Saturday, February 12, 2011 Updated: February 13, 3:10 PM ET
Can they all just get along?
By Gordon Edes ESPNBoston.com
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Our first mailbag of the 2011 season, coming the day before the official reporting date for Sox pitchers and catchers, has lots of good stuff. Questions about how the multiple closers will get along, why the Sox are so high on Jarrod Saltalamacchia, if Tim Wakefield is eating up a valuable roster spot, where Alfredo Aceves fits in and future plans for Jose Iglesias and Jed Lowrie.
Enjoy, and keep those letters coming.
Q. Do you think the Sox will have to trade either Iglesias or Lowrie? Only one can be the starting SS for the future. Can there be a starting spot for both players on the Sox? -- Dave (Vernon, B.C.)A. Dave,
The Red Sox won't be trading Iglesias. They were lucky they didn't have to give him up in the Adrian Gonzalez deal; the Padres didn't have the luxury of taking his unproven bat. The Sox would like to see Iglesias open the season in Triple-A Pawtucket, but because he missed so much time last season with his finger injury, he could open the season in Portland with a rapid promotion to follow. But assuming he follows his current development arc, he is projected to be the Sox starting shortstop in 2012.
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But that doesn't mean the Sox would have to trade Lowrie. He could play an important function on this team as a guy who could get regular playing time while spelling all four infielders. How many teams have a player like that, especially one who put up the kind of numbers Lowrie did when finally healthy last season?
Q. The Alfredo Aceves signing was a tad of a surprise to me since it seemed like we had already signed viable options to either major or minor league contracts to fill the last few 'pen spots. Do you think Aceves will break with the team or what? He seems pretty versatile as we saw with the Yanks. Is this a simple case of more insurance with equal opportunities for the other off-season acquisitions to make the team as well, or does this virtually push one of the non-roster invitees off the chart all together? If so, who do you think? Thanks again! -- Andrew (Washington, D.C.)A. I think the Sox feel the Yankees let one slip away in this case; in fact, my sources tell me the Yankees made a late bid for Aceves but were rebuffed. The Mets and Diamondbacks also offered him more assurances of a big league job, my sources tell me, but Aceves preferred Boston and the chance to win (and beat the Yankees). He broke his collarbone riding his bike in the offseason, and the Yankees may have been lulled into thinking he was in worse shape than he was. But he passed the Sox physical, threw a couple of impressive bullpens and the Sox struck.
His value to them may be less as a potential bullpen piece and more as a starter to give them rotation depth. A team always needs more than the five starters it opened the season with -- last season, nine different pitchers started at least one game for the Sox -- and the Sox needed someone beyond Tim Wakefield and Felix Doubront. Aceves has options left, meaning the Sox can send him back to the minors without exposing him to waivers, so I expect him to open the season in Pawtucket, but I think he'll be a definite contributor.
Q. Any news on when Alfredo Aceves will be reporting to camp? -- Arturo Arellano (Mexico)A. Pitchers and catchers are due to report Sunday, and I have no reason to believe that he will not be here then. Physicals are Monday, with the first workout scheduled for Tuesday.
Q. Any chance the Red Sox would consider a deal with the Rangers for Young? They would be taking on a lot more salary if they traded Scutaro and a prospect, but Young would add a strong right-handed bat to the lineup. -- Don Treat (Kingston, N.Y.)A. Don, that's not happening. Young's days as a shortstop are over, he's too expensive (he's got $48 million coming over the next three seasons), he's 34 and the Sox really like their lineup as constituted.
Q. Gordon, How do you think the "big 3" in the bullpen will work together? Each have a desire to close out games, but only one can hold the title of the closer. Do you see these guys coming together as a unit and fighting for each other, or will egos get in the way and bump heads? -- Joe E. (Wilson, N.C.)
Will Jonathan Papelbon and Red Sox relievers Daniel Bard and Bobby Jenks be able to play nice?
A. Joe, that's one of the more intriguing questions of the spring. Just to remind anyone who might be unclear, the "big 3" to which Joe refers are Jonathan Papelbon, Bobby Jenks and Daniel Bard. Jenks was signed by the Red Sox after being nontendered by the White Sox and has been only a closer in the big leagues, so you would think he'll be the one facing the biggest adjustment. Bard was terrific in a setup role last season and undoubtedly assumed he'd remain in that role for at least one more season, with Papelbon still here. Papelbon is in his free agent year and goes into the season with his eyes wide open. He knows the minute he falters, people will be clamoring for Jenks and Bard, but he insists he's prepared to deal with it. He said he's happy to have Jenks aboard, that he makes the Sox bullpen much stronger, and believes the assurances from Theo Epstein and Terry Francona that he remains the closer. But this will definitely bear watching.
Q. Hey Gordon!
I'm looking forward to a better season than last year ... I noticed that during that stretch in June before the injury plague went into full effect (Buchholz, Pedey, and V-Mart in three straight games) that the team seemed to have great camaraderie throughout the ranks. With the Beltre head-rub game gone, do you think it will take long for the veterans and new additions to get to that same level of team cohesion? Have you seen anything amongst the early arrivals that might signal some good news on this front? -- Marc Lynes (Charleston, S.C.)
