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FORT MYERS, Fla. Ė Except for the Alfredo Aceves blip, the Red Sox have had a pretty uneventful spring training so far. There seems to be harmony in the clubhouse with John Farrell at the head of things. The players seem to be happy and good natured. All we have to see now is whether they can play.
Mike Napoli is getting his first formal training at first base, working daily with third base coach Brian Butterfield. Donít expect the end result to be someone like Adrian Gonzalez and Kevin Youkilis with the glove. The first base defense wonít be that good.
Donít get too worried about Felix Doubront being a little out of shape. One thing Iíve learned over the years is that you can look good and play bad and look bad and play well. And donít get too excited about John Lackey being in shape. He has to show he can come back from Tommy John surgery.
I also wonder if theyíre missing the boat on Jose Iglesias. Is it better to have an above-average shortstop who can hit like Stephen Drew or a magician at shortstop whose offense is poor but who can save outs, games and a pitching staff in Iglesias?
Thatís what spring training is for.
Hereís the mailbag:
I've seen a lot written in the Extra Bases blog lately about the involvement of Pedro Martinez with the pitching staff. I was hoping to get your opinion on this. What do you think the true impact of Pedro's role will be on the actual performance of the pitching staff? Do you think that his involvement will directly lead to more wins for the Red Sox compared to typical coach? Or will the benefit be much less subtle than that?
-- Mike, Melrose
Itíll be more subtle than anything. Heís not a full-time instructor. Whatever he can observe and talk to players about little things will be helpful. He can valuable in other ways such as evaluating amateur talent. Iím thinking he might be more valuable in that area than anything else.
Alfredo Aceves is just to much trouble. He's OK, but not that good, a superstar in his mind only. Trade him or just release him, but get the bad apple out of the way before he is a cancer to this team. Do you think the Sox can get anything for him?
-- Bob, Newfields, New Hampshire
The strange thing for me is they devoted so many resources toward signing good character players and then they leave Aceves in the clubhouse. Aceves's problems just didnít sneak up on them. Thereís a laundry list. The incident the other day as just one of a few.
In five years the Red Sox will still have a great home-grown infield (Will Middlebrooks 1B, Dustin Pedroia 2B, Deven Marrero SS, Xander Bogaerts 3B) but what else will they have without risking a big free-agent acquisition. After the infield talent everything drops off (save for Matt Barnes and Jackie Bradley Jr.). What are they going to look like in five years? Also is Jonathan Crawford the person the Sox should be drafting? He seems to have ace-caliber pitches and could team with Barnes for a great 1-2 punch. I think we to take need a pitcher with our high (7 overall) draft pick. Why aren't they going after Mike Carp more? And finally, who is going to be Johnny Gomes platoon mate?
Lots of points, Xander. I mean what organization knows what theyíll look at in five years? Those plans change constantly. Toronto expected to look a lot different than what they look like entering the season as they had planned. The Red Soxí plan also changed dramatically after they dealt Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford and Jose Beckett. As for who theyíre drafting, Jonathan Crawford would be a nice pick. Iím sure theyíll always choose a pitcher unless thereís a slugging first baseman they like better. On Gomes, they have always intended to platoon him. Nava and Sweeney are the front runners. I suppose Jackie Bradley could thrust himself into the mix if he has a great camp.
Can the Red Sox trade Aceves to Pittsburgh for Garrett Jones or Seattle for Mike Carp or Justin Smoak. Thanks for your time
-- Jeffrey O'Neill, Rochester, New Hampshire
Canít get Jones or Smoak for him, but Carp for sure.
Jose Iglesias made many games worth watching last season -- every day he seemed to make at least one remarkable play. Compared to a .300 hitter, a .200 hitter will get about one fewer hit every three games or so, but if during those three games he creates three extra outs in the field, playing him still appears to put the team way, way ahead. At least in theory: no-brainers in baseball are sometimes elusive. In reality how does the WAR (or other all-in benefit statistic) work out when a .300-hitting shortstop with only average defense is compared to the very best defenders (e.g. Brendan Ryan) if the plate production is only .200?
-- Tony, Portland, Oregon
Yikes. Way above my intellectual capacity. All I know is what pitcher wouldnít want Jose Iglesias to be the starting shortstop? He does save outs, saves pitches thrown. This is why Joe Maddon is so excited about having Yunel Escobar at shortstop. He really believes his pitchers will benefit.
If Xander Bogaerts progresses as expected, and another candidate moves into the shortstop position, why not move Middlebrooks to first and Bogaerts to third. Why aren't the Sox looking to slide Rubby De La Rosa into the No. 5 spot?
-- Mike, Fredericksburg, Virginia
That scenario could play out, but itís not time for that yet. Bogaerts is going to be at Double-A. Weíre looking at one to two years before that decision has to be made. Unless thereís an injury, the Red Sox have five starters and Franklin Morales, Aceves and Steven Wright. De La Rosa is also coming off surgery. He needs time.
Do you think Jonny Gomes will become a full-time LF by the end of the season?
-- Ryan, Sharon
I donít think so. Heís shown throughout his career that heís had problems hitting righthanded pitchers. He has a career .223 average vs. righties, .209 last season with Oakland. Is there a better option lefthanded? If there isnít heíll play more. But I think the Red Sox will make sure they have someone ho can put up better numbers from the left side.
I know players work out in the winter, but with injured players like David Ortiz, do they work out with their own devices or does the team follow closely, monitoring progress on a frequent basis?
-- John, Hermon, Maine
In Papiís case the team was all over him this offseason. They had their trainers and medical staff with him quite a bit. He does have his own people in the Dominican, but itís monitored closely by Sox training staff. Thatís usually the case with an injured player, especially a high-profile one.
I think this culture stuff is way overrated. I know it's a long year but winning will make the culture a non-issue. As far as I'm concerned the word is an excuse management has allowed the media to use for not putting the best team they possibly can on the field. Just win, baby, and watch the culture word disappear from the media and the players' discussions. Cut the baloney excuses ! And forget culture.
-- Tony, Jupiter, Florida
Youíre right to a point, but the Red Sox did have high-profile players like Gonzalez, Crawford and Beckett to go along with Ortiz and Pedroia and it didnít work. I hear what youíre saying. Winning does create good chemistry, but if you donít have players who can win, youíre spinning your wheels.
I've heard the theory that maybe Jarrod Saltalamacchia is at the stage in his career where the Sox have seen everything they feel they need to see of him, that maybe this would be the time to move him if the price was right. But don't you think he's also capable of a bigger offensive season this year now that he's more comfortable as the No. 1 catcher? He devoted so much time with his pitchers last year and working on his defense and calling a good game, while not working on his hitting as much, that perhaps it contributed to his high strikeout rate and low OPS? Then factor in John Farrell's presence to help with the staff and I can see a stronger offensive season from him. Your thoughts?
-- Bob, Mountain View, California
I wouldnít trade him. When his plate discipline gets better, heíll hit 30 homers every year.
In a world in which the Red Sox would trade Dustin Pedroia, would Xander Bogaerts be able to handle second base defensively? A trade package for Pedroia would be epic and could push the Soxís minor league system over the top. With the doubts about Bogarets ability to play shortstop could second base be the answer?
-- Daniel, Nahant
I would think so, though his body type is best suited for third, first or the outfield.
Please explain 40-man roster to me. Someone the Sox are sure to count on this year (Ryan Sweeney) is not on the 40-man roster at this time according to list posted on boston.com, but, on the other hand, stud prospects Xander Bogaerts and Jackie Bradley aren't either. Yet minor leaguers such as catcher Dan Butler are?
-- George, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania
With younger players it has to do with service time. You donít put them on 40-man until you have to protect them from the Rule 5 draft. A player who was signed when he was 19 or older and has been under a minor league contract four years has to be protected on the 40-man or be susceptible to the Rule 5 draft. If he was drafted before 19 years old, he has to be protected after five years. Butler is an older guy they didnít want to lose in the draft. Ryan Sweeney as a free-agent who signed a minor league deal with an invitation to camp. If he makes the team he will be added to the 40-man roster.
Could the Red Sox have landed Trevor Bauer? He seems like an ace in the making. All the Indians gave up was basically a no-hit, all-glove SS. Why couldn't they have sent Iglesias for Bauer? I'm sort of emotional about this one.
-- Steve, Canton
Yes, they could have acquired him. They do have excess at the shortstop position.
I know it's a minor injury, but Clay Buchholz injuring his hamstring already is not a promising start. Is this an issue of poor conditioning, bad luck or a sign of something more serious? He's had hamstring trouble in the past, so I would have thought (hoped) careful attention would be paid to making these muscles as strong and flexible as possible coming into the season.
-- Amy, Northbridge
Heís supposed to be a good athlete with speed, but you remember he hurt himself running the bases one year and now hurt himself during a simple drill. Have no idea whatís going on. These guys have great trainers looking after them.
There is a lot of debate about whether the Red Sox owners are up to the job, and while I agree with some of the criticisms, I'm also left with questions which I'd like to hear your thoughts on. Werner and Lucchino come across as phony and hollow. John Henry however is more complex. He made his money from number-crunching, not marketing. He hired Bill James before sabermetrics was mainstream; he tried to hire Billy Beane, and eventually settled on Epstein -- all in support of a quantitative approach to baseball, which looks at players' statistics to find undervalued and reliable game winners, rather than following the old fashioned subjective ideal of a player who "look good" (whatever that means). It was the numbers approach which won for us in 2004 and 2007, and the creepy return of the subjective approach which led to the collapse of 2011. What I don't understand is how Henry went from being an anti-image baseball innovator to presiding over two disastrous years in which we signed expensive underperformers like Crawford because they looked good. Maybe he found winning too easy, forgot what made him successful, and got his head turned by the glamour. Yet he recently complained about the fact that Bill James has been less prominent in the organization -- Bill James, the epitome of numbers versus image. It seems like a paradox to me. As a Red Sox fan I only hope that John Henry goes back to the number crunching, unsexy, winning approach. Bring on the Band of Idiots reunion tour!
-- Eric, Edinburgh, Scotland
The ďIdiotsĒ had nothing to do with numbers. I think that as mostly intangibles. You can argue 2007 was part of the number-crunching. I think they use both methods and thatís the way it should be. They simply havenít picked the right free agents for what ever reason. I think the Red Sox have very good owners. They spend a lot of money on the team itís just that their decisions havenít been right, but I think they strive for a winner every year.