Ask Nick: It’s early, but plenty of questions

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You know what Bobby Valentine’s problem is? He needs to find a hobby.

For years Dustin Pedroia and Terry Francona played cribbage before games (he also played with Tim Wakefield, George Kottaras, Mike Lowell and Chris Woodward).
From what I’ve seen, Valentine does none of that.

Maybe Bobby V can break out a scrabble game and play with Dustin and Youk before the game. Or maybe best-out-of seven hangman?

They might like him better.

Maybe he can pass them notes during the game, “Nice swing Youk.” Or “Attaboy Dustin, just like we did it in Japan.” Or “Thataway we throw that helmet Youk!”

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Maybe after a good game, he can put a couple of Bobby V restaurant gift certificates in an envelope and put them in their lockers. Just make sure they’re at least $100 Bobby, or they’ll call you cheap.

Maybe a symbolic back-scratcher with a note, “I have your back.”

Big group hug before the game, maybe?

Oh, and make sure in every TV interview, even if the pitcher has walked seven batters, don’t mention it. Just talk about how great he threw.

Would love to hear more suggestions on how Bobby V could improve his relationship with players.

In the meantime, here’s the mailbag:

I feel in the last few years, the Sox have lessened the amount they used to work the count during each AB. Maybe I’m just dreaming, but I thought we used to get to bullpens earlier in games. Is there some sort of statistic for batters/teams like Average Pitches Per AB (APPAB) that is used to measure that sort of thing? If there is, might the Globe staff know what is the trend of the Sox in over the last five years or so?
Alex, Philadelphia

The Red Sox work the count better than any team in the game, right up there with the Yankees. That’s their strong suit. There are some very good starting pitchers in baseball right now. Look at the Tampa Bay, Yankees, Texas, Tigers, Toronto staffs. They’re all pretty good. So there’s less chance of getting their middle relievers.

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I believe the Red Sox will be trading Kevin Youkilis before the All-Star break. They need to bring up Middlebrooks. Do you agree?
Ted, Warwick, R.I.

Well Ted, it’s going to happen sometime, but not sure it will be this season. Youkilis is still a very good hitter, and he’s changed his stance so it’s more like it was three years ago, and I think that’s working. So far, he’s handled everything well at third. There’s not a lot of range there, but I can’t see where that’s hurt them after 10 games. Middlebrooks is one guy who needs more seasoning.
The other day I was wondering how much money in salary the red sox have on the DL or unable to play list. Bailey, Lackey, Crawford, Dice-K and now Ellsbury. Is this a Sox record or perhaps even a MLB record for salaries of injured players?
Jay, Tequesta, Fla.

I’m not sure we even have to look that one up. Got to be a record. You’re talking well over $60 million on the DL.
Your comment regarding Alex Rodriquez in today’s Sunday paper was curious at best. He hits a home run and you say he hasn’t lost bat speed. That sounds like the reaction of an emotional fan not a well respected columist. I’d rather let facts be the judge. And we’ll not know better by the end of the year. A fairly steady decline since 207.
2007 — 54 homeruns, 645 OBP, BB 95, 156 RBI’s
2011 — 16 homeruns. 461 OBP, BB 47, 62 RBI’s
Paul, Chelmsford

How about injuries Paul? Any consideration of those? How can anyone just look at someone’s stats and indicate someone has declined? You don’t consider the major hip problems he’s had? He looks healthy now, so I guess we’ll just have to see how it ends up.
What does the guy behind home plate with the yellow headset on do? He is at every home game and we have seen him on the field during pregame.
Roger, Stratham, N.H.

That’s Jeremy Kapstein, the pioneer sports agent. He’s the former president/CEO of the San Diego Padres and has served as Larry Lucchino’s senior adviser for more than 10 years with the Red Sox and with the Padres before that.
Any chance the Red Sox look to the Cubs for a replacement for Ellsbury?
Yoav, Toronto

They could definitely get Marlon Byrd. Don’t think they want to at this point.
Why hasn’t anyone corrected Saltalamachia’s return toss to the pitcher? His airball lob has already been scored on once already.
Doug, Tampa, Fla.

