Ask Nick: Optimistic about Iglesias

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A nice variety of questions from fans across Red Sox world. Some optimism has returned after an impressive 8-2 win on Opening Day but there are still a lot of issues on your mind, including David Ortiz’s health, Jacoby Ellsbury’s future, Jackie Bradley Jr.’s arrival, Jose Iglesias’s plight, and retired numbers.

On this off-day in New York, let’s get right to your questions:

What do the Red Sox do if Jose Iglesias shows that he can actually hit? He had a go showing in the opener (three hits) and maybe he is actually starting to show improvement at the plate. Would the Sox really send him back to Triple A even though this is exactly what they wanted? But at the same time they cannot have so much money in Stephen Drew sitting on the bench.
— Randy, La Canada Flintridge, California

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As you know, my opinion is he should be the permanent shortstop, period, end of story. If he beats out infield hits and bunts and move runners along, with that defense – he may be the best shortstop defense in baseball – why would you make the change? The Red Sox don’t need to worry about paychecks and who is making what. They need the best players on the field. Drew is a very good player when healthy, but I know he’s not better than Iglesias defensively. If you need more offense from your shortstop then your lineup probably isn’t that good.

Only one game has gone by but John Farrell has already changed what we expected from the bullpen. What does it mean having Junichi Tazawa be the setup man while Andrew Bailey come in before him for one batter? Should we not look into this too deeply as it is one game, or could Farrell be doing something like having Bailey be the any important situation guy where having a closer pitch there would be best, yet also having a dominant set-up man in the eighth?
— Randy, La Canada Flintridge, California

Normally I try to avoid answering two questions from the same person, but in this case I’ll make an exception because this is a great topic. It was interesting to see the sequence used in the bullpen in Game 1. It appears they’re trying to legitimize Andrew Bailey’’s role, pretty much giving him the role that Daniel Bard used to have where he comes in in a big situation late in the game, whether it’s the sixth or seventh or eighth inning. Tazawa has been nothing but consistent and dominating with 96 mph heat. I’m sure there will be mixing and matching going on depending on who’s hitting, but we thought the bullpen would be a strength. After one game, affirmed.

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Since Bradley is starting the season with the Red Sox, I am reading he needs to be in the minors 20 days for the team to keep the extra year of control. Is there anything stopping them from just sending him down on off days during the year to accrue those 20 days?
— Tony, Salado, Texas

It has to be 20 consecutive days. If he slumps a little they may do it after David Ortiz returns.

What is your scouting report on Daniel Bard for this spring? I was surprised that he didn’t make the final roster, and expected him to be right back in his old setup role by mid season.
— Stephen, Niceville, Florida

I asked John Farrell the question of whether he was surprised that Bard couldn’t get straightened out with a full spring training. You could tell there was some surprise. But they sent him a message by optioning him to Portland that his problems aren’t a quick fix. He needs to get his act together mechanically and re-commit to the delivery that made him so successful. The decision to make him a starter is maybe one of the single worst decisions made. They should have listened to Bobby Valentine and kept him in the bullpen.


I asked earlier in the preseason about an Andrew Bailey/Rick Porcello swap but since Porcello has pitched like a five-year veteran with great stuff that is probably off. Would the Sox revisit the idea with the Tigers, since Bruce Rondon got sent down, and maybe swap a Drew Smyly in the deal?
— Mark, Pasadena, California

Porcello has pitched well so I doubt that they would entertain a deal. If they have closer issues by the trading deadline, I could see it. But the Red Sox, who seemed to have a lot of depth with their relievers, saw that diminish a tad when Franklin Morales and Craig Breslow came up lame and Bard imploded. The Red Sox have seven good relievers right now. We’ll see if that continues.
Why are so many saying that the Yankees should be in the mix for the playoffs? Is it because they’ve done it so many times for so many years? Look at the team for what it actually is: old, injury-plagued, and missing four major pieces that saved their face last year? (Rafael Soriano, Nick Swisher, Eric Chavez, and Raul Ibanez.) Don’t even get me started on their catching position.
— Jason, Los Angeles

I think their salvation is their pitching staff. It’s very solid. CC Sabathia didn’t look that great Opening Day, throwing only 91, but he’s done that before where his velocity gradually builds up as he gets more starts. He only allowed four runs so if that’s a bad day I’m sure he’ll get better. Any team with four All-Stars out of the lineup is going to feel it. They will. Little things show up, like two of their guys taking called third strikes on pitches right down the middle of the plate. But I do believe they should stick to putting their best players on the field rather than this right-left lineups. Their righthanded lineup stinks. They need Travis Hafner’s power and Lyle Overbay’s stick.
In the Yawkey years the Red Sox had a set policy for retiring numbers — play on the team 10+ years, make the Hall of Fame, finish career in Boston. They made exceptions with Carlton Fisk and more recently with Johnny Pesky. This policy seems to be a thing of the past so looking at the list of players to follow which are likely to have their number retired in the future and which number will be the next one to be added to the facade? Roger Clemens (21), Wade Boggs (26), Jason Varitek (33), David Ortiz (34), Pedro Martinez (45), Tim Wakefield (49).
— Patrick, Amherst

