Ask Nick: Are Red Sox built to succeed in playoffs?

Hey, what happened to all of you “stop touting Jose Iglesias” readers?

Miss you guys. Seem a little quiet now. No worries, it’s a long season and I’m sure I’ll hear from you again.

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While I don’t agree with making Jose Iglesias a utility player because he should be the starting shortstop (and throw away the key), at least he’s still on the team and flashing great defense.

I’m not sure how long his current 14-game hitting streak will continue with less playing time, but the fact manager John Farrell has created competition on the left side of the infield with Iglesias, Stephen Drew and Will Middlebrooks, is a great idea.

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You have to fight to keep your job, and that creates a positive competition internally.
In a perfect world, Middlebrooks would be the power-hitting middle-of-the-order hitter he should be and Drew would hit more consistently.

Drew has played a good shortstop, but Iglesias would have scooped up some balls that Drew can’t get to and created outs.

Drew could become a trade chip. On June 15, he’s eligible to be traded. Doubt the Red sox do anything that drastic this early. But there are a few teams out there who would love either Drew or Iglesias.

As the team continues on in first place, the other concerns are the health of Clay Buchholz, the recent ineffectiveness of Jon Lester and the big question of whether Andrew Bailey can handle the closer role for the long run.

We address these subjects in the latest mailbag:

The Red Sox look like a team with one ace, a very good offense, and four average starting pitchers. I think a lot of teams would kill for this, and it’s not bad for a rebuilding year, but I have a hard time being confident about the playoffs. Do you think this is a valid concern? And if so, what could a team that doesn’t want to shed any prospects really do?
Tyler, Charlottesville, Va.
A valid concern, but nothing to panic about just yet. You want consistency out of Jon Lester and right now he’s not giving you that as the team’s ace going into the season. He certainly got off to an excellent start, but now he’s hitting a bump in the road. The key is to limit the bumpy outings and try to get through them with limited damage. That didn’t happen Tuesday night. At some point, sometime before the trading deadline and depending on how things go for the next month, the Red Sox may be in the market for a starting pitcher.

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Injuries aside, who has been the Red Sox biggest disappointment so far?
Justin, Fairhaven
I would say Will Middlebrooks. I know he’s had injuries, but he hasn’t been the dynamic player he was as a rookie. That’s not to say he won’t be, but I figured him to be a middle-of-the-order hitter with power. He’s flashed the power, but he hasn’t had consistent at-bats even when he was healthy early in the season. Plenty of time though.

I know the team is paying Drew a lot of money, but with Iglesias on fire and Middlebrooks coming back, is there a chance he’ll sit and ‘rest’ so the kids can play?
Brent, Sunnyside, NY
I think because of the left side competition that John Farrell has opened up between Drew, Middlebrooks and Iglesias, you’d better “skate your wing” or you might be out of a job. I think we all know who the best shortstop is – Iglesias. He may also be their best third baseman. So he has to play. This stuff about playing three or four times a week is nonsense. He needs to be in there regularly because he saves you runs defensively and he’s hitting. I don’t think you’ll ever see a complete benching of Drew, but his time in the field could decrease if he doesn’t become more consistent offensively.

Click the full entry button for more Q&A


What do you think are the chances Clay Buchholz starts the All-Star game?
Jerry, Summit, NJ
Unless injuries prevent it, I’d say he should start the All-Star game.
What position players on the current Red Sox roster could pitch in a pinch?
Rick, Eagan, Minn.
My candidates would be David Ross, Shane Victorino and Will Middlebrooks. I’m guessing Ross would be the first choice.
If the Phillies make Jonathan Papelbon available, can you see the Red Sox make an aggressive bid for him and what players could the Sox move for Papelbon?
Kyle, Peabody
Not sure if the Red Sox would go after him. They want to monitor Andrew Bailey over the next month to see if he can truly handle the closer role and if he can remain healthy. The Phillies need to get at least one top positional/pitching prospect. He won’t come cheaply. Probably a three-player package with one top prospect and two pretty good ones, or a current, established player. I’m sure they’d come after Allen Webster, someone who is not far from the big leagues.
With the Sox looking for relievers, one who seems to be having a good year in Pawtucket is Ryan Rowland-Smith. He is 3-0 with an ERA of.76 and a 29/9 SO to BB ratio. He is not on the 40-man roster, so what’s the scoop?
Ken, North Kingstown, RI
I know Gary DiSarcina, the Pawtucket manager, is very high on him. One of the biggest issues here is the 40-man roster and Rowland-Smith isn’t on it, so you’d have to designate someone for assignment in order to create a spot. That’s why you’re seeing only 40-man guys getting recalled.
Why is it that catchers, who see thousands of pitches and motions, are not better hitters?
Dick, Melrose
They take a beating behind the plate. It wears them down. Catchers need to spend so much time on their catching skills, that hitting becomes secondary.
Would the Red Sox ever bring up Juan Carlos Linares to the major leagues? What are his stats?
Bob, Jacksonville, Fla.
He’s in Double-A Portland, hitting about .240. Never really got the chance to show what he can do. Seems to have good outfield skills and is a decent righthanded hitter, but one of those guys who has slipped through the cracks.
What is your assessment of Mike Napoli so far and is there any help at first base down on the farm?
Dave, Running Springs, Calif.
He’s played the position much better than I thought he would, but he’s certainly not Adrian Gonzalez or Kevin Youkilis. He’s obviously a power threat and a dangerous hitter. He does strike out a lot, but he’s not someone you want to mess with if you’re an opposing pitcher.
In a recent article, you said the Sox pitching coach keeps the bullpen ready to go at all times. What does this mean? How does he do this?
Robert, Swanson
Hopefully, the story said the bullpen coach keeps the relievers ready to go. Yes. Dana LeVangie does a nice job. He gets them ready physically by putting together a warmup program of how many fastballs and off-speed pitches the reliever throws before coming in and also goes over the hitters he’s going to face and prepares the reliever. It’s nothing out of the ordinary, except for the fact that relievers respond to him well and value his advice.
Jon Lester doesn’t seem prone to awkward and bizarre injuries like Clay Buchholz. Do you think weight training to build Buchholz up might eliminate these nagging problems without altering his effectiveness?
David, Aurora, Ohio
I know he’s had some injuries and Lester hasn’t, but I wouldn’t touch a thing with Buchholz. He’s a tall, lean guy. That’s what he is. I think you’d really be messing with success by altering his body shape. He’s not a power pitcher even though he throws 94. He’s a finesse pitcher who relies on the command of five pitches to baffle the hitter. He’s 9-0, the best pitcher in baseball. I hope the conditioning people stay away from him.

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