Inbox: Will Papelbon keep closer job?
Beat reporter Ian Browne answers Red Sox fans' questions
Just wanted to wish each and every one of you a great Thanksgiving. Thanks for all the questions throughout the year. Keep them coming.
Will Jonathan Papelbon be the closer after an off year?
-- Scott W., Milwaukee
Unless there is a drastic dropoff in Papelbon's stuff come Spring Training, I believe he will be the closer come Opening Day. Papelbon has earned the right to prove the job should still be his. And it would not surprise me one bit to see him have a bounceback season.
However, if you remember the beginning of the 2006 season, when Papelbon was the one who became the closer, manager Terry Francona has proved in the past he will make a dramatic change in roles when the need arises. In other words, if Papelbon looks primed to have an inconsistent season like he did in 2010, it would not surprise me if Francona switched roles and gave the ball to Daniel Bard for the final three outs.
Papelbon has established himself as one of the best in the game over a period of time, but so had Keith Foulke when he was taken out of that role. It is a storyline to keep an eye on early next season, without a doubt.
If the Red Sox end the offseason without signing either Jayson Werth or Carl Crawford, would Ryan Kalish be a starter in 2011?
-- Clayton S., Jackson
Don't forget that even if they don't sign Werth or Crawford, they still have Mike Cameron, Jacoby Ellsbury and J.D. Drew under contract for next season. It's hard to project the outfield right now. There's too much unpredictability and it wouldn't surprise me to see someone -- such as Ellsbury -- get traded if it's part of a blockbuster trade. I wouldn't rule out Kalish being a starter when the season starts, but I think it's more likely he will start the season getting regular at-bats at Triple-A.
Is there a chance that Crawford could land in Boston?
-- Shawn R., West Warwick, R.I.
Sure, the Red Sox will be in the mix for Crawford. It's unclear at this point what type of contract he will get, but given his skill set, I'm sure it will be a lot of years and a lot of dollars. For months now, we've been hearing about the Angels as a possible landing spot for Crawford, so you can be sure they will one of the teams that make a substantial offer.
What are the chances the Red Sox will make a run at Cliff Lee?
-- Bennett W., Arlington, Va.
The Red Sox -- out of due diligence -- will talk to Lee just like they spoke to CC Sabathia two winters ago. However, with two aces already in the fold -- Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz -- and two pitchers who are prime candidates to bounce back from off years (Josh Beckett and John Lackey), I don't think the Red Sox will break their bank to make the type of investment that will be needed to outbid the Yankees, Rangers and other teams for Lee.
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-- Carole P., Medford, Mass.
It would be great to see Wakefield get that record or tie it, but the Red Sox can't prioritize the importance of an individual milestone over doing their very best to try to win. Maybe at the end of the day, Boston's best team for 2011 is one that has Wakefield taking a turn in the rotation every fifth day. But that is still unfolding as general manager Theo Epstein evaluates the free-agent market.
Do you think that Beckett has a chance to bounce back after a season of back woes?
-- Rosie C., Wellesley, Mass.
If Beckett is healthy, I think he will be one of the top candidates for the American League Comeback Player of the Year Award. The last time Beckett had such a subpar season was 2006. And in 2007, he responded with a career year. Don't be shocked if a similar story unfolds this time. Beckett is one of the better competitors around, so you know that he will do everything in his power to make up for 2010.
With third base empty, what are the chances that Jed Lowrie could be the third baseman? I want to see Lowrie in a starting role, I think with a starting role he will become another great player from Boston's Minor League system.
-- Daniel B., Englewood, N.J.
If the Red Sox wind up making substantial investments at other positions such as outfield, catcher and bullpen, there is definitely as scenario in which they could manage the budget by having a very affordable third baseman in Lowrie. If healthy, I think Lowrie could definitely be an everyday player. Thus far, however, he's been unable to stay healthy for a full season. If the Red Sox go out and get a first baseman through trade or free agency, Kevin Youkilis will be moved across the diamond, which would eliminate Lowrie's chance to be the starter over there.
Epstein has stated numerous times that he is perfectly comfortable with shifting Youkilis across the diamond to third base. Do you see the Red Sox offering a one-year, Beltre-type deal to a first baseman like Paul Konerko?
-- Kevin K., North Haven, Conn.
I don't see any way that Paul Konerko will sign a one-year deal. Remember, Beltre was coming off the worst offensive season of his career when he signed that contract. Konerko had a monster year in 2010, finishing with 39 homers and 111 RBIs. He has put himself in position to land a nice contract, whether it is a return trip to the White Sox or with a new team. But if Beltre does depart, I think the Red Sox would be far more likely to acquire a first baseman than a third baseman.
With the rotation pretty much set from top to bottom, will Casey Kelly get a shot? Moreover, will he stick? Or will he bounce between Boston and Pawtucket much like Michael Bowden?
-- Ben B., Maplewood, N.J.
Of course Kelly will get a shot, as long as he keeps developing. Don't forget that it wasn't that long ago -- 2008 -- that he was drafted out of high school. And '10 was his first full season as a pitcher. He could still be a couple of years away, and there's certainly no need to rush the man. Kelly is just 21 years old.