With the first inbox of the regular season, there are many questions about the starting rotation, as well as several other compelling issues surrounding the team. The Red Sox are learning early about the bumps in the road that defending World Series champions always have to deal with.
Do you agree that Felix Doubront needs to go down to Triple-A to work on his mental focus? I would like to see Chris Capuano in the rotation and Rubby De La Rosa called up.
-- Jim L., Spencer, Mass.
Doubront is out of Minor League options, so he would have to agree to such an arrangement. I do agree that Doubront's inconsistency is starting to run its course. He needs to prove that he's someone a team can rely on for a full season, and not just at certain streaky points.
What happened to Brandon Workman? He was better than Burke Badenhop and Edward Mujica in my opinion, and then they called up Alex Wilson for that one-day stint?
-- John C., Myrtle Beach, S.C.
The Red Sox want to get an accurate read on if Workman can be a viable starting pitcher for them. The best way to do that was to put him in the rotation at Triple-A Pawtucket, rather than bouncing him back and forth between the Minors and Majors. Next time Workman is called up, I'm pretty sure it will be to fill a spot in the rotation.
I don't understand why they sent Brandon Workman down and kept Felix Doubront. It seems like Workman is a better pitcher.
-- Alice F., South Portland, Maine
Doubront was going through a similarly frustrating bout at this time last year, and then he wound up getting in a real nice groove for a good three months. I think the Red Sox want to see if he can repeat that before giving up on him. As for Workman, his future seems bright, but there are no guarantees until we see how he performs in that role. He made three starts last year, but that's not enough to know for sure.
What do you think the Red Sox starting rotation will look like in 2015 if they don't re-sign Jon Lester?
-- Eric, San Angelo, Texas
For starters, they would have John Lackey, Clay Buchholz and Doubront under their contractual control. There is also a young stable of pitchers in Triple-A Pawtucket, some of whom could and should be ready to step in by then. That list includes De La Rosa, Allen Webster, Anthony Ranaudo, Workman, Henry Owens and Matt Barnes. But if Lester does go somewhere else, I'm sure the Red Sox will push hard to sign or trade for another front-line pitcher to take his place.
I was slightly appalled when I saw the details of the extension offered to Lester. I recognize that Lester is getting up there in age and won't necessarily have five or six great years left in his arm, but given Doubront's continued inability to put it all together, Buchholz's inability to stay healthy/consistent, and no one with ace potential in the Sox system, shouldn't the Red Sox make an exception? Shouldn't the Red Sox budge on their proposal and offer a 5/6 year deal with around a $20 million AAV?
-- Elon D., Melbourne, Australia (via West Hartford, Conn.)
No need to be appalled. You are going off of a report that had just one snippet of what has been going on behind closed doors between the Red Sox and Lester's representatives. Both sides have done a nice job keeping most of the negotiations private and civil. I still believe the Red Sox would love to have Lester around for the long haul. And Lester still wants to stay in Boston. At this time next year, I'll be surprised if Lester is pitching somewhere other than Boston.
I know that Buchholz is recovering from an injury. However, do you find it concerning that he is pitching between 88-90 mph with his fastball instead of his usual 93-95? If he doesn't regain his velocity soon, he is in major trouble. Wouldn't you agree?
-- Brian C., Summit Point, W.Va
If Buchholz is still in the high 80s and barely touching 90 [mph] by July, I would be concerned. With the weather the way it has been, and the shoulder problems he is coming off of, his lack of velocity hasn't been all that alarming. Manager John Farrell recently said that most pitchers don't get to their full arm strength for a season until about late May. Let's revisit the subject then.
After 26 games, it is clear that Xander Bogaerts is not ready to play Major League shortstop. How long should they give him?
-- John K., Middleton, Conn.
That's a short sample size. Remember, Bogaerts is 21 years old and has a ton of athletic ability. The game is probably moving a little fast for him right now. It's way too quick to give up on the idea that he can be the starting shortstop this season. Infield instructor Brian Butterfield predicted when I spoke to him in Spring Training that Bogaerts would have some early lumps. All young shortstops do. At the same time, he predicted Bogaerts will turn into a solid Major League shortstop. Butterfield has a wealth of experience and has seen a lot of young players come up, so I value his opinion on this.
Why is Grady Sizemore playing so rarely? I understand giving him time off, but he keeps missing games. Is he OK? What's the reasoning behind having him sit? And why is he playing the corners and not center?
-- Jessamine G., Santa Cruz, Calif.
Sizemore is still a primary option for Farrell. At times, he sits against a lefty, or for a day game after a night game. For a player who didn't play in the Major Leagues at all the last two seasons, I think Farrell is taking the right approach. Sizemore is playing corner outfield because Jackie Bradley Jr. is easily the best defensive center fielder on the team right now. The Sizemore story is still evolving and will probably take another four to six weeks before we have a full realization of what type of player he can be.
Considering the infield prospects the Red Sox have at both Double-A and Triple-A, do they have any plans to trade Will Middlebrooks? Considering all his injuries, does he have any value?
-- Duane M., Attleboro, Mass.
Middlebrooks still has plenty of value, and not just to other teams, but to the Red Sox as well. This is why they haven't traded him yet. In an era where power is getting harder to find, Middlebrooks has quite a bit of it. He had a solid rookie season, a rough sophomore season and he is just settling this season after coming back from a minor injury. It wouldn't surprise me to see Middlebrooks hit 20-25 homers this season.
If someone writes a fan letter to one of the players, does it get to them or does it go to someone who answers fan mail for them?
-- Juanell B., Fairfax, Va.
Each player is responsible for his own mail. It is up to that player if he wants to delegate a friend or associate to filter through the mail for him to decide which of the letters to respond to. I think quite a few players go through all of their mail on their own.
How does being predictable by nearly always taking the first pitch contribute to the grinding approach the Red Sox favor at the plate? So often, Red Sox batters take a first-pitch strike and then either take another strike or chase a pitch out of the strike zone, putting themselves at a real disadvantage. What's the benefit in that?
-- Ken R., New Hampshire
Each hitter is different. I watched nearly every at-bat Wade Boggs took for the Red Sox, and I would say he looked at the first pitch 99 percent of the time. That was his comfort level, and Boggs had great numbers when he had two strikes on him. Of course, he was a Hall of Famer, so not everybody has his bat control. It is a double-edged sword at times.
Looking at pitches can be beneficial to running up a pitch count. But if that pitcher has pinpoint control, your best shot might be to take a pass at a fastball early in the count. I think the Red Sox do a pretty good job of reading and reacting to these situations.
How is the allocation of umpires handled in MLB? Does each team/ballpark have their own umpire staff or do umpires travel around from city to city?
-- Frank S., Calmar, Alberta, Canada
The umpires are scheduled through the central offices of Major League Baseball. The umpires are some of the most well-traveled people in all of baseball, and probably don't get the credit they deserve for this. It can be a grueling profession, and they typically only get noticed when they make a mistake. Umpires don't have home parks. They all rotate from city to city.
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brownie Points, and follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne.