There’s angst out there about Boston’s starting pitching judging by some of your questions this week.
Those issues would be solved if the team could secure Roy Oswalt. As Ben Cherington pointed out in a column I wrote in Wednesday’s paper, he does have his scouts out there looking for pitchers they could obtain in a trade. The obvious ones are Washington lefty John Lannan and Chicago righty Gavin Floyd. There’s also Joe Blanton in Philadelphia.
But Cherington isn’t going to pull the trigger on anything until he sees Daniel Bard’s progression as a starter – which so far is going very well – and emergence of a fifth starter. Right now, Felix Doubront, after his strong four innings vs. the Yankees, may be the leader for that spot with Alfredo Aceves starting the season in the bullpen.
The Sox want Doubront to take a job and he appears serious about doing so whether it’s the No. 5 job or a bullpen role.
Let’s get to it:
Q: Would anyone even consider this for a solution to the Bard/Aceves in the rotation debate? They pitch every fifth game as a tandem with one throwing 5 innings and the other 4, switching off who starts and who finishes the game. At 30 starts total that is 135 innings for each, which is conveniently right around their projected limit. This would maximize the innings out of both of them and should keep them fresh down the stretch and (hopefully) into the playoffs. Is there any precedent for this? I can’t recall another team converting two relievers to starters in the same season.
-- Andrew, Marlborough
A: Don’t think that would ever be considered. These two guys should be assets and should pitch their own game. I still believe Aceves will be in the bullpen to start the season.
Q: What do you think about a three-way trade? Red Sox get John Lannan. Washington gets Jason Bourgeois. Astros get a decent second-level prospect. It has been reported that the Nationals already tried to get Bourgeois for Lannan.
-- John, Los Angeles
A: Nothing for me to be against. I’m always skeptical of three-way deals. Maybe the Red Sox can give them a package that includes Ryan Sweeney.
Q: Is Mike Aviles the favorite for the shortstop job or is it still too early to tell?
-- Harold, Boston
A: Aviles is the favorite, but Jose Iglesias is opening eyes. Put it this way, Iglesias is the most talented shortstop on the team and that’s no knock on Aviles, who is a good player. The Red Sox’ assessment that Aviles could replace Marco Scutaro is probably accurate, but it’s very difficult to ignore Iglesias’s defense and the runs he can save. So this is an ongoing thing. Iglesias has to show consistency with his offense the rest of camp. If he does, my gut feeling is Bobby Valentine will fight to keep him as his shortstop.
Q: I believe that Tony Conigliaro’s number should be retired. What do you think?
-- Leo, Allentown, Pa.
A: Been saying it and writing it for years. He was my favorite player as a kid and I think the circumstances of his career were extraordinary. He was going to be a Hall of Famer.
Q: I think the Red Sox should be looking for the third baseman of the future. Kevin Youkilis is getting up there and hasn’t proven he can stay healthy for a full season. Will Middlebrooks is impatient at the plate and doesn’t fit the typical Red Sox model of a player who doesn’t give away at bats. Do you think the Sox would consider trading for Rangers minor leaguer Mike Olt? He plays plus defense and has power and patience and is blocked by Adrian Beltre at third base. Maybe the Sox could trade Crawford for Olt and Jurickson Profar to build the left side infield of the future.
-- Jody, Shaftsbury, Vt.
A: Thanks Jody. I think they feel Middlebrooks will become that type of a hitter. He’s been able to improve on things at every level he’s been. There’s no rush. He’ll be at Triple A this season and he’ll be able to work on his hitting and his approach, so I don’t feel the Red Sox have the need to go out and acquire another third baseman unless they include Middlebrooks in some type of deal.
Q: Could you explain the terms of the minor league contracts Aaron Cook, Vicente Padilla, and Ross Ohlendorf are on? Are there differences between the three contracts? How long can the Sox keep those guys in the minors? Also, what are the terms of Scott Atchison’s contract? Presumably he could start at Pawtucket and be brought up. But if he is on the major league roster at any time, can he be sent down? Or, once he’s up do they risk losing him if they try send him out? I’m surprised I don’t see much more written about this because it impacts how long-term roster management may be seen by the Sox, especially if all these guys do well, which right now is petty much happening ... in which case the Sox might want to find a way to keep all of them.
A: The three veterans have similar contracts. They receive a certain amount – usually around $200,000 when they’re in the minors and when they called up they have a major league component. I know Cook and Padilla are $1.5 million if they hit the majors. Cook has a May 1 opt out if he’s not on the major league roster. Atchison was signed to a major league minimum contract - $454,000, so he makes that no matter where he is. Carlos Silva would earn $1 million if he makes it to the majors. Back to Atchison, he’s out of options so if he makes the team and they send him down, he would have to pass through waivers.
Q: So is Jerry Royster trying to get everyone thrown out at home this spring? I know Dale Sveum isn’t available; where’s Wendell Kim these days?
-- Dan, Seattle
A: It’s spring training for him as well. He doesn’t know the runners and he’s getting to know them. But I do believe you’ll see runners thrown out because Valentine has a very aggressive mindset when it comes to running. He’ll take some chances.
Q: What is your take on Adrian Gonzalez? Dan Shaughnessy wrote, “Gonzalez is one sour dude. Almost Nomar-esque. Nobody likes a know-it-all.” I didn’t think he was like that. Chemistry a problem down the line?
