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Ask Nick Red Sox Mailbag

Why are Red Sox stranding so many runners?

Will Middlebrooks was upset after being thrown out at third on Sunday.

Jim Rogash/Getty Images

Will Middlebrooks was upset after being thrown out at third on Sunday.

As I write this, the Red Sox are again on the verge of .500 after a 4-3, 12-inning win over the Reds at Fenway.

The Red Sox are trying to take advantage of the Reds while flame-throwing Aroldis Chapman (due back this weekend) and outfielder Jay Bruce are missing. The Red Sox had a knack in 2013 of playing teams when they had key injuries and they took full advantage of those situations.

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A few other things:

  Why are people leaving Fenway so early now? On Sunday afternoon in a tie game in the 10th inning, media members looked around the ballpark and it was half-empty. On Tuesday night (and granted it was a long game and people had to go to work the next day), a crowd announced at 36,004 looked like 6,004 remaining in the park in an extra inning game. This never happened during the “consecutive game streak.” More people stayed around in these situations back then. Not a complaint, just an observation.

  Great to see some old Sox with the Reds this week. Outfielders Lee Tinsley and Billy Hatcher (he stole home when with the Sox) are coaches. Paul Lessard, one of the best trainers in the biz, is the Reds’ head trainer and served the Red Sox well. Not long ago won the MLB trainer of the year award.

  Reds rookie outfielder Billy Hamilton is faster than fast. Tinsley said he timed Hamilton at an amazing 3.5 seconds down the first base line. He commented how in one game, Hamilton scored on a short pop to right field. Because he injured his knuckles, he’s unable to swing the bat, but he came up in extra innings trying to bunt for a base hit. The Red Sox had their guys in at both corners knowing Hamilton was going to bunt. He pushed one toward first and Mike Napoli quickly pounced on it and threw him out, but even that was a close play.

  We haven’t seen too many of these former pitching coach-turned-manager matchups. John Farrell is facing the Reds’ Brian Pryce this week.

  One thing you can say about Grady Sizemore – he has the complete respect and admiration of his teammates. The players know how difficult it has been to do what Sizemore has done – come back to baseball after a two-year absence and multiple surgeries. That’s why you saw a bit of an over-the-top celebration for Sizemore after his walkoff hit on Tuesday.

Here are some answers to your questions this week:

As I wrote this, the Sox were hitting below .200 with runners in scoring position, and when they are getting hits, they seem to be worthless singles about 90 percent of the time. This team isn’t scoring runs, when last season we had many games in which we scored 10 or more. We might as well have nine Ray Oylers in the lineup. Sure, we lost Ellsbury, Drew and Salty, but replacing them with Sizemore, Bogaerts and Pierzynski isn’t much of a drop-off. What’s going on here? Has the Jon Lester contract situation hurt the team mojo that bad? And what can a hitting coach do at a time like this?

Mike Hendersonville, Tenn.

First, I doubt Jon Lester’s contract situation is linked to hitting well with RISP. I think players keep an eye on that stuff to monitor whether they feel management is doing everything they can to win. If the players feel management isn’t doing their best to tie up major players, then there’s going to be some dissention and the attitude of “if they’re not trying what hope do we have?” But as I’ve written in previous columns, it’s not the same team, same lineup. Lots of holdovers but you mentioned key losses. Drew hit over .300 with RISP with two outs. That’s an impressive number missing. Ellsbury created opportunities. Daniel Nava provided a key element and he’s gone too. Anyway, we know what those players did and they’re not here so no sense going over it. The hitting coaches, Gregg Colbrunn and Victor Rodriguez, didn’t get dumb overnight. They stress the same things they always stressed. We’re 33 games into the season, a good sample size is beginning to take shape. These are warm-weather hitters and maybe that’s a big part of it.

Have you seen a center fielder react to a ball off the bat and chase it down quicker than Jackie Bradley Jr.? Can’t be too many.

Jay, Melrose

Jim Edmonds. So says Gary DiSarcina, who played with Edmonds and managed Bradley at Triple-A. DiSarcina said Bradley gets similar jumps on the ball. But really there’s a lot of great center fielders. A young Fred Lynn was pretty extraordinary. Paul Blair was the best I ever saw.

Please expand on your recent Sunday notes post regarding the Colorado Rockies scouting the Red Sox’ Double and Triple A clubs. We always think Giancarlo Stanton is a possible Sox power candidate down the road in either trade or free agency, but could you see the Sox having any interest in Troy Tulowitzki as a power bat despite his injury history?

Al, Wareham

The Rockies, like any organization, plan ahead. Right now, they’re one of the best teams in baseball, so they’re not selling anyone off. If they should fall (and who knows if they will) they’ll be prepared to target the Red Sox’ system. Obviously Tulowitzki would be an incredible acquisition, but he has a long way to go on that contract and if the Red Sox are truly not in that business of long-term deals, they probably would pass on him. They also feel committed to their own young shortstops.

Do you think we will see Christian Vazquez get some playing time with the big boys before the September roster expansion date? I can’t wait to see this kid in action.

Mark, Cambridge

Absolutely, and sooner if there’s an injury to A.J. Pierzynski or David Ross.

You have been urging the Sox to sign Stephen Drew for 6 months now. What would your contract offer be that would trump all the others being fielded by his agent, Scott Boras, and where would you play Xander Bogaerts and Will Middlebrooks? Couldn’t that money be better served to address possible pitching needs or possibly a more pressing outfield need?

Bob, Sudbury

I think I’ve been pointing out that they miss him more than “urging” them to sign him. I don’t think it’s going to happen at this point and the Red Sox will likely not get a draft pick for him because he’s probably not going to sign until after the June draft, which makes the whole thing rather silly since that was the point. It wouldn’t take too much to sign him at this point. One year at $6-$7 million would be my guess. I’m not sure anyone would have to “trump” anyone.

Obviously you play him at short and move Xander to third and Will would have to be a guy you move around a bit to get at-bats. He continues to struggle with consistency at the plate. But I don’t think we need to even consider that. As for spending money, I don’t think that’s a problem with the Red Sox. The only thing they won’t do is sign lengthy long-term contracts, but they have plenty of money and remain a healthy amount ($20-$25 million) under the luxury tax of $189 million to be able to make significant moves at the trading deadline if they need to.

Beyond Giancarlo Stanton, there has to be an outfielder out there who can field and hit that would be worth trading pitchers for. Any ideas who?

Dan, Kodiak, Alaska

It’s tough for teams to trade power hitters because they’re a dying breed, which is why the Red Sox remain so patient with Will Middlebrooks. You’d have to look at a team at the trading deadline that’s fading out of it. Everyone is so bunched up right now, it’s hard to predict who they would be. We can throw out names like Chase Headley, Josh Willingham, Carlos Quentin, Alex Rios, Jay Bruce, Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion, but who knows? I mentioned Middlebrooks, and he’s a key guy. If the power comes with him, there’s probably no need to do anything.

In your opinion, what does Jackie Bradley have to hit to make him the long-term Red Sox center fielder? Can they keep him there if he stays below .230?

Jack, Bristol, Conn.

Jackie needs to be at least a .270-.280 hitter who has a .350 or better OBP.

What is in the future for Daniel Nava? Do you think that he will return to the Boston Red Sox or is he on the trading block? He was such an important part of the 2013 season and even if he is traded, I would like to see him playing in the major leagues again.

Malcohm, Boise, Idaho

Unfortunately Nava will have to wait for an injury to return to Boston. I’m sure he has trade value as well.

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