Ask Nick: Should Gonzo, Youk lose weight?

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Welcome to another edition of the Mailbag. Well, as you can probably guess, there’s much concern about this Red Sox team even reaching the playoffs after being swept by Tampa Bay and going 1-6 on the road trip. The Sox hold a three-game lead in the loss column over Tampa Bay for second place in the AL East.

Fans are concerned about the pitching injuries and the overall lethargy the team seems to be displaying. When things go bad, the job performance of manager Terry Francona and general manager Theo Epstein are questioned, and they certainly are here in the mailbag.

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Here we go:

All I hear about Adrian Gonzalez is how slow he is. In this age of specialized sports trainers and nutritionists,couldn’t Gonzalez get with a guy like Mike Boyle, lose about 25 pounds and work on some drills designed specifically for improving speed? I also think if Kevin Youkilis is going to continue to play the field he should also slim down a bit and work on his flexibility. Your thoughts?
Mark, Lynn, Mass.
Mark, I think you’re right. Not sure Gonzalez would gain any more speed, but he could certainly go to a running coach to improve. I’ve seen that happen. But these guys focus on what they believe their strengths are and if they’re slow, they’re slow. But in terms of slimming down, sure, I think the examples you cited are apropos in the case of both players.

What are your thoughts on Kevin Youkilis? Is he going to return to the lineup once we get home from TB?
Scott, Greensboro
My guess is yes, that he will play either Tuesday or sometime this week. The bursitis in his hip should be better by now and the one thing he’ll have to deal with is the sports hernia. He’s not going to be 100 percent, that’s for sure, and he’ll likely have to have the sports hernia repaired after the season.

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I have to admit I’m worried. If Sox took one of the TB games I would have been OK. What ‘s going on and why does Francona not feel the urgency to play like there is urgency. The 10 game lead is gone … it’s time.
Al, Madison, Conn.
I think since you wrote this there is an urgency. The Red Sox got a real wake-up call in Tampa Bay. And most of the players now realize things are getting a little too serious. So now there is urgency and I think Terry Francona feels it. There’s always that balance you try to strike between trying to make sure your team is ready for the playoffs and also making sure you actually make the playoffs. I think they realize now, they’re going to have play to make the playoffs.

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Why didn’t the Sox try and get other starting pitchers at the trade deadline? The front office knew the Sox were down a few starting pitchers and they only went after one?
Robert, Keene, N.H.
First of all, they definitely explored and made a bid for Ubaldo Jimenez, but they didn’t want to go as far giving up all of the prospects that Cleveland did. And quite frankly, Cleveland had more to offer than Boston. Doug Fister was also a guy they had interest in, but again, not sure they wanted to give up the prospects that the Tigers did. One of the issues here is they have given up a lot of prospects in the Victor Martinez and Adrian Gonzalez deals. They’re a little thin, especially in the upper levels of the minors, so not sure they had the inventory to make a significant deal. They also inquired about Hunter Pence and couldn’t match up with the Astros. It’s just one of those tweener times in their system where they’re waiting for the next wave in the lower minors. Anyway, when you have a $170 million payroll that includes depth, it’s hard to keep adding. They certainly didn’t anticipate Beckett would get hurt and they at least got Bedard, who they thought was healthy enough to be a factor at the time.

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If I were John Henry and the Sox miss the playoffs, somebody’s butt would be in the frying pan. Please tell us, if the Sox crash and burn, will JH make a well needed move?
Brian, Norton
If you’re talking about the front office or manager, I would doubt it. Theo Epstein and Terry Francona have a great track record. You’re not going to see any change there unless one or both want to step aside. Obviously there have been a lot of rumors involving Theo to the Chicago Cubs. But he is under contract for at least one more year. If they do fail to make the playoffs, remember that right now they have four starting pitchers out of the rotation. Hard to win that way.

Outside of Paplebon and Daniel Bard, when is the last time you saw a rookie pitcher come up and do a good job?? I hear about the Red Sox having a good minor league system but when is the last time they have brought up a starting pitcher that has done anything? Looks like the organization does not know how to draft pitchers. That is why the Rays hang around. They have done a better job of drafting both everyday players and pitchers.
Bob, Fairfield, Conn.
If you saw my item in Sunday Baseball Notes, I pointed out that the Red Sox do not have a lot of pitching in their minor league system and especially at Triple-A. They were not able to bring up a solid prospect to bail them out of the current situation they’re in with injured starting pitchers. Kyle Weiland has a good arm and I think he will be a decent pitcher, but not quite ready for this situation but they have no choice.

Why did Tito allow Bard to pitch to Longoria — Tampa Bay’s best player — with one out and the winning run on third? Two bases were open, and it would have set up a force out and possible double play.
Dilworth, Wilmington
Francona believes Bard can get anyone out. He’s usually right. Bard is one of the best late-inning relievers in the game and so you trust those guys to get big outs against the best hitters. That’s the rationale.

I am trying to confirm the relationship between MLB and the Hall of Fame. I have read that the HOF is a completely autonomous, non-profit entity with no direct connection to MLB. Is this true? If it is, why is the HOF beholden to MLB in choosing who can or can’t be admitted (i.e. Pete Rose)? Especially if it’s the BBWAA that elects members to the HOF.
Name not provided
Here’s the response to your question by Brad Horn of the Hall of Fame:

“The relationship between the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum and MLB is a working relationship, but there is no formal connection. We are an independent, 501c3 not-for-profit, educational institution whose role is preserve the game’s history and to honor its excellence.

We work very closely on selected projects throughout the year — namely in the access that MLB and its 30 team owners provides the Hall of Fame in our efforts to secure donation of artifacts from players and teams. Additionally, the Commissioner is one of 16 board members for the NBHOFM, along with four other individuals who represent “ownership” — Paul Beeston (Tor), Bill DeWitt (StL.), David Glass (K.C.) and Jerry Reinsdorf (CWS).”

Would you trade Youkilis to the Mets for David Wright?
Christine, Sun City West, Ariz.
Such an interesting question. Both are very good players. Wright would certainly benefit by leaving Citi Field. Youkilis is older, so yes, I would make that deal. I think both players are starting to have some injury issues and breakdowns are happening. I don’t think the Mets would ever do that straight up. They would need to get more.

Do you think that the Red Sox would ever retire Tony Conigliaro’s No. 25? I know that there was some discussion a while back and I know that MLB has an award in his name.
Paul, Marlborough
I was always a strong advocate for it, as was the Herald’s Steve Buckley. But I think our pleas have and will continue to fall on deaf ears. I think the next one who should have his number retired is Wade Boggs.

There’s been a lot of talk about Justin Verlander possibly winning both the AL Cy Young award and AL MVP award. How likely is it that Jacoby Ellsbury could win both the MVP award and the AL comeback player of the year award?
George, Bethlehem, Penn.
I’m a big fan of Verlander winning both Cy Young and MVP. I think he’s the clear-cut choice in my opinion. I think Ellsbury will have votes taken away by Adrian Gonzalez. Comeback player, yes, but I don’t think Jacoby will win the MVP award.

I am a long time Sox fan (more than 40 years), and am having flashbacks now to Red Sox teams of my youth. How or when did the team get this bad? I realize the pitching situation has been in chaos, but what about the line of megastars and their lack of offensive production when it really matters in September.
Steve, Kensington, Md.
Agreed. There’s no excuse for this. The one excuse they do have is their pitching injuries, but the rest of the team is out to lunch. There’s a lot of mental mistakes going on out there and that’s unacceptable. This is a high payroll team, but sometimes they look as if they feel they can just throw their gloves out there and they’ll win. It’s not happening and they need to do something about it quickly.

After watching John Lackey and Carl Crawford struggle with the Sox, I can’t help thinking back about the failure of Edgar Renteria. He could not survive the Boston pressure to perform. Talented, yet not confident is his own abilities. Crawford appears to be awestruck by a full house every home game. Lackey appears not to have the drive or the fortitude to take command of the game or to perform to the level that $82 million requires. Do you think the Sox will get past the higher level of competition of the playoffs?
Joe, Plymouth, Minn.
Hard for me to counter what you say. Both the Lackey and Crawford examples are alarming to me. I suppose both players could turn their careers around, but right now they both look like overpriced players who won’t see the end of their contracts. As for getting past the higher level of competition, they’re supposed to be the higher competition, but no, I don’t see it. That doesn’t mean they won’t get it together when they absolutely have to.

Due to the current state of the starters, do you think that the front office and Tito could sent Lackey and Andrew Miller to the bullpen for the rest of the year and move Alfredo Aceves and Michael Bowden to a starting role?
Pedro, Deltona, Fla.
At some point soon, they’re going to have to consider Aceves in the rotation if this keeps up. They will have no choice. Bowden is certainly not the answer and he’s become a reliever, so I doubt they would do that. Miller seems like a lost soul and I’m not sure he’s trustworthy in a bullpen role. Forget Lackey in the bullpen. That’s not going to happen. They’ll stick with him no matter what.

How can the Red Sox keep Matt Albers on the playoff roster? He has been terrible for six weeks and shows no signs of coming out of it.
Ted, Geneseo, Ill.

Who knows, maybe he won’t be? I think a lot depends on how quickly Clay Buchholz comes around. Albers was so good in the first half and has now become the Albers that the Orioles had for a few years.

With the Red Sox in or headed for free fall, does it come as any surprise that Joe Torre is over the umpires?
Charles, Peoria, Ill.
Not sure I’m getting this one. Are you inferring that Torre is influencing the umpires to make bad calls against the Red Sox? What is Torre’s allegiance to the Yankees? They low-balled him on a contract offer and he walked away. I think you’re reaching Charles.

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