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ASK NICK RED SOX MAILBAG

Will Red Sox re-sign Jon Lester?

When Jackie Bradley Jr. learns to handle the off-speed pitches, he’ll be better. AP Photo/Jim Cowsert

Jim Cowsert/AP

When Jackie Bradley Jr. learns to handle the off-speed pitches, he’ll be better.

Answering a few questions before heading to Minnesota for the Twins-Red Sox series.

The Red Sox are a game over .500, which is a different vantage point from what we’ve been used to this season. The key issues now are getting Clay Buchholz and Felix Doubront straightened out in the starting rotation, while the young guys — Will Middlebrooks, Jackie Bradley Jr., and Xander Bogaerts — remain concerns in the lineup.

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Another thing to mention, the Red Sox Foundation is conducting a worldwide raffle of World Series rings, with the drawing to be held June 27. The grand prize is a ring from each of the championships in 2004, 2007, and 2013.

Raffle tickets, which start at $10 for five chances, are available online at redsox.com/ringraffle.

Second prize is a pair of 2013 World Series rings. Third prize is one 2013 World Series ring. Each ring will be personalized with the winner’s name.

Red Sox executive vice president Charles Steinberg said the rings have the same jewels as the regular player rings. He also said that tickets have been bought in all 50 states and 16 countries. All of the money goes to the Red Sox Foundation.

Here’s the mailbag:

Why do the Yanks get to play the lowly Mets four games and we play nobody from the NL East. Who is our special rivalry?

Bob, New Ringgold, Pa.

The Red Sox’ special rivalry appears to be the Atlanta Braves, from the Boston Braves connection. The Red Sox will play them two games in Atlanta, May 26-27, and then in Boston the 28th and 29th.

Is there any chance the Red Sox will jump in with a new, better offer for Jon Lester before the season ends? It’s got to be risky from a PR point of view. If they shoot too low once again on a second try, that could be it — Lester could be as good as gone. I think they can still lock him down, but it may take five years/$110 million, or even six/$130 million. I’d hate to wait to start working on that in October/November.

Mike, Hendersonville, N.C.

Not really sure what Jon Lester’s price is, but we know it’s not four years at $70 million. Whether this is a drop-dead offer by the Red Sox is also unclear, though Ben Cherington said the negotiations had paused, and not necessarily stopped. So to me that sounds like there’s room to negotiate. I’m sure the Red Sox are watching how Lester responds this season and continue to go over the ramifications of a free agent pitcher on the other side of 30 years of age.

I’ve said this repeatedly, but it sounds to me like the Red Sox are out of the long-term-contract business for players on the other side of 30, but as we know, top-of-the-rotation pitchers are being paid at a high rate. Sometimes there’s no getting around it unless you develop your own and you have complete faith in those young pitchers and you’re willing to grow with them. There’s nothing wrong with doing that, but if you do, I would think the price of tickets would have to come down as well.

What’s your take on Jackie Bradley? Can he hit his weight at the major league level? To me, he looks more like a defense-oriented player who is overmatched at the plate.

Chris, Harvard

I think he will hit better than what we’ve seen. This requires great patience by the Red Sox, fans, and media. Young hitters can be overwhelmed at times by the plethora of quality off-speed pitches that major leaguers throw. When he feels more comfortable with that and masters it, he’ll be fine. How long will that take? It may take a while; that’s why patience must be exercised.

Regarding why the Sox leave so many runners on base: They don’t swing the bat! I understand the philosophy in place but way too many times I see batters with two strikes and a tying or lead runner in scoring position taking a third strike. Haven’t they figured out yet that you simply don’t know how most umpires are going to call close pitches, so with two strikes you have to swing at a pitch that is close? Why not simply shorten up your swing, perhaps by choking up an inch, and be sure you at least get the bat on the ball? What do the hitting-coach wizards say about this?

Len, Oshkosh, Wis.

