Red Sox keeping their eye on the ball
Boston has the righted ship after a sluggish start, but there are still questions
BOSTON -- As the Red Sox welcome the Cubs for what should be a festive series at Fenway Park over the weekend, we roll out our second mailbag of the season:
This week's Red Sox mailbag was part of a special promotion, in which one user was selected as the winner of a "Fan Prize Pack." Here were the rules. The winner is Dave from Brockton, Mass., and here was his question and Gordon Edes' answer:
Q: Now that the Sox have finally started playing .500 ball what do they have to do to continue their winning ways? -- Dave (Brockton, Mass.)
Edes: Actually, Dave, they've been playing better than .500 ball for a while. Since their 2-10 start, they've gone 21-10, a .677 pace, to move two games over .500 entering Friday night. The Big Three in their rotation -- Josh Beckett, Clay Buchholz and Jon Lester -- are regularly delivering quality starts, and Jonathan Papelbon and Daniel Bard give the Sox lockdown pitching at the back end of games. The offense has been erratic, but with Jacoby Ellsbury getting on base and the middle of the order heating up, especially Adrian Gonzalez, we're seeing the offensive potential of this lineup.
Q. Hey Gordo! I hate to ruin the whole Sox fan gloom and doom rep but, it seems to me that after a crappy first two weeks, the team has performed as expected (good-great pitching from the top starters, hitters warming up with the temperature, good relief from a rebuilt bullpen ...) Because the first two weeks were so horrendous, the actual results have been obscured until the Yankee sweep. You see the team every night, what do you think? -- Charlie (Los Angeles)
A. Charlie, I wrote that I thought the sweep of the Yankees might be the start of something big, and the way the team has played at home since returning from the Bronx, especially in its stirring comeback win against the Orioles, has me more convinced than ever. Losing Daisuke Matsuzaka and John Lackey is a blow at rotation depth, but neither pitcher has been dependable, and the Sox should be able to patch with Alfredo Aceves, Tim Wakefield and eventually Felix Doubront. And offensively, we've only caught glimpses of what this team can do.
Q. Mr. Edes, which is more likely to happen this season: Jonathan Papelbon gets traded before the trade deadline (the Red Sox receiving help at catcher or starting pitcher) or Papelbon gets a contract extension and remains the closer for the next 4-5 years? -- William (Banks, Ore.)
A. William, very low degree of probability, in my opinion, of either one happening. The Sox aren't going to trade Papelbon when he is pitching at such a high level, and Paps isn't going to settle for a multiyear extension now after going year to year all this time. He'll want to see what he can command on the free market.
A. Harry, I don't think Doumit would address Boston's preference for a good catch-and-throw guy. The available Molina is Bengie, who retired after last season; Jose is with the Blue Jays. It's my impression it hasn't gone past the inquiry stage. I can't imagine what kind of shape Bengie is in at the moment.
Q. What happens if Carl Crawford can't turn it around? Kinda hard to drop him down in the order any further. May lightning strike me, but could this turn into shades of Renteria? Big name player can't handle the big city. I bet next time Arte Moreno sees John Henry he'll say: You should've let us have him! Please let me be wrong. -- Joao Pereira (Arlington, Va.)
A. Joao, there are $142 million reasons the Red Sox are invested in you being wrong ... very wrong. Here is the most compelling reason I can give you that Crawford will indeed turn it around. Besides CC (.212 entering play Friday night), there are plenty of good hitters who also are off to miserable starts: Dan Uggla (.193), Adam Dunn (.203), Hanley Ramirez (.217), Nick Swisher (.223), Torii Hunter (.218) and David Wright (.226). These guys aren't going to hit like this all year. They can't, right? Right?
Q. If you were to suggest going to a Red Sox minor league game which one would you recommend?: Pawtucket, Portland, or Lowell? -- Carmelo Kuffel (Melrose, Mass.)
A. Carmelo, here's the beautiful thing about going to a minor league game: You can bring your family or a boatload of friends, and it's not going to break the bank. Do yourself a favor: Plan a trip to all three. Spread 'em out a little -- the Spinners don't start play till mid-June -- and go to the teams' websites to see if there's a promotion that catches your interest. All three ballparks offer a great atmosphere, cheap prices and seats very close to the action. Portland has the little Fenway going, while the PawSox feature players closest to the big leagues and Lowell gives you a chance to check out some of the newest draft picks.
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Q. Why is it that the Sox can sweep the Yanks while struggling with every other team? -- Adam (Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.)
A. Adam, faulty premise: Yes, the Sox have taken 5-of-6 from the Yankees, but they've also taken 3-of-4 from the Twins and 6-of-8 from the Angels. So give 'em credit for being able to beat SOMEBODY besides those slacker Yanks.
Q. What/Who do you think the Red Sox will go after by the July 31 deadline that will strengthen the team for the stretch run? They make moves just about every year. -- Steve (Rocky Hill, Conn.)
A. Steve, it's just way too early to know. It depends on who's available, who's in contention, who isn't, who's hurt ... so many factors. At this stage, it looks as if the Sox would be looking to add a catcher and a starting pitcher. But what if Jarrod Saltalamacchia settles in before then or Felix Doubront comes up and reels off some good starts? You just don't know at this stage.
Q. Why didn't the Red Sox re-sign Victor Martinez for this season? What were their plans for the catcher position going into this season? -- Chauncey (Frederick, Md.)
A. Chauncey, if you notice Martinez isn't doing much catching for the Tigers, either, nor is he serving well as DH or playing first base. The Sox knew he wouldn't be a long-term answer behind the plate and decided they could get a better bat -- which they did, in Adrian Gonzalez.
Q. Hi Gordon, I saw this great suggestion from reader on boston.com about fans wearing pink when John Lackey pitches to support him while his wife is fighting breast cancer. I think it would be great if you would help get the word out. -- James (Boston)
A. James, I found it interesting that Lackey did not make a point of saying something on Mother's Day, a day MLB devoted to raising breast cancer awareness. I think that's indicative of his preference for privacy. But it's a thoughtful gesture for fans to consider making.
Q. Mr. Edes, do you think there is a chance of the Red Sox trading for another power hitter? -- Vinny (New Haven, Conn.)
A. Vinny, I don't see it as a need, do you? You have three potential 30-home run hitters in A-Gon, Kevin Youkilis and David Ortiz, and plenty of other guys who can hit 15 or so. Not a big need at this stage.
Q. With David Ortiz off to a way better start than the last few years, do you see the Sox offering a new deal before season's end? -- Ron (Newark, Del.)
A. Ron, I'd be surprised. I think the Sox will wait and either sign him at a discount for next year or explore alternatives.
Q. How exciting is it for players of the Cubs to come to Fenway Park to play a game? Is it as exciting for them as it is the fans? -- Dave (Brockton, Mass.)
A. Dave, probably not. I'm sure there are some players who will appreciate the history of the place, such as Ryan Dempster, but the majority will probably be appalled at how small the visitors' clubhouse is and lacking many of the usual amenities.
Gordon Edes covers the Red Sox for ESPNBoston.com.