Ask Nick: Does Youkilis get his job back?

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The question of the week comes from Carl Thommen of Grove, Pa.

Carl writes: “In 1925, Wally Pipp lost his job to a young Lou Gehrig. Is it possible that “Wally the Green Monster” is soon to be joined by Kevin “Wally” Youkilis, as it appears that with a chronic ailing back, he may also have just lost his job. Will Middlebrooks looks like he is up for more than just a cup of coffee.

Very interesting question and comment.

My answer prior to Middlebrooks hitting two homers in Boston’s win over Kansas City on Monday was that Youkilis gets his job back for now. But the decision gets easier on whether to pick up his option or whether to deal him at the trading deadline if they have any bites.

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Not so sure about that answer now.

What this team needs is youthful energy and so far Middlebrooks has provided just that. After I made a brief stop in Pawtucket Monday night to watch Daisuke Matsuzaka, it appears to me they also need Jose Iglesias up and Ryan Lavarnway needs to be up catching.

Iglesias has played incredible defense and he’s starting to hit. Lavarnway doesn’t have his power stroke yet, but he’s hitting fine and his defense has been solid.

Here’s what I would do with Youkilis: Can the Red Sox convince him to be their Michael Young? He could play some third, first, left field and DH. Maybe even some second base. With his bad back, I don’t know if this is feasible, but it would be the best use of the talent.

And let’s be a little careful about Middlebrooks. Let’s see how he performs over a longer period of time. When Josh Reddick finally came up last season, he lit it up and then fell back down to Earth. But for now, Middlebrooks, except for a couple of throwing errors where he hasn’t set his feet, has been quite impressive.

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So thanks for the timely question, Carl.

Let’s answer a few more:

I can’t recall a time where so many players seem to care so little. No fire whatsoever. I don’t think they can actually come back from this miserable start. What are their options at this point? Do the Sox have any minor league options left on Buchholz?
Dave, Winslow, Maine
Well, I saw great effort in their 17-inning loss to the Orioles Sunday. I don’t think that was the issue. I think the issue was a lack of starting-type players. An Ellsbury or Crawford might have got a big hit somewhere along the line to win that game. That’s what they’re lacking. The pitching has been disappointing, I’ll give you that. The big three have to establish themselves as tough starters every time out.

What are the rules for a player having their number retired by the Red Sox? I think I heard somewhere that they had to have played 10 years for the club and be in the Hall of Fame. True? Also, if the above rules are correct, do you see the Red Sox making an exception for Pedro Martinez when No. 45 is elected to the HoF?
Ben, Brookline, Mass.
The criteria: 1) Election to the Baseball Hall of Fame; 2) At least 10 years played with the Red Sox; 3) Finish his career with the club. OK, that didn’t happen with Carlton Fisk. At least not his playing career. I think they should make the exception with Wade Boggs, Pedro Martinez and Roger Clemens. Not sure if Clemens will get into the hall because of his steroid issues, but Boggs went into the Hall as a Red Sox. Martinez will also go in as a Red Sox. Bottom line: there needs to be a change in the criteria.

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Click the Full Entry button for more Q&A.

What is the over-under in weeks as to Valentine’s tenure as manager of the Sox? I’m thinking 6 weeks and I’m going to take the under.
Fran, Middleboro, Mass.
Why is it his fault?

In your recent mailbag, you asked fans to subscribe to the Globe to get your Sunday Notes column, but what about West Coast fans who do not need the Globe news, but want just sports?
Nancy, Sonoma, Calif.
Well you still get a lot of free sports content on Boston.com. The daily coverage of the team is free. It’s the premium content such as columnists and the Sunday Notes that are considered premium material. Here’s a link to BostonGlobe.com subscription information.

In the marathon May 6 Sox-O’s game, we saw two position players pitch in a tie game. Wouldn’t a starter, especially the one who has his throwing day that day, normally come in to throw a few innings in a game like that?
Chris, New Haven, Conn.
Yes at times, but the one throwing that day was Jon Lester and he threw before the game.

I was at the 17-inning game and was proud of the bullpen for its job after Buchholz left. My question is: What is wrong with Gonzalez?
Brian, New London, NH
He says he’s a tick off with his swing and feels he’s getting it back. Much like Albert Pujols is trying to find his swing. Both of them will hit, but right now A-Gon has been killing them.

When do you think is a good time to start asking for the firing of Bobbie Valentine?
Kamran, Tampa, Fla.
When they get all of their players back and they still stink.

Seems it is time to drop Buchholz from the rotation and take a chance with Cook and others. Will Crawford’s contract mean the Sox will not have money to sign Ellsbury?
Dave, Bangkok, Thailand
I would have a short leash on Buchholz as well. No reason he should have unlimited time to work it out. As for Ellsbury, you have to be careful with all of his injuries. I think you play it out with him, through next year, and if he stays healthy then you think about a long-term commitment.

Could this possibly be the most talented failure of a team since the Orioles signed Albert Belle? I’d rather have a team full of 4A players who care than this team.
Alexander, New Britian
I disagree that the players don’t care. I think they do care. I just don’t think they’re that good. You described them well — 4A players. They have too many on the field right now.

How do you put into words how pathetic this team truly is?
Tom, Chesapeake, Va.
They certainly were on the homestand. Let’s see how they respond again on the road. It may be as simple as feeling more pressure when they play at home. We all had a different feeling about them after a 6-1 road trip.

I got my wish when Jason Varitek retired and Jarrod Saltalamacchia took over the primary catching duties. Thought there was more upside offensively and for holding runners. Is there anyone who believes (yourself included), that the Red Sox’ poor pitching is a result of the loss of Tek’s handling of the rotation?
Jeff, Lexington, Ky.
Certainly a plausible theory, but I never let the ones who throw the pitches off the hook, though. They are veteran, professional pitchers. They have control over what they throw. They can shake him off if they feel he’s calling the wrong pitch. Sorry, I’m just not a big believer that it’s the catcher’s fault.

When are you or one of the other sports writers planning to uncover the charade known as “the sellout”? Anyone in the stands or at home realize that a.) the place is not sold out b.) tickets are available and c.) the Red sox are misrepresenting this “longest sellout in baseball”
Diane, Atlanta
Maybe you missed it, but Bob Hohler just did a big story on this topic recently.

John Lester still has not made that step from very good to great pitcher. Put him against the ace of the good teams in the league, and the Red Sox probably lose. I wonder if any Sox starter this year would break the Rays’ rotation?
Joe, Wantagh, NY
I can’t argue with that. He has the ability to be an ace, a No. 1, but he’s been inconsistent. Until he shows consistency and pitches 220 innings, the jury will be out.