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Ask Nick: Pleading for a fifth starter

Posted by Chad Finn, Globe Staff  March 14, 2012 12:34 PM

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I think the Red Sox should be looking for the third baseman of the future. Kevin Youkilis is getting up there and hasnít proven he can stay healthy for a full season. Will Middlebrooks is impatient at the plate and doesnít fit the typical Red Sox model of a player who doesnít give away at bats. Do you think the Sox would consider trading for Rangers minor leaguer Mike Olt? He plays plus defense and has power and patience and is blocked by Adrian Beltre at third base. Maybe the Sox could trade Crawford for Olt and Jurickson Profar to build the left side infield of the future.
-- Jody, Shaftsbury, Vt.

Thanks Jody. I think they feel Middlebrooks will become that type of a hitter. Heís been able to improve on things at every level heís been. Thereís no rush. Heíll be at Triple A this season and heíll be able to work on his hitting and his approach, so I donít feel the Red Sox have the need to go out and acquire another third baseman unless they include Middlebrooks in some type of deal.

Could you explain the terms of the minor league contracts Aaron Cook, Vicente Padilla, and Ross Ohlendorf are on? Are there differences between the three contracts? How long can the Sox keep those guys in the minors? Also, what are the terms of Scott Atchison's contract? Presumably he could start at Pawtucket and be brought up. But if he is on the major league roster at any time, can he be sent down? Or, once he's up do they risk losing him if they try send him out? I'm surprised I don't see much more written about this because it impacts how long-term roster management may be seen by the Sox, especially if all these guys do well, which right now is petty much happening ... in which case the Sox might want to find a way to keep all of them.
-- Anthony

The three veterans have similar contracts. They receive a certain amount Ė usually around $200,000 when theyíre in the minors and when they called up they have a major league component. I know Cook and Padilla are $1.5 million if they hit the majors. Cook has a May 1 opt out if heís not on the major league roster. Atchison was signed to a major league minimum contract - $454,000, so he makes that no matter where he is. Carlos Silva would earn $1 million if he makes it to the majors. Back to Atchison, heís out of options so if he makes the team and they send him down, he would have to pass through waivers.

So is Jerry Royster trying to get everyone thrown out at home this spring? I know Dale Sveum isn't available; where's Wendell Kim these days?
-- Dan, Seattle

Itís spring training for him as well. He doesnít know the runners and heís getting to know them. But I do believe youíll see runners thrown out because Valentine has a very aggressive mindset when it comes to running. Heíll take some chances.

What is your take on Adrian Gonzalez? Dan Shaughnessy wrote, "Gonzalez is one sour dude. Almost Nomar-esque. Nobody likes a know-it-all." I didn't think he was like that. Chemistry problem down the line?
-- Joe, Dartmouth

Donít think heís a problem, or that heíll create a ďchemistry problemĒ but he can come off that way. Heís very strong in his opinions about baseball.

Why do the Red Sox always go out and get players they need, but get them when they are too old or on the way out of baseball, and give them way too much money?
-- Dave, Boston

Not sure who youíre referring to. Carl Crawford comes the closest to that description though he's relatively young. Itís not a signing I would have made. I think they got Adrian Gonzalez at the right time.

If Iglesias is such a slick infielder why don't the Red Sox assign a hitting coach to him on a daily basis to give him the ability to hit major league pitching?
-- Frank, Waterboro, Maine

Donít you think they do that?

Why are all balls pitched into the dirt by a pitcher immediately replaced, yet balls batted into the dirt or balls thrown into the dirt by an infielder and scooped up by the first baseman are kept in play? What is the difference in those scenarios for the pitcher?
-- Steve, Commack, N.Y.

I think itís the umpire. The umpire sees the ball is in the dirt and he replaces it. I think itís more instinctive for the ump to replace the ball in that scenario. When a play is made, the ball is thrown right back to the pitcher. Sometimes the pitcher wants a new ball and gets it. Other times he doesnít.

