scenario here? Is he going to be fully healed when he comes back?
Amalie Benjamin: Thanks! Ortiz is actually recovering from his injury pretty well. I got to watch him take batting practice the past two days at Yankee Stadium, and I was impressed. It'll be interesting to see him get into game action tomorrow in Pawtucket, but I think he's doing well. Other players -- Pat Burrell, for example -- have had this sort of injury and haven't had many lasting effects. There's a chance Ortiz may feel it from time to time, but the Sox believe injury shouldn't really be a major issue. Ortiz said a number of times that he wasn't going to put himself in jeopardy by coming back not fully healed.
wjharriso: Do you think the Sox main trade focus at this point would be a starter, a reliever, or a hitter? I'd hope for a starter, and back fill the pen with Masterson & Buchholz.
Amalie Benjamin: I'd say the Sox are certainly focused on improving their bullpen. While any team is going to take a look at all the possibilities -- like Teixeira -- the bullpen is an area that the Sox need to work on as they head down the stretch.
SoxFan304945785: Hi, Amalie. Do you think Okajima will ever be as effective as he was last year, or have AL hitters pretty much figured him out?
Amalie Benjamin: I don't think so. I know a lot of us, myself included, said in spring training that Okajima's performance could be a huge key for the Sox. His effectiveness was partially based, I believe, on the fact that teams were unfamiliar with him. That hasn't been the case this season, and we can see the results. He can be a piece of a bullpen, but I doubt he'll ever approach his dominance of last year.
Floridasox: Is there any way Julio Lugo is moved this season?
Amalie Benjamin: Nope. With his quad injury and his contract, there's no chance of that. But all he's costing this team right now is money, since he easily might not be back until September.
25fan: Amalie, please tell me how in the world Joe Crede, who's hitting .253, got the nod over Mike Lowell at 3B for the All-Star Game. Must have been fear of too many Red Sox in Yankee Stadium's farewell! Also, I really enjoy your work.
Amalie Benjamin: Fear wasn't exactly a part of it, though it was a little odd to see all the Sox in the home clubhouse at Yankee Stadium. (Youkilis had Johnny Damon's locker, for example. Should have assigned him Joba's.) But Crede made the team via player balloting, like Jason Varitek. Francona tried hard to get Lowell on the team, but just didn't have the room in the end.
mudbugger: Since Diaz and Anderson were called up to Portland, and Reddick still back in Lancaster, how long do you think Reddick will be down in "A" ball. He has improved recently on taking base on balls...and also who do you see as the "sleeper" player to possibly make a big impact??
Amalie Benjamin: I think the team is going to give Josh Reddick a bit more time to work on his plate approach, though I wouldn't be surprised to see him heading up the ranks at some point. The team loves his power potential. And he may not be a sleeper/big impact type guy, but if you want a guy in the organization that I'd love to see make the bigs at some point, it's got to be Bubba Bell. All heart.
Wrong_Borges: Any update on Francona's health? WEEI said he was going to the hospital?
Amalie Benjamin: Unless something went wrong late last night or early this morning, Francona was scheduled to go to the hospital this morning. He was getting an injection in his neck. He's had significant trouble over the last couple months, and needed to get the injection before boarding a flight to the West Coast.
chisox: Amalie, everyone talks about the D-Rays, but the White Sox are playing just as well and, in my opinion, have less of a chance to melt down (weaker division, fewer fluke seasons). Talk about the South Side!
Amalie Benjamin: Got to give Alex Cora props here. (Granted, his brother is a coach, but...) Despite all the Tigers/Indians talk, Cora told me in spring training that the White Sox were going to be a force.
steve0: I'm curious as to what management's take is on Craig Hansen. Sometimes, he's unhittable, and at other times, just unbearable to watch. If the Sox do pick up another arm, do you think that Hansen will be the odd man out, or is it more likely to be Timlin or Aardsma?
Amalie Benjamin: Hansen's sort of maddening, isn't he? There is a lot of potential in that arm. The Sox love the pure stuff, but it's clear that Hansen has yet to put it all together. And he needs to. This is his final option year, which means that he needs to figure it out. They do have the option to send Hansen back down, which they don't with Timlin or Aardsma, but they've also shown they don't mind losing someone (Julian Tavarez), if it's for the good of the club. I keep waiting for Timlin to be done, especially given some of his struggles, but it hasn't happened yet, obviously.
kirk1017: A non-all star question here - any word on Bartolo Colon?
Amalie Benjamin: No problem. Bartolo Colon was shut down for a few days last week before starting up again, slowly, with his pitching program. He's had a lot of issues this year, and I think the Sox believe that they need to be extremely careful. At this point, you really just can't count on him.
ed_the_eagle: The schedule for the first half of the "second half" looks tough, but there are a lot of home games in September ... best guess, are you working on playoff coverage for Sox games in October?
Amalie Benjamin: Best guess? Absolutely. I think there will be work in October (on the Sox) in my future.
danny123: Hi Amalie, what do you think of the catcher situation? Do you think Varitek will be re-signed and, if so, what is your prediction of the contract length? What do you feel will happen with the catcher position in the slightly longer term? Will the Sox try and develop a catcher from the farm, or instead be forced into a trade? Thanks! Dan.
Amalie Benjamin: Clearly this is one of the biggest issues for the Sox this season/offseason. Catching is extremely scarce on the minor league level, so it's going to be hard to find an up-and-coming prospect to succeed him. If Varitek would agree to a two-year deal, that would probably be about the best-case scenario for the Sox, but we'll see if he'll be interested. In the meantime, I've heard great things about Luis Exposito, and Mark Wagner is doing well in Double A, though he's relatively new to catching. It's definitely a concern for the Sox.
Amalie Benjamin: OK, guys, it's time for me to get back to working on my minor league notebook for Friday's paper. Sorry I couldn't get to all the questions, but there were just too many to answer! Thanks, and I'll meet you back here again soon. Enjoy the second half.