Ask Nick: Should Gonzalez switch to outfield?

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Our question of the week comes from Jonathan Lobel, who lives in Frydlant in the Czech Republic. Jonathan asks, “Adrian Gonzalez says he will play wherever the team needs him. Why not put him in the outfield, (Kevin) Youkilis at first base and keep Will Middlebrooks at third base? Seems like these guys are paid enough (and had been playing poorly enough) to be flexible.”
This is an interesting topic. Maximizing your offense with this approach would be advantageous for the team. The issue may be whether you really want to take your Gold Glove first baseman, Gonzalez, and keep him in right field indefinitely. I think the answer to that is no. But to do it on occasion? Sure.

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I think Gonzalez has no problem with it, and as long as he’s enthusiastic about it, it would work. The easiest thing to do here is to send Middlebrooks down to Pawtucket, but I don’t think that’s fair to the kid, who looks like he’s going to be a good player. This team is already down Carl Crawford and Jacoby Ellsbury, and to have more firepower in the lineup would be a good thing, even if some people are playing out of position at times.

In a week, the mood of Sox Nation has certainly changed as the team comes together really for the first time in the Bobby Valentine era. While a players-only meeting seemed to help things, it’s really the work of the pitching staff that has been the best cure for Red Sox ills.

This is a big three-game series in Baltimore. As I wrote in a recent On Baseball column, the Red Sox could begin to change the way people the AL East if they can sweep or take the series from the Orioles.

I think we need to cut Bobby V. some slack! He’s coming back into MLB after a long hiatus. He only had a short time to get to know his new team. Watching the team the last couple of weeks, I see more smiles in the dugout, I see more enthusiasm, and I think they are starting to pull it together. It can only get better when Jacoby, CC, and Bailey come back. Am I wrong?
Dan, Ocala, Fla.
Good points, Dan. I think the fair-minded fans understand that about Valentine, plus he doesn’t have complete say in matters. There are a lot of front-office “suggestions” that tend to get in the way of Valentine being able to be Valentine. But the team is getting used to him. Tough to go from the ultimate players manager in Terry Francona to a guy not known for that. But I think the less warm and fuzzy approach to players will pay off in the long run.

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What do the Sox do with Alfredo Aceves when Bailey is ready to pitch? What about Bard?
Bob, Rochester, NY
My guess is if Aceves is doing a great job as a closer by then, he keeps the job and Bailey is eased into things. It’ll be a while before Bailey is ready anyway. I doubt they would thrust him into the closer role. As for Bard, who knows? It all depends on what the team needs are when Daisuke Matsuzaka and Aaron Cook are ready to come back. That decision is at least two weeks away, if not more. A lot could change or happen in that time span.

It seems to me that the best outfielder the Sox have in the minors, and the one with the most MLB potential (excluding those not close to MLB readiness such as Bryce Brentz, Brandon Jacobs, Jackie Bradley, etc) is by far Juan Carlos Linares. Why has GM Ben Cherington repeatedly overlooked Linares, who looks like he could help the Sox now?
Paul, Boston
Not sure why Linares gets skipped over. I think he’s coming off an injury-filled season after his Achilles tear, and they started him in Portland (AA) to build it back up. Sometimes guys just get typecast even by the people in charge and can’t convince them otherwise. It happens a lot in baseball.

Why are we keeping Nick Punto on the team? He can’t hit and we have a shortstop in Pawtucket in Jose Iglesias who is hitting well and he can play SS and then we can move Mike Aviles to utility and we would at least have someone off the bench who can play the field and hit.
Bruce, Concord, NC
I’m a huge Jose Iglesias supporter, but Mike Aviles has really surprised me both with his offense and his defense. Are there balls Iglesias could have gotten to that Aviles hasn’t? Absolutely. But right now there’s no reason to make that move. We’ll see if Aviles keeps it up or he suffers any wear and tear because he’s playing so much. As for Punto, yes he seems overmatched at the plate. It’s awfully tough for bench players to have any consistency hitting because of their lack of playing time. But I think he’s a good defensive player and he’s a great guy on a team.

