The Red Sox are set to begin their final road trip of the regular season, with two games at Colorado starting Tuesday night, followed by an off-day, and then three games at Baltimore. The Sox will have four days off before beginning their American League Division Series on Oct. 4 -- a year to the day they fired manager Bobby Valentine. It will be their first appearance in the post season since 2009, when they were swept by the Angels.
But we still don’t know who the Sox will be playing, or where. Can they maintain their best record in the AL to give them hold field advantage throughout the postseason? And allow them to host the winner of the one-game playoff between the two wild card teams? Who will those wild card teams be? If the Sox can’t hold on, who will they face?
Lots of questions still to be answered. So, with Monday’s scheduled off-day for the Sox, we fielded some questions from Twitter followers. Here is a sampling:
@MaureenaMullen What are your thoughts on 2014 Red Sox 1B and C?— Sung Woo Chung (@seannybboi) September 23, 2013
It will be interesting to see what the Red Sox decide to do with Jarrod Saltalamacchia this offseason. Saltalamacchia has improved both defensively and offensively this season, and has worked to make himself a very important part of the team and potentially a valuable offseason commodity. Most teams send their scouts out at the end of a season to get final looks at potential free agents, and I know of several that have had their eyes on Saltalamacchia.
I believe that the Sox should bring him back. He has worked well with veteran back-up David Ross, and continued to improve with Ross’ mentoring. Ross, who is on a two-year deal, will be back next season. If the Sox don’t bring Saltalamacchia back, they will likely have to go outside the organization to find a full-time catcher. There really is no one currently in the organization who can step into the starter’s job. Christian Vazquez may be a possibility down the road, but he was only promoted to Triple-A Pawtucket on Sept. 1 and played in just one regular season game before the playoffs. Blake Swihart is their top prospect at the position. But the first-round (26th overall) pick out of high school in 2011, played at High-A Salem this season and is at least several years away.
It will be interesting to see what the Sox do with first base. Do they bring Mike Napoli back? If so, after playing on a one-year deal to show that his hips can stay healthy for a whole season, Napoli, who turns 32 on Halloween, is likely going to be looking for a multi-year deal. Will the years and dollