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Ask Nick: Let the games begin

Posted by Gary Dzen, Boston.com Staff  February 26, 2014 09:47 AM

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FORT MYERS, Fla -- The Red Sox are closing in on their first games of the exhibition season Thursday with a BC/NU doubleheader. So things are moving fast.

It's a been a relatively quiet camp so far save the Ryan Dempster announcement, but the Red Sox replaced him quickly with West Springfield native Chris Capuano.

Apropos of nothing:

-- I hate the catcher collision rule. It's one of the most exciting plays in baseball. I can't see how players can change a lifetime of instinctive action on that play in one spring training and adhere to all of the new rules including how a catcher can't block the plate before he has the ball, and the runner can't project his body above the shoulder of the catcher. Let's see how this works. I suspect there'll be some issues.

-- Grady Sizemore looks good in Phase I of spring training. As the games begin soon, we'll see how his knees take the pounding of playing every day. That's the next big test. Must admit, he looks terrific so far.

-- I'm on record as Dustin Pedroia being the best candidate for leadoff, but it seems it'll be more a Shane Victorino/Daniel Nava combo. See my story in today's Globe on the lineup.

-- The Red Sox have a done a great job not only acquiring top young talent, but top young people. You can't get any nicer than Jackie Bradley Jr and Xander Bogaerts.

-- How about Bogaerts winning NESN's Jordan Furniture hockey shootout? The kid is from Aruba and he'd never handled a hockey stick before...

-- I think we're all going to like A.J. Pierzynski's candor....

-- Yes, I'm on a get Wade Boggs' number retired kick. The fact that it isn't makes absolutely no sense.

-- I want to see Tommy Harper working with Bradley Jr. on his basestealing...

-- Refreshing: Koji Uehara acts like he doesn't have a care in the world...

-- Andrew Miller is throwing darts. My goodness, why can't he become a closer?

-- Daniel Nava looks as if he's done a lot of work at first base. Looks much smoother there than last season...

-- You can see why the Red Sox have one-year deals with David Ross and Pierzynski because Christian Vazquez and Blake Swihart look so athletic behind the dish...

-- Edward Mujica has absolutely filthy stuff...

Here's the mailbag:

I'm a Brandon Workman fan, and thought he did quite well in the time he was with the big club last season. Except for a couple of outings, including Todd Helton Day (which seemed to be an accommodation of Helton as much as anything), his in-season performance was quite acceptable, and his post-season performance marred only by an errant throw he didn't make in the Middlebrooks interference World Series game, was outstanding, and in my book, the equivalent of Xander Bogaerts. And yet he is barely mentioned, if at all, in most discussions of the Sox up and coming prospects. That seems inappropriate to me....What do you make of it?
David B., Aurora, Ohio

Don't agree with "barely mentioned." He is really front and center actually. He's the pitcher the Red Sox are trying to make room for in the rotation. He'll likely be used either in the bullpen at the start or he'll begin in Pawtucket as a starter. Believe me, he's always on their mind.

The Red Sox seem to have a very large operations staff, which allows them to cover all possible on-field moves; transaction possibilities at all levels; ensuring the same training philosophies at all levels, especially post-season programs; working-out 3 years for roster placement; and, being in all world-wide baseball leagues. am i imagining such? What other teams seem to be in such an envious position?
Charles Davis II, Boston

They definitely are at the cutting edge in terms of quantity of personnel and also quality. They are very diverse in the number of things they look at - from a huge scouting staff to a big staff of number crunchers, and of course, Bill James. So yes, they have a large number of resources available to them. I'd say the Dodgers have the biggest staff of all. The Blue Jays, Yankees, Giants, Phillies, Mets, Braves, Cardinals all have large relatively large staffs.

The Sox picked up Burke Badenhop over the Winter. How do you think he will be utilized in the Sox pen? They have a bunch of other good arms so I'm thinking he may delegated as one of the first guys out of the bullpen.

Also, any chance that he may only be in to face right handed hitters? Over the last two years:

2012: Lefties: .844 OPS; Righties: .610 OPS
2013: Lefties: .918 OPS; Righties: .574 OPS

That is a significant difference
Tony B., Montgomery Village, MD

Well, who knows how he'll be utilized? He could be the pitcher who comes in when the team is behind to hold down the status quo, a job we've seen guys like Matt Albers and Clayton Mortenson have over the last few years. He is a strike-thrower so they would have faith in the fact that he wouldn't walk the ballpark. But with Mujica, Miller, Breslow, Tazawa etc. I'm guessing he'll be in on the nagtive side of the score.

I know you and others have touched on this before: but how sad it is that Johnny Pesky is not here? Not just because he was Mr Red Sox, but because he would have loved this group of guys and they would have loved him. I keep thinking of how he would have looked with a season-long beard! And if his funeral had taken place this year, how many players would have made it to that church. At least we know he's rooting for the Sox from the primo seats.
Jim, Town Falls Church, Va.

Steve Buckley and I were just talking about this over coffee today. Steve mentioned how he's been thinking about Johnny lately. So yes, there's a tremendous void. He was someone who greeted you every morning. He was part of our routine, not only down here in spring training, but during the season as well. John was a fixture, a great Red Sox. There'll never be anyone like him again. So yes, he's not forgotten.

What do you see as the three biggest issues facing the Red Sox?
Mike T., Hendersonville, Tenn.

For one, hunger. Are they hungry enough to put in the time for their preparation as they did a year ago? Secondly, avoiding major injuries. They were fairly healthy last season except for their pitchers. They lost two closers to injury and Clay Buchholz for three month, but their tremendous depth really made a difference. A third is Jacoby Ellsbury. I probably make more of this loss than they do, but I thought he was a game-changer and they don't have that anymore and the Yankees do. Another factor is luck. They had it all in their favor last season. Will that continue? Then there's the competitition. The Yankees, Rays and Orioles look stronger to me.

Nick, Enough. Getting your number retired is an honor, Wade lost his when he tried selling his potential bust at the HOF to the highest bidder. As I remember he wanted one of his former clubs to pay up $1,000,000 for him to wear their cap. Sorry, I agree with the Sox on this on. If they want to honor someone by retiring their number, try Tony Cís #25.
Craig C., Holliston

Well, I am an advocate for both. I was a Tony C. fan as a kid so no argument there. As the for the selling of the bust, Boggs strongly denies that ever happened. It was one of those stories that took on a life of its own. Listen, you can't deny what he did as a player in a Red Sox uniform and today he's in Cooperstown wearing a Red Sox cap. It's very disrespectful to keep handing out his jersey to every utility infielder that comes along. If you can't get your number retired when you're in the Hall of Fame wearing your team's cap, then really, it just becomes a petty kind of a grudge the Red Sox are holding on Boggs. And it's even stranger because this ownership and management wasn't even around when Boggs was accumulating his incredible stats. With the emphasis on on base percentage now, Boggs was off the charts.

Do you still think Stephen Drew will be a Red Sox?
Jim, Boston


Not sure anyone knows. I think the longer it goes the least likely it is. The players love Drew, but they're also excited now about Bogaerts so some would think it unfair to Bogaerts if they bring Drew back. So it's in a tricky place right now. Also tricky is the fact that Bogaerts has Scott Boras as an agent and he's also Drew's agent.

As a lifelong Red Sox fan I'm wondering if I'll ever see a new ballpark in my lifetime. Fenway is wonderful for its history, but so uncomfortable. Any chance of a new facility?
Rick, Orlando, Fla.

During our annual spring training Q and A with John Henry, he indicated said that Fenway still has about a 30-year shelf life and that there would be no ballpark under the current ownership. After he said that I received a lot of e-mails and texts expressing disappointment. I think there's a growing number of Red Sox fans who would love a new ballpark. I don't know what that percentage is, but I sense it's more than ever.

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