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Inbox: What will Swihart's role be in 2017?

Red Sox beat reporter Ian Browne answers fans' questions
January 3, 2017

What will Blake Swihart's role be in 2017? Will he go back to catching, or will he still have some stints in left field? -- James Y., Wells, MaineThe plan is for Swihart to come to camp as a catcher, focus on that and prove that he's healthy following his

What will Blake Swihart's role be in 2017? Will he go back to catching, or will he still have some stints in left field?
-- James Y., Wells, Maine

The plan is for Swihart to come to camp as a catcher, focus on that and prove that he's healthy following his left ankle injury. It was only a year ago that the Red Sox expected Swihart would be their catcher of the future. It will be intriguing to see what kind of comeback he can make and how he fares in the competition for the starting catching job.
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Why does everyone think Sandy Leon should be the starting catcher? Yes, he was crazy hot at the plate when he came back last season, but toward the end of the year, he was back to below-average hitting.
-- Al G., Barkhamsted, Conn.

I'm not sure everyone does think that. I think what Boston manager John Farrell said is that Leon has the inside track on the job heading into Spring Training. That doesn't mean Christian Vazquez or Swihart can't come in and win the job. It should be a positional battle to keep an eye on.
Now that Clay Buchholz is gone, who has the second-most time on the team after Dustin Pedroia?
-- Mike L., Gainesville, Fla.

Great question. There are a number of players who started their career with the Red Sox in 2013, including Jackie Bradley Jr., Xander Bogaerts, Brock Holt and Steven Wright. Bradley made his debut on Opening Day in '13, but he wound up in the Minor Leagues several more times. Holt and Wright also went up and down for a couple of years. Once Bogaerts was called up in August '13, he was there for good. Holt has the most service time of the four, but just slightly over Bogaerts.

With Bogaerts and Bradley both represented by Scott Boras, what do you think are the chances of signing either to a long-term contract?
-- Tom M., Philadelphia

I think the Boras angle gets overblown sometimes. Sure, he wants what's best for his clients, but it is ultimately up to the player to decide how much of a motivating factor it is to sign a long-term contract with his existing team. I do think the Red Sox will talk with Bradley, Bogaerts and Mookie Betts this offseason to at least explore long-term deals. President of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski is very good at keeping those conversations private, so if a contract extension is agreed upon with any of those players, it will likely be announced with little warning.
Who will be in the bullpen on Opening Day?
-- Mike L., Chester, Conn.

It should look something like this: closer Craig Kimbrel, setup men Tyler Thornburg, Joe Kelly, Matt Barnes, Robbie Ross Jr., Fernando Abad, Robby Scott and Richard Hembree. The long reliever would be whichever starter is the odd man out in the rotation, so Thomas Pomeranz, Eduardo Rodriguez or Wright. Keep in mind that an injury could change all of this.
Has David Ortiz left the door open for a possible comeback from retirement to maybe play the second half of the season to help the Red Sox win the World Series?
-- Craig S., San Francisco

Ortiz has been very consistent since making his initial announcement around 15 months ago that he would retire. He has given no indication that his plans have changed. It would be a great surprise to the Red Sox and their fans if Big Papi did have a change of heart, but I don't expect it.
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With Ortiz's career in the books, who looks to be the front-runner to take over the DH spot?
-- Matt P., Alabaster, Ala.

Hanley Ramirez will be the primary DH this season, as Mitch Moreland will get the nod at first base in most games against right-handers. Against lefties, Farrell will probably do a fair amount of rotating in the DH spot. It will be a good opportunity to get some everyday players off their feet for a day.
Now that Yoan Moncada is traded, are the Red Sox still on the hook for the money they signed him for?
-- Todd H., Moncton, New Brunswick

When Boston reached its initial agreement with Moncada, it included a $31.5 million signing bonus that it had to pay over three years. The Red Sox are still responsible for paying out the balance of that. They were also hit with a penalty at the time of over $30 million for going over their allotted pool for international signings. So yes, the Red Sox's total investment was roughly $60 million. But in exchange, they get one of the best pitchers in baseball in Chris Sale at a very reasonable total cost ($38 million) over the next three years.

Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and **Facebook**.