A. Marc, the Sox clubhouse last season was very strong. Victor Martinez, Marco Scutaro and Adrian Beltre were all regarded as outstanding teammates, played hard, played hurt, and cared. That said, the Sox have every reason to believe that Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford bring a similar set of values with them. They both have reputations as tremendous workers. Gonzalez is universally respected around the game, as a player and a man, and Crawford persevered through all those lean years with Tampa Bay. I think my only question regarding Crawford is how he will handle the exponentially greater attention he will receive in Boston. He has shown on occasion a tendency to be sensitive to perceived slights, according to folks with the Rays, so we'll have to see how that goes. But as good as Martinez and Beltre were, these guys are younger and have the potential to bring even more.
Q. Have you heard anything about JD Drew's hamstring injury? Should we expect a Kalish/Cameron platoon in right field to start the season or just spring training? -- Chris (West Springfield, Mass.)A. Chris, I read Rob Bradford's phone interview with J.D. Drew on WEEI.com, in which Drew expressed some concerns that the hamstring problem that plagued him last season has not fully healed. Drew has a history of hamstring issues, and he is now 35, so I expect the Sox will proceed with some caution this spring. But if the club regards it as a problem, they certainly have not indicated that. I think they're reserving any judgments until he gets down here and they see him in action.
Concern over J.D. Drew's hamstring is shared by fans and the right fielder, alike.
At this stage, the expectation is that Drew is the everyday right-fielder, but Mike Cameron will share time with both him and Jacoby Ellsbury, especially against lefties. I expect Kalish to open the season in Pawtucket, where he will prepare to battle Josh Reddick to succeed Drew as Sox right-fielder in 2012. Drew is in the last season of his contract.
Q. After the team heads back north, there always seems to be someone left behind for "extended spring training." What is that? Is there a limit to how many players are there per team? Do they play exhibition games? Can you get tickets to those games? How long does extended spring training last? -- Matthew (Charlestown, R.I.)A. Matthew, extended spring training is exactly what it sounds like. It is an extension of spring training for those players not assigned to a full-season minor league team -- usually around 30 or so players who continue working out and playing practice games in Fort Myers until the short-season teams, the rookie level club in the Gulf Coast League and short-season A team (the Lowell Spinners), begin play in mid- to late-June. It's very informal in terms of going to watch -- you don't have to buy a ticket to see games in extended spring.
I found a really good link that tells you more: CLICK HERE.
Q. Do you think that Terry Francona will carry two lefties in the bullpen this year? -- Ian Bethune (Newington, Conn.)A. Ian, that's always his preference and why the Sox were bringing in guys such as Scott Schoeneweis and Alan Embree in the last week of spring training, because they weren't happy with their options. My expectation is that they'll keep two out of the slew of lefties they're bringing into camp. Ideally, I think they'd like to see Hideki Okajima regain effectiveness with his split change and also regain his confidence. But they have some other intriguing options including Felix Doubront, Andrew Miller, Rich Hill, Dennys Reyes -- shoot, they even signed former Sox lefty Lenny DiNardo for a look. But having two lefties might not be as critical as in the past, when you've got Bard, Jenks and Wheeler as setup men. Bard had tremendous numbers against lefties last season, holding them to a .141 average. Doubront also had considerable success (.189, 7-for -7, just 2 walks).
Q. With respect to Saltalamacchia, why is the Red Sox brass so bullish on him? What is the potential upside to him and the strengths of his game? -- David O (St. Louis, Mo.)A. David, even though Jarrod Saltalamacchia has struggled in the big leagues, due in part to injuries, the Sox still see great potential, especially offensively -- a big, strong switch-hitter still just 25 years old. He's receiving intensive tutelage from bullpen coach Gary Tuck on the defensive aspects of the game, but Terry Francona was very impressed with the strength of his throwing arm and his release, and the Sox believe he will do a better job of controlling the opposition running game than Martinez did. His ability to call a game remains a work in progress, but he has an outstanding mentor in Jason Varitek.
Q. Dr. Edes, We got a problem. I really feel like Wakefield is borderline wasting a roster spot. He's never going to be called in a tight game, and he's taking up a spot in our bullpen, which might I add, was our biggest weakness last year. I know he can spot start on demand, but why can't Doubront? The way I see our pen shaping up right now, it will look something like this: Pap, Bard, Jenks, Wheeler, Oki, Hill/Doubront, Wakefield. Here's my problem. Wouldn't Aceves, odd man out of Hill/Doubront, or Atchison contribute better than Wakefield? It feels like we're taking a roster spot away from someone who is much more deserving just because of sentimental values. I know how close Wake is to everything, but his knuckler gets lit up, and he's a mop-up duty/spot starter. I refuse to call him our sixth man because I would rather see Miller, Doubront or a stretched-out Aceves take the ball over Wakefield in a spot start. -- Jeremy (Nashville, Tenn.)A. Jeremy, I think you raise some very good points about what could turn into a very delicate situation. I don't think the Sox will let sentiment get in the way of their decision, although with Aceves and Atchison having options left they may well decide to open the season with Wakefield and see if he can give them more than he did in 2010. I think the Sox believe Wakefield gives them rotation depth, but he still has to show he can get people out. As much as Wake wants to break the club record for wins (192), it's unrealistic to see him picking up the 14 wins he needs to do so, especially if this is indeed his last hurrah.
Gordon Edes is ESPNBoston.com's Red Sox reporter. He has covered the Red Sox for 12 years and has reported on baseball for 25 years. Ask a question for his next mailbag here.