Inbox: Keep six in the starting rotation?
Beat reporter Ian Browne answers fans' questions
With the addition of John Lackey, the Red Sox now have six worthy starters. Presuming everyone is healthy, what is most likely: A six-man rotation, moving Tim Wakefield to the bullpen or trading Clay Buchholz?
-- Richie P., Fairfield, Conn.
The six-man rotation might happen in spurts if the Red Sox are fortunate enough to have everyone healthy and performing well at once. When I say spurts, I mean times when the schedule is particularly hectic with a long stretch with no days off. But a six-man rotation isn't feasible on a regular basis. It would probably be detrimental to the routines of most of the pitchers on the staff.
Boston views Wakefield as a starter, so I don't see him in the bullpen long-term, though it could certainly happen at times if there is an overload in the rotation. Trading Buchholz? Sure, that's an option, but only if the Red Sox can acquire a superstar bat.
To be honest, I think the most likely scenario is that things work themselves out. Perhaps Wakefield starts the season a little late, and by the time he comes back, someone else has a nagging injury or a prolonged slump and the timing is perfect for the knuckleballer to return. Aside from the 2004 Red Sox, I can't think of a recent Boston team that only needed five starters to get through a season. It's a long season and generally, through attrition, teams are looking for starters by July or August. If the Red Sox have a logjam, that's a very good sign for how their season is progressing.
With Jacoby Ellsbury's speed, why is he slated for left field?
-- Teresa D., Nashua, N.H.
It's not all about pure speed when it comes to being a great outfielder. Mike Cameron has been an elite center fielder for most of his career, and he has a stronger arm than Ellsbury. Watching Ellsbury closely in center the last couple of years, the Red Sox feel that his strength out there is his first-step quickness, something that should make him excel in left. Cameron has long strides, which help him in center. Also, Cameron is far more comfortable in center than he is in the corners. Ellsbury played the corner outfield spots for Boston at a very high level late in the 2007 season and at times during '08. Ellsbury still projects as a center fielder over the long term, but the Red Sox feel his best fit on the 2010 roster is in left.
Even though Jason Varitek is now the backup catcher, is he retaining his captain status?
-- Tim C., Minneapolis
Yes, Varitek will again be the captain. The Red Sox still view him as a leader, even if he will be on the field a lot less in 2010 than in years past. Varitek is vocal in pitchers' meetings and in individual conversations with other players on the team. He is obviously as prepared as any player in the game. Despite the lack of at-bats in his near future, he has many of the traits that make a good captain.
Do you think the Red Sox will acquire another bat this offseason? I feel like one more power hitter in the middle of the order will help Boston compete with the Yankees' lineup. It's great to be a defense- and pitching-oriented team, but one of the major pitfalls of last year was the lack of hitting.
-- Ben S., Barrington, R.I.
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It doesn't sound like there are any more big bats on the move this winter. The Red Sox are comfortable going into camp with the team they have and assessing from there. General manager Theo Epstein has already said numerous times that the club will do what it takes to acquire a bat before July 31 if the offense struggles. The Red Sox do have Victor Martinez for an entire season after only having him for two months last year. They also have Marco Scutaro, who should be a considerable upgrade over what they had offensively at shortstop last season. Two of the bigger questions are this: Will David Ortiz rebound? What kind of offensive player will Adrian Beltre be?
I see that Mark Wagner is on the 40-man roster for a second season. What are the plans for him? When will he get a look-see in the Majors?
-- Paul C., Lancaster, S.C.
If the Red Sox have an injury to one of their Major League catchers, I think Wagner is the first guy they will call on. He is a prospect you don't hear a lot about, but the organization thinks highly of him. Wagner has a confident personality, so I don't think he would be intimidated if he gets a call at some point this season. Obviously they had confidence in him to let George Kottaras go. Wagner did struggle at the plate after being promoted to Triple-A Pawtucket for the latter portion of 2009. But he is highly regarded for his defense and certainly has the ability to make some improvements offensively.
Though it is early in his career, do you think Ryan Westmoreland's injuries could be of things to come? And if that's the case, should the Sox try and trade him while he is still considered with high potential?
-- Alex D., Hopkinton, Mass.
Well, his most recent injury was a broken clavicle suffered from running into a wall. That could happen to any aggressive player. It would be way too early to say that Westmoreland is injury-prone. And they definitely don't want to trade him, though no player is untouchable in the right deal.
When is the official reporting date for pitchers and catchers? Also, when do the position players report?
-- Dave S., Wolcott, Conn.
You sound like someone who might have been shoveling snow the past few days! At any rate, pitchers and catchers report to Fort Myers, Fla., on Feb. 18. They hold their first official workout two days later. The position players are due to report on Feb. 22, and the first full-squad workout for the 2010 Red Sox will be on Feb. 24.
Will Nomar Garciaparra end up in the Red Sox Hall of Fame? He had a terrific run with Boston, even though it ended badly. What are your thoughts? Also, do you think he will end up in Cooperstown?
-- Chris C., Brunswick, Maine
Garciaparra, I would think, is definitely a Red Sox Hall of Famer. He's probably the best offensive shortstop in the history of the team. As for the Baseball Hall of Fame, that doesn't look promising. He currently has 1,747 hits and 229 homers, which leave him short of a typical Hall of Famer. Garciaparra's .313 career average is very impressive, but I don't think it will be enough. It's too bad he had so many injuries, because Garciaparra was certainly on track to be a Hall of Famer the way his career started.
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.