The policy should be what makes the most sense. Wade Boggs should be the first since he’s already in the Hall of Fame as a Red Sox. If we’re into this sophomoric “Oh he played for the Yankees’ garbage,” we’re really being petty. When Pedro gets inducted into the Hall after 2014, 45 should be retired. Clemens still has the steroid stigma around him, so I don’t think that will happen anytime soon, but I do respect the fact the team does not hand out No. 21. They should have the same policy with No. 26 in respect to Boggs. I have problems retiring numbers of players who weren’t Hall of Fame players. Varitek, Ortiz and Wakefield fall short.
It looks to me like Daniel Bard has Steve Blass disease. Do you have any thoughts about that possibility?
— Chuck, Southington, Connecticut

Don’t know. Bard is around the plate. Blass was nowhere near it, so I always associate Blass Disease with complete inability to throw it near the plate. Don’t think he has that, but he definitely has something close to that.
If Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz are back to their old form, I think that the Red Sox have an edge over Baltimore (comparable lineups, but better pitching) and Tampa Bay (comparable pitching, but better hitting). With New York hobbled by injuries and age, is it reasonable to think that the Red Sox have a good chance to finish second in the division? Have you revised your outlook for the team after witnessing a pretty impressive spring?
— Ben, Phoenix

Yes, I revised from fifth to fourth. Maybe it’ll be better. As you pointed out, if Lester and Buchholz are nails, that’s a great sign. But then you have the issues of Felix Doubront, Ryan Dempster and John Lackey. That’s three more guys who have to keep the team in the game every fifth day. Still a lot of things need to come together. Can’t get too crazy about one Opening Day victory against a Yankee team that had four starters out of the lineup. Then again, it was an impressive win.
I remember when playing hurt was a badge of honor, respected by teammates fans and managers. When did that change to “we don’t want him back until he’s 100 percent?” What I’m leading to, of course, is why David Ortiz can’t DH with sore (not structurally damaged) heels? It seems ridiculous. He’s not in the field. He’s not stealing bases. Why isn’t he being pushed? What a terrible example for younger players. Ortiz at 75 percent is better than the alternatives.
— Randy, Albuquerque, New Mexico

Usually I would agree with that. But in his case, you don’t want to do anything to that would potentially damage the Achilles to the point of rupture. While the current inflammation is in the heel area and not the Achilles, you have to be careful. He is 37 years old. The doctors have told me, this is a sensitive area. I don’t think there’s a young player on the Red Sox who doesn’t respect David Ortiz. Criticism of him is so misguided.
Do you think Victor Martinez would be available in a trade? He could DH if Ortiz is out for a while and help out at first base and catching
— Lou, Chester, Virginia

Love Victor Martinez. And so do the Tigers. You can always trade for anyone if the price is right. But doubt Ortiz will be out all season.
Wouldn’t this be a good time for the Red Sox to abandon “Sweet Caroline” since the sellout streak is expected to end soon. It may even generate some interest in picking a replacement.
— Patrick, Livermore Falls, Maine

Well, Pat, while I receive more and more sentiment about killing “Sweet Caroline” I think there would be an uproar if that happened. I just remember one day in spring training when the song wasn’t played fans actually looked up to the press box and with their hands up in the air, distraught.
If Will Middlebrooks is going to stick at third base and the Red Sox love the defense of Iglesias, proven he can hit , then where does that leave Xander Bogaerts?
Has anyone talked about moving either Middlebrooks to first and play Bogaerts at third? Or moving Boegarts to first, keeping Middlebrooks at third, Iglesias at short, and Dustin Pedroia at second.
— Don, Rensselaer, New York

If Iglesias starts to hit, I can’t see any reason to move him from that position, so they’ll have to find a new sport for Bogaerts and third base is the place. Yes, Middlebrooks could easily move to first base. No one in the organization will come close to saying that’s how it’s going to go, but that’s just a common sense look at it will probably go.
What are the chance that Jacoby Ellsbury will ask for a midseason trade to avoid the potential qualifying offer and resulting draft-pick forfeiture that hindered Scott Boras clients Michael Bourn and Kyle Lohse this past offseason?
— Kelly, Hillsboro, Oregon

None. He likes playing in Boston. Whether the offer he receives from Boston is to his liking is another matter. He can ask for a trade, but why would Boston have to accommodate him?
Is Bradley a good bunter?
— Allen, Hays, Kansas

Of course. There’s nothing he can’t do.