Youkilis looks to be a defensive liability. With Middlebrooks ready, Kolbin Vitek down the road, and Nick Punto here, why wouldn't the Sox be looking for some young arms for Youk. Would July be the time even if they are in the playoff hunt?
-- Zeke, East Longmeadow

Because you need his bat in the middle of the lineup. When heís healthy, heís an excellent offensive player. You donít have anyone to replace that. Now that heís completely healthy, weíll see if heís a liability in the field. I think he was unable to move last season because he had so many things wrong with him.

I personally don't see a great need to switch up the Sox lineup, given the production the first five slots showed last season. However, as a high school coach, such thought experiments are always fun. I'm wondering what you think of batting Youkilis second and Pedroia cleanup. This would break up the lead footed A-Gon-Youk-Papi threesome and get the "Greek God of Walks" in front of their run-producers.
-- Cory, Manilla, Philippines

Good thought and I saw one lineup this spring where Youkilis was hitting second.

On March 7, Peter Abraham wrote: "[Brett] Lawrie hit a drive to the wall in right that Sweeney made a terrific catch on.Sweeney is a vastly underrated defensive player. He could be a good fit at Fenway Park in right field." Why is Sweeney underrated? He is underrated offensively and defensively. I think you media people have something to do with this. Am I right? After Sweeney was 4 for 5 with a HR and 5 RBIs, he sat on the bench. Is this objective baseball, Nick?
-- Vicente, Cali, Colombia

Itís spring training. Heís not going to play everyday. Whatís this got to do with objectivity? Heís going to be the starting right fielder when the season starts if Crawford is on the DL. Once Crawford comes back, Cody Ross will move to right. Sweeney is a superb defensive player, but his lack of power will keep him a platoon player.

I notice you guys always refer to a 'B' game for the Red Sox in spring training. What exactly is a 'B' game?
-- Daniel, Westbrook, Maine

A game with no fans, usually held at the minor league field with some minor league players and some major league players. Sometimes itís a controlled setting where a certain player will get multiple at-bats and thereís a lot of batting out of order, etc. An informal game.

Does Clayton Mortensen have any chance on being the fourth or fifth starter?
-- Tucker Lyons, Geneseo, N.Y.

Doubt it.

Will the Sox make a push for Roy Oswalt sometime during spring training?
-- Jack, McKinney, Texas

I think they have their radar up on Oswalt. If he wants to come, they will oblige.

I don't understand what influence Bill James has with the club. John Lackey, Crawford, and some other major signings did not have "James-like" stats. Lackey's WHIP was not great, Crawford's OBP was not good and James used to preach that signing speed was questionable when "speed" players got older. Do you know if James wanted Lackey or Crawford? What's your opinion of James's influence?
-- Michael, Ithaca, N.Y.

Not sure he has much influence at all. Heís given statistical projects, but not sure if heís asked for recommendations. I would doubt it.

After unloading Marco Scutaro, I really thought that the Sox would make a serious run at obtaining Oswalt or Edwin Jackson. Meanwhile, Cherington made two laughable offers to each free agent, and we still do not know who the fifth starter will be. I find it hard to believe that the Red Sox needed to trade Scoot in order to give Cody Ross a $3 million contract. What do you think management was thinking when they made this deal?
-- Claudia, Sarasota, Fla.

I wouldnít get too hung up on Scutaro leaving. They do have a good replacement in Aviles and Iglesias may be the best defensive shortstop in the league when he takes the job. The offer to Oswalt was as much as any team offered ($6 million). As for Jackson, heís never lived up to his promise and I wouldnít have given him a multi-year deal.

What do you think are Darnell McDonald's chances of making the team this year, especially with him being out of options and with other more appealing options such as Cody Ross and Ryan Sweeney. To me, I can't imagine that her will be able to make the team!
-- Pat, Mattapoisett

Darnell has had a good spring and he should make it, especially with Crawford starting the year on the DL. He may run into some problems is Aviles is used as a utility man rather than the starting shortstop.

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