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Watching the Red Sox’ entire pitching staff, it appears that they are all afraid of every batter they face. They all seem to think it’s better to give up walks rather than allow the batter to hit the ball. Walks get the batter on 100 percent of the time, letting the batter hit gets the batter on about 30 percent of the time!
Bill, Jacksonville, Fla
Walks are bad, no doubt. They pay for them. I will say this, the staff looks a lot better the past 10 days than it has all season. So if they stay like this, I think Valentine would take that.

The retirement of Jason Varitek and Tim Wakefield has been given a lot of attention. However, we may have forgotten that another prominent former Red Sox has retired this year, Pedro Martinez. How many players could be so well known that just their first name is enough? Isn’t there a chance the Red Sox brass also give him his day at Fenway, sign him to a minor league deal like Nomar so he will retire as a Red Sox?
Lloyd, Philippines
Sure, they could and I’m sure they’re thinking about that. Pedro hasn’t officially retired yet, so that could be one of the issues. He joked when he was in Boston that he could be ready to pitch in about 20 days. But I’ll bet ‘ya they’re thinking about something like that.

Can the Red Sox recoup some of the money they have lost with injuries to Lackey, Dice-K, and others who are out for he season. I thought the Astros did something similar with Jeff Bagwell.
Scott, Bangor, Maine
Well, Dice-K’s deal runs out at the end of the season, but they’re pretty much stuck with Lackey and Carl Crawford’s enormous sums. They would have to eat part or most of Crawford’s contract if they were to move him unless they were able to exchange a contract like Jayson Werth’s in Washington. Can’t do anything until he gets back on the field.

I know the Red Sox have at least 9 million reasons to keep Youk in the starting nine. But what about converting him to a super-utility role? One other note: thank god Bobby has been thrown out. Sure looks like with the extraordinary amount of bad/close calls going against the Sox, the umps were challenging him.
Mel, Southington, Conn.
I prefer to call a new role for Youk the Michael Young Role. I think he could do it for the rest of the year. Don’t know if the Red Sox think that way, though. I was glad Bobby got thrown out as well. He was being way too mellow there. Though I’m not big on arguing with umpires on balls and strikes. It usually backfires.

It seems the Sox are going to continue to have roster management problems as players come off of injuries because they have so many 4A players who are out of options. The Aaron Cooks of the world can’t really be dealt for anything, but might be needed again if the injury march continues. This seems like another consequence of the farm system atrophy or mistakes in managing the 40 man roster. Thoughts?
Chris, Tolland, Conn.
Not really mistakes in managing the 40-man. The problem is maybe not enough 40-man guys are ready for the majors. That happens everywhere. There are always little gaps in producing major league ready players. They do have Iglesias and Lavarnway, who could play right now, which is good at those positions. But you’re right. They can buy some time with Cook because he needs to go on a rehab assignment before they have to do anything.

Why don’t we try Dustin Pedroia at the leadoff spot and put Ryan Sweeney back to No. 2, or will that create the possibility of too many lefties in a row?
Shawn, Framingham, Mass.
Don’t think that’s an issue with this team because David Ortiz and Adrian Gonzalez hit lefties so well.

What is the real story with Beckett not pitching, as I’ve heard conflicting reports even from the Globe? Story one is Beckett wanted to pitch even with the lat strain, but management decided to pass over him. Story two is Beckett asked not to pitch. Huge difference on how to judge his golf adventure on whether Josh declared himself available or not.
Dave Frary, Upton, Mass.
The story I think is that he wanted to pitch and they overruled him. That’s what Bobby V said. Don’t think either has a bearing on golf adventure. If the team holds you out to rest your lat muscle, you shouldn’t be playing golf.

Do the Sox have any options left with Clay Bucholz? If they do, does Clay go to Pawtucket when Dice-K comes back to the rotation? If they don’t, do you think they should put Buchholz on the DL with a phantom injury to make room for Dice-K? In my opinion Buchholz is the weakest link right now. With Doubront and Bard putting up quality starts behind him, it seems like neither of them deserve to lose their spot when Dice-K is ready to make his comeback.
Jessica, Somerville, Mass.
The Sox do have options on Buchholz, but he’s turning the corner so he won’t be moved out of the rotation. Dice-K, as I wrote before, is probably at least couple of weeks away from returning after having an injection in his neck. He’s going to sit out for a week and then go back on rehab.