I think Boston’s hitting coaches offer the hitter the opportunity to approach the at-bat as he pleases. The Red Sox have a variety of different types of hitters, from the more aggressive A.J. Pierzynski to the ever-patient Mike Napoli. For the most part, the Red Sox buy into the patient approach. The two-strike issue is definitely mentioned and emphasized, and that’s where the Red Sox need to do a better job, though it’s improved lately.

Red Sox management is notorious for hyping young, upcoming prospects. From what I see, Middlebrooks is not an everyday major league player and Bogaerts is not a major league shortstop. What do you think?

Tom, Dorchester

Let me say this: I think Bogaerts should play third base, and that’s been my position. Again, for me it comes down to how much patience do you want to have with these guys? This is Boston, a big-market team that charges the highest ticket prices in baseball. So the fans want to see a winner every year. I hear a lot of sentiment about going with the young guys, but when the young guys struggle, I get this type of commentary where the fan is saying, “I don’t think this young player is any good.”

Sure, there’s a lot of hype on these guys by the management and by the media. Whenever I read how great one of these guys is, I personally like to take a step back. For me, not sure it matters if they’re tearing up minor league baseball. It means absolutely nothing until they come to the majors and dominate there. Some will and some won’t. Mookie Betts seems to be the next superstar du jour, and he’s having a wonderful season in Double A. Now let’s see how he responds to Triple A and up the ladder.

Is it too early to be giving up hope that Will Middlebrooks will produce at the plate this year? I thought he did a great job when he came back from Pawtucket last season, but he has looked bamboozled most of the time when hitting this year.

Doug, Proctor, Vt.

Will Middlebrooks has all the ability in the world. He should be a 30-home run hitter with his power. But now it’s all on him. The team wants to see where he is after 150 at-bats or so and as the weather warms up.

In watching Koji pitch this year, it seems as if he is throwing more fastballs than last year. Is this more of a function of the weather preventing him from getting the right grip for the splitter? Or is it a change in pitching philosophy from last year? His 30+ pitch outing against Oakland was a direct result of hitters fouling off many 88-90 m.p.h. fastballs. It would seem that “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” would apply here. Am I missing something?

Tim, Glen Ellyn, Ill.

Koji has gone through some arm issues, so I’m sure he’s not as sharp as he will be later. It seems he’s begun to straighten some of those issues out as time has passed. He looks more like the old Koji recently.

Any updates on the pitchers we got from the Dodgers in the Beckett-Gonzalez-Crawford-Punto deal? Haven’t heard much on Webster or the other guy.

Rich, Florence, Ky.

Webster: 2-1, 2.45 ERA. He’s got some walks — 18 in 44 innings. Rubby De La Rosa: 2-2, 2.29 in seven starts. Both off to good starts. These two guys are a good example of what I’m talking about it. They perform well at Triple A but haven’t been able to do it in the big leagues yet.

What do you think is the reason for such poor attendance at Fenway so far this season? Not only that, but people seem to be leaving early pretty often. I hate to admit it, but I have been unable to sell my two loge box seats for four separate games in April this year, even at half of face value, and even for a Yankees game.I know the weather has been lousy and cold at times, but it didn’t used to be like this. You’d think the world champions of baseball would be a better draw than this.On perhaps a separate note, has the “flexible” ticket pricing had any impact on attendance? As someone who holds a small share of season tickets, I hate it.

Doug, Manchester, Maine

They’re actually up about 3,700 fans per game from 2013, so their ticket sales are fine. For me, the issue is leaving early. Fans are leaving in extra-inning games. It’s a combination of weather, kids not out of school, long games, and some have said lack of excitement. We always write about these things early in the season and then it becomes a non-issue. I expect the same will occur this season.

Could you see any scenario where the Sox offer Bogaerts/plus to Miami for Stanton?

Drew, Plainfield, Conn.

I would never rule something like that out, but Miami is winning and they’re drawing because of Giancarlo Stanton, who is having a terrific year. If the Marlins ever even thought of dealing Stanton, there would be a rebellion. Now, if it gets into the offseason and Stanton shows no signs of wanting to negotiate a new deal, then I could see the possibility of the Marlins entertaining a deal. Dan Jennings has maintained from last winter that Stanton is not available. I believe him.

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