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Catching up on some questions

Posted by Peter Abraham, Globe Staff  March 9, 2011 09:46 AM

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FORT MYERS, Fla. The Red Sox have a night game tonight against the Orioles and the players have a late report time.

With the exhibition season a third over, now seems like a good time to examine the state of several key questions that were raised before spring training.

Issue No. 1: Who will be the lefthander out of the bullpen?

This remains in flux. Hideki Okajima overcame a rough first outing by having two good ones. His primary competition appears to be Dennys Reyes, who has retired six of the seven batters he has faced.

Rich Hill has been solid in his three games and his sidearm delivery is an intriguing weapon.

Felix Doubront (elbow) has yet to pitch and will start the season with Triple A Pawtucket.

This could come down to roster management. Reyes has an out in his contract on March 25 and doesn't seem too interested in the minors. Okajima has options and Hill is signed to a minor league deal. It would make sense to keep all three with Reyes getting the first shot in the majors.

But Reyes has to first prove he belongs.

Issue No. 2: What will the top of the batting order look like?

Jacoby Ellsbury has hit leadoff in all five games he has played. Dustin Pedroia has hit second in all six games he has played. Carl Crawford has hit third in all six games he has played.

Hmm, if I had to guess I bet they plan to hit Ellsbury first, Pedroia second and Crawford third. Just a hunch.

Obviously the lineup can and will change over the course of the season. But Terry Francona hasn't deviated from what he said in December after Crawford's introductory press conference. He thinks the best lineup has Ellsbury leading off followed by Pedroia and Crawford.

Issue No. 3: How is the rotation?

Let's see. Josh Beckett, Clay Buchholz, John Lackey and Jon Lester have thrown 18.2 innings, allowing three earned runs on 12 hits with four walks. They seem fine.

Daisuke Matsuzaka has thrown five innings and allowed six earned runs on seven hits and three walks. Not so fine.

Spring training statistics are meaningless. But the first four starters all arrived at camp ready to go and Matsuzaka is lurching around as his staff scurries behind him. Still, barring injury, he'll be the No. 5 starter to start the season. There are no signs the Red Sox plan to give up on him

But Alfredo Aceves has presented himself as a viable option. If he continues to pitch well once the season starts and Matsuzaka falters, how long can the Red Sox wait before finding a way to make a change?

Issue No. 4: Who should play shortstop, Marco Scutaro or Jed Lowrie?

This was never actually a question and that has held true in spring training. Scutaro has played 25 innings at shortstop so far. Lowrie has played 6 innings at shortstop with 11 innings at first base and 14 at second.

Francona has said since December that Scutaro would be his shortstop and Lowrie will be the utility infielder. Nothing has changed.

Other issues

Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez haven't has much trouble fitting or dealing with the attention. That's not a surprise given they are veteran All-Star players who were the focal points of their previous teams. ... The Salty-Tek catching combo is working out well based on the feedback from the pitchers. ... The injury recovery news has all been overwhelmingly positive. ... Several prospects (Juan Carlos Linares, Oscar Tejeda, Yamaico Navarro) have stepped up nicely. ... New pitching coach Curt Young has apparently enjoyed a fairly seamless transition.

Check back later for lineups and more from City of Palms Park.

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