A: Don’t think he’s a problem, or that he’ll create a “chemistry problem” but he can come off that way. He’s very strong in his opinions about baseball.
Q: Why do the Red Sox always go out and get players they need, but get them when they are too old or on the way out of baseball, and give them way too much money?
-- Dave, Boston
A: Not sure who you’re referring to. Carl Crawford comes the closest to that description though he’s relatively young. It’s not a signing I would have made. I think they got Adrian Gonzalez at the right time.
Q: If Iglesias is such a slick infielder why don’t the Red Sox assign a hitting coach to him on a daily basis to give him the ability to hit major league pitching?
-- Frank, Waterboro, Maine
A: Don’t you think they do that?
Q: Why are all balls pitched into the dirt by a pitcher immediately replaced, yet balls batted into the dirt or balls thrown into the dirt by an infielder and scooped up by the first baseman are kept in play? What is the difference in those scenarios for the pitcher?
-- Steve, Commack, N.Y.
A: I think it’s the umpire. The umpire sees the ball is in the dirt and he replaces it. I think it’s more instinctive for the ump to replace the ball in that scenario. When a play is made, the ball is thrown right back to the pitcher. Sometimes the pitcher wants a new ball and gets it. Other times he doesn’t.
Q: Youkilis looks to be a defensive liability. With Middlebrooks ready, Kolbin Vitek down the road, and Nick Punto here, why wouldn’t the Sox be looking for some young arms for Youk. Would July be the time even if they are in the playoff hunt?
-- Zeke, East Longmeadow
A: Because you need his bat in the middle of the lineup. When he’s healthy, he’s an excellent offensive player. You don’t have anyone to replace that. Now that he’s completely healthy, we’ll see if he’s a liability in the field. I think he was unable to move last season because he had so many things wrong with him.
Q: I personally don’t see a great need to switch up the Sox lineup, given the production the first five slots showed last season. However, as a high school coach, such thought experiments are always fun. I’m wondering what you think of batting Youkilis second and Pedroia clean-up. This would break up the lead-footed A-Gon-Youk-Papi threesome and get the “Greek God of Walks” in front of their run-producers.
-- Cory, Manilla, Philippines
A: Good thought and I saw one lineup this spring where Youkilis was hitting second.
Q: On March 7, Peter Abraham wrote: “[Brett] Lawrie hit a drive to the wall in right that Sweeney made a terrific catch on. Sweeney is a vastly underrated defensive player. He could be a good fit at Fenway Park in right field.” Why is Sweeney underrated? He is underrated offensively and defensively. I think you media people have something to do with this. Am I right? After Sweeney was 4 for 5 with a HR and 5 RBIs, he sat on the bench. Is this objective baseball, Nick?
-- Vicente, Cali, Colombia
A: It’s spring training. He’s not going to play everyday. What’s this got to do with objectivity? He’s going to be the starting right fielder when the season starts if Crawford is on the DL. Once Crawford comes back, Cody Ross will move to right. Sweeney is a superb defensive player, but his lack of power will keep him a platoon player.
Q: I notice you guys always refer to a ‘B’ game for the Red Sox in spring training. What exactly is a ‘B’ game?
-- Daniel, Westbrook, Maine
A: A game with no fans, usually held at the minor league field with some minor league players and some major league players. Sometimes it’s a controlled setting where a certain player will get multiple at-bats and there’s a lot of batting out of order, etc. An informal game.
Q: Does Clayton Mortensen have any chance on being the fourth or fifth starter?
-- Tucker Lyons, Geneseo, N.Y.
A: Doubt it.
Q: Will the Sox make a push for Roy Oswalt sometime during spring training?
-- Jack, McKinney, Texas
A: I think they have their radar up on Oswalt. If he wants to come, they will oblige.
Q: I don’t understand what influence Bill James has with the club. John Lackey, Crawford, and some other major signings did not have “James-like” stats. Lackey’s WHIP was not great, Crawford’s OBP was not good and James used to preach that signing speed was questionable when “speed” players got older. Do you know if James wanted Lackey or Crawford? What’s your opinion of James’s influence?
-- Michael, Ithaca, N.Y.
A: Not sure he has much influence at all. He’s given statistical projects, but not sure if he’s asked for recommendations. I would doubt it.
Q: After unloading Marco Scutaro, I really thought that the Sox would make a serious run at obtaining Oswalt or Edwin Jackson. Meanwhile, Cherington made two laughable offers to each free agent, and we still do not know who the fifth starter will be. I find it hard to believe that the Red Sox needed to trade Scoot in order to give Cody Ross a $3 million contract. What do you think management was thinking when they made this deal?
-- Claudia, Sarasota, Fla.
A: I wouldn’t get too hung up on Scutaro leaving. They do have a good replacement in Aviles and Iglesias may be the best defensive shortstop in the league when he takes the job. The offer to Oswalt was as much as any team offered ($6 million). As for Jackson, he’s never lived up to his promise and I wouldn’t have given him a multi-year deal.
Q: What do you think are Darnell McDonald’s chances of making the team this year, especially with him being out of options and with other more appealing options such as Cody Ross and Ryan Sweeney. To me, I can’t imagine that he will be able to make the team!
-- Pat, Mattapoisett
A: Darnell has had a good spring and he should make it, especially with Crawford starting the year on the DL. He may run into some problems is Aviles is used as a utility man rather than the starting shortstop.Submit your question here to be considered for the next edition of Ask Nick.