He’s had a lot of issues with throwing throughout his career, so I don’t think they want to mess him up with new ideas.
1) So, Gonzalez comes up with the bases loaded and no outs, he stands up there joking and laughing with the Rays catcher, steps in and promptly hits the first pitch into a double play. And 30 seconds later he’s joking in the dugout goosing guys. Is this whole thing a big joke to this guy?
2) Where do I send a job application for RedSox third base coach? Is any prior experience necessary?
Tim, Holden, Maine

I don’t think one thing led to the other, but I did write about the fraternization going on around baseball these days. Never used to be like that. A lot of things are changing, and I’m not sure for the better. As for third base, it’s a difficult job at Fenway and you have to get a feel for it because of the dimensions of the ballpark. What always bothers me about fans being critical about the third base coach is that it’s a small piece of what he does. In Jerry Royster’s case, he coaches the infielder’s. That’s his primary job.
Wondered what you think about this? With Fenway celebrating its 100th anniversary MLB network ran a Prime 9 list of most memorable events in its history. Number three on the list was Dent’s home run in the 78 playoff game. It was rated ahead of the Roberts’ steal in ’04, the Ortiz homer in ’04 that precipitated the greatest playoff comeback in history, and countless others. Can you believe such gall? I guess if they listed the Prime 9 for old Yankee Stadium they would rate Schilling’s bloody sock near the top of the list, or the 10-3 Red Sox win that culminated that ’04 miracle.. Yeah, right! I guess it shows how the Red Sox rate with MLB and what MLB wants remembered about their history. What a travesty!
Ralph, Birmingham, Ala.
MLB Network does a great job with that stuff. I don’t know what the thought process was, but yes, Roberts’ steal should be ahead of Dent’s homer in my opinion.
Above all, we can rejoice in the fact that the Sox have consistently come from behind thus far. These offense will be great, we know that. However, something must be done in the pitching department, and they have a few options:
1) Keep Bard in the rotation, trade for another setup candidate/closer
2) Make Bard the closer, put Aceves in the rotation
3) Make Bard the closer, put Padilla in the rotation, give Aceves back his old role
4) Make Bard the closer, put Aceves back in his old role, acquire a starter (hopefully Oswalt)
I like #4. What do you think?
Paul, Great Neck, N.Y.

Big advocate of Bard closing. I think he’s best served there. Aceves has recovered nicely from a tough start, but he’s still an adventure and recently told our Michael Vega he’s not comfortable being a closer.
Why is it so difficult for the media to pronunce Latino names correctly? Really it can be ittle more than lethargy. Vicente Pallida is not pronounced as the media prounces it A double ll in Spanish is a “ya”. By the way, in the first three games, Sweeney is swinging like Fred Lynn once swang, no? Aviles is hitting. All those you neglected to consider.
Anonymous, Jamundía
I think everyone I know pronounces Padilla with a “ya” sound at the end. In fact, I know nobody who pronounces is with a double-L sound. As for Ryan Sweeney, yes he’s swinging well. But please stop with Fred Lynn comparisons. Please.
My question relates to Andrew Bailey — if he misses the majority of this season, does it impact his major league service time, or whatever is used to determine how long players are arbitration eligible? In other words, I am interested in knowing if the Sox get a consolation prize in having him under their control a little longer before he is able to hit free agency.
Chris, Framingham

Nope. The clock keeps ticking.
How could you not know what was going on in the clubhouse last year?
Ray, Cape Coral, Fla.
So hostile, Ray. We certainly knew Rome was burning in September. You knew that too, by watching. As far as what goes on in the clubhouse during games, how would we know? Clubhouse closes an hour before the game and doesn’t reopen until about 15 minutes after. We’re in the press box, we’re not watching the game with a beer and package of fried chicken. For the record, fried chicken was never banned from the clubhouse.