Inbox: Middlebrooks, Bogaerts to compete for spot?
Beat reporter Ian Browne answers Red Sox fans' questions
Who is going to have a starting job -- Will Middlebrooks or Xander Bogaerts?
-- Jack P., Oberlin, Ohio
The way things stand, Bogaerts is the starting shortstop and Middlebrooks is the third baseman. But that would all change should Stephen Drew re-sign. If that occurred, Bogaerts and Middlebrooks could have a position battle at Spring Training. Under that scenario, Middlebrooks could also be traded to help fill another need. Stay tuned.
When will Drew make a decision of who to sign with?
-- Larry, Stratford, N.H.
If you are a wise man, you won't hold your breath. Every year, agent Scott Boras seems to have a client who signs very late in the offseason -- sometimes even during Spring Training. Last year, it was Michael Bourn, who didn't sign with the Indians until Feb. 15. Boras and Drew are waiting for a market to develop. They aren't going to force it. But until another suitor steps up, there will continue to be a lot of speculation that Drew will simply wind up back with the Red Sox.
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Do you have an opinion on Middlebrooks as to whether he should be considered a first-base possibility?
-- Rick C., South Windsor, Conn.
The way the roster looks, there wouldn't be a lot of need for Middlebrooks at first base. Mike Napoli is slotted in as the starter, and Daniel Nava and Mike Carp both can back up there. However, if something happens to Napoli from a health standpoint, Middlebrooks could be a good candidate to replace him in the everyday lineup.
Will Jerry Remy return to the booth for the 2014 season? I haven't read any mention of him.
-- Linda H., Tunkhannock, Pa.
Last I heard, NESN was still waiting for Remy to inform them if he is coming back in 2014. There should be news on this at some point soon, considering Spring Training is coming up.
Will the Red Sox use a righty/lefty tandem in center field in 2014? It seems like a safe and logical way to allow Jackie Bradley Jr. to integrate into Major League play. If so, who are the right-handed-hitting center fielders in the free-agent market that they may consider?
-- Bill F., Melbourne, Fla.
The Sox don't see center field as a platoon spot. Right now, they envision Bradley as their center fielder. There is really no need to get a right-handed-hitting center fielder, because they can always slide Shane Victorino over there on days Bradley might need a day off.
Are there any hot first- or second-base prospects in the Sox pipeline?
-- John P., Warwick, R.I.
Mookie Betts is generating a lot of buzz these days at second base. He hit .341 at Class A Salem last season and has the type of athleticism that could make him a highly entertaining player to watch. As for first base, Travis Shaw has a left-handed bat you might want to keep an eye on. He belted 16 homers in 444 at-bats at Double-A last season.
The last teams to repeat as World Series champions were the Yankees (1998-2000) and Blue Jays (1992-93). What part of the Sox needs to change most from last season to join this short list?
-- Paul L., Olney, Md.
If the Red Sox are going to repeat, I would think they need to keep as much the same as possible rather than change. But I do think they will be more dependent on young players, whether it is Bogaerts, Bradley or some of the pitchers. I think they will need a few of the young guys to step up and adjust quickly if they are to have a realistic chance of repeating.
How much faith do the Red Sox have in Koji Uehara to have a repeat season in 2014?
-- Jack C., Sudbury, Mass.
I think the Red Sox are realistic enough to think Uehara will have some type of dropoff in the coming season. The year he had last year was one for the ages, and it would be unfair to expect him to repeat that. This is especially true when you consider Uehara will turn 39 the first week of the season. All that said, the Sox project Uehara to again have a pretty strong year, helped by his impeccable control. If he does get injured or suffer a strong downturn in performance, general manager Ben Cherington has put together a strong bullpen in which someone else might be able to step in and close.
Why the heck did the Red Sox let Jacoby Ellsbury go? He was the sparkplug of the team, he manufactured runs like no one else in recent Sox history. I just don't get it.
-- Wes G., Deerfield, N.H.
The answer is this: seven years, $153 million. That was what it took for the Yankees to get Ellsbury. The Red Sox are trying to get out of contracts like that, as evidenced by the megadeal that sent Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford to the Dodgers. The Sox had full respect for Ellsbury as a player. They just weren't willing to pay that much money for him. It was just business -- nothing personal.
Is Dwight Evans still associated with the Red Sox?
-- Paul K., Quispamsis, New Brunswick, Canada
Yes, Evans still lives in the Boston area and is at Fenway Park quite a bit during the season. He also spends time working with Minor Leaguers in Spring Training.