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Sunday Mail: A 5-games-into-the-season gripe about the Red Sox' third base depth

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Say, think Mookie Betts can play third?

The Red Sox' 21-year-old second base prospect is off to a decent start at Double A Portland. In three games, he's reached base nine times in 14 plate appearances, with four runs scored, three doubles, a homer, and a steal. His slash-line: .615/.643/1.077. Not bad, kid.

I bring this up for one primary reason -- to point out just how ridiculously good he has been through the first couple of games, and related to that, to suggest that you might want to make your way to Portland this summer before Betts, Henry Owens, and perhaps even Blake Swihart move up. It's not 2005 in terms of prospects in Portland, but it's darned good.

As far as moving Betts to third goes, I'm being facetious for now, though as Keith Law's choice as the most-blocked prospect in baseball (Dustin Pedroia apparently has plans to stay awhile, and we're all cool with that), something is going to have to change -- either his position or the organization with which he affiliated. I still think he makes a fine Miami Marlin someday, with this slugger ...

... coming back in return for Betts and another 3-4 of the Red Sox' prime (and in a couple of cases, redundant) prospects. I also will continue to believe Will Middlebrooks is part of that possible/eventual deal, which brings me meandering back around to the actual intended point here:

I'm not nervous or concerned about much of anything with the Red Sox right now, with five games down and 157 to go. But I do -- let's say, wonder -- about the depth at third base.

Middlebrooks was scratched from last night's loss to the Brewers with tightness in his calf, and as you may have heard, the injury is serious enough to warrant an MRI (Update: Middlebrooks was placed on the DL Sunday morning). I'm yet to be convinced he's the answer at third anyway -- he had a monster spring, just as he did a year ago, but he's looked like his usual inconsistent self at the plate and in the field during the small regular-season sample so far. But they do need him, because there simply is not a suitable everyday replacement for him on the roster. Jonathan Herrera is a decent utility guy, but he's a low-OBP singles hitter. His top career comps include Ramon Vazquez, who was so underwhelming you probably forgot the played for the Sox in 2005.

The Sox do have a terrific third base prospect in Garin Cecchini, who is off to a Betts-like decent start at Pawtucket (.556/.636/.667). But he's played just 69 games above Single A, and he needs to prove he's capable of handling third defensively as well as sustaining his ability to reach base at a .400-plus clip as he climbs the ladder.

In other words, the Red Sox may not need Middlebrooks down the road. But they sure can't afford to lose him right now.

THE MAILBOX

sullingerjaredfinn46.JPGJulius Randle leads everyone in college hoops in double-doubles. He's doing it without one post move. I feel pretty good he'll be better than Sully.
-- Mo

This is in response to a question from Friday's chat. I wondered if Randle and Sullinger's skill-sets might be redundant should the Kentucky freshman end up a Celtics freshman next year. Agree that Jared Sullinger is way more polished in terms of savvy and presence near the hoop. Randle does have the nice spin-and-finish move with his left hand, but mostly he relies on his athletic ability. I still don't know if he'll be better. Depends if Randle works hard to improve and whether Sully stays healthy and keeps his weight down. I like Randle, though I have a hard time making a high-end NBA comparison to him. He's not going to be the offensive force Z-Bo is at his best, you know? I hope the Celtics end up with someone else.

If I throw strikes, they hit them. If I don't, I walk them. what should I do?
-- Jake Peavy

The answer, as always, is yell at yourself ("C'MON PEAVE!!" will never get old, especially if he gets out of the jam), it if that proves as ineffective as a flat slider down the middle, yell at A.J. Pierzynski. ("C'MON ANTHONY JOHN PIERZYSKI!!") At least that's entertaining. Three related notes: 1) Peavy is going to be fine. 2) David Ross should catch him more often than not. He's a calming influence. 3) As flawed as he was, I kind of miss Salty.

What's the initial reaction to Remy? Think he's been OK. Really just baseball focus.
-- Kat

He's been a little more energetic and consistently engaged than I expected; his usual on-air self, not at all subdued. I'm writing this on Saturday night with the Sox game on in the background. Just a moment ago, during the eighth inning of a tie game, Brandon Workman threw a hammer of curveball that should have been strike three. Ump didn't give it to him, and Remy blurted animatedly, "Gotta have it! Gotta have it!" That was more the kind of reaction I'd expect from Eck than Remy. As far as the reaction, seems to me most people had their mind made up one way or the other regarding whether he should be in the booth long before they heard him this season. I don't think many minds will be changed, again, one way or the other.

Yasiel Puig is the new Manny Ramirez for the sports media, it seems.
-- Mysterious Lurker

hanleyfinn405.JPGYep. He's done some knuckleheaded stuff and his immaturity has been an issue with Don Mattingly and some of his Dodgers teammates. But so much of the commentary about him just feels like the grumpy old-school media being overeager to scold a kid who, it should not be easy to forget, is in a new country and suddenly has the kind of money that was probably beyond his imagination, what, three years ago? Give him a chance to breathe, and hope he doesn't do anything too detrimental while he is growing up. I mean, all you have to do to see how a player can mature is look around the Dodger clubhouse. Hanley Ramirez might have caused more headaches as a young player than Puig is now. And now he's a respected veteran and a team leader.

So is it safe for people to name their kids Grady again?
-- Lang Knapp

Absolutely. This Grady isn't a ghost fully capable of haunting. It's a practically unfathomable career reincarnation. I still cringe every time he has to slide or do some baseball act that could result in contact, though, you know? I exhaled when he didn't have have to leave the game with three cracked ribs after Johnny Gomes nearly ran into him on fly to left Saturday night.

Ever since Belichik moved into the front office there have been dozens of questionable calls made by that department. Now we are looking at two quarterbacks [Johnny Manziel and Teddy Bridgewater were in for visits this week]. Why are we wasting our time with these two guys when we should be interviewing people that could be helping us out in areas that we need help in? Question, is it time to get rid of Belichik ?
-- Paul G.

Just posting this to remind you that these people are out there. The are among us. They have no clue how fortunate they are right now as Patriots fans. And they never spell Belichick right.

Until next week, the Mailbox is closed. Exit music, please:

Baba O'Riley. The Who version, live and classic:

And a good-time live Pearl Jam version from Madison Square Garden in '03:

Pick the one you prefer. I bring it up only because I wanted to mention something I noticed during the ring ceremony Friday. I forgot to note it in my column, but my pal Red from Surviving Grady had the sense to write about it yesterday. Here's how he put it:

But as I watched the ceremony over and over last night, one thing kept striking me as odd. During one segment of the ring presentations, The Who?s ?Baba O?Riley? was playing. And perhaps this was all in my booze-besotted mind, but the neat way the lyrics paired up with the on-screen action seemed a little more than coincidental.

For example: John Lackey emerges from the dugout just as Roger Daltrey bellows: ?I don?t need to fight / to prove I?m right / I don?t need to be forgiven.? Which, of course, makes perfect sense.

Pretty extreme example of the lyrics matching the man and the moment right there, and Red details a couple of other well-timed curiosities with other players that I didn't catch.

Coincidence? I suspect there are no coincidences when it comes to Dr. Charles Steinberg and Sarah McKenna's planning for these ceremonies. It's too perfect to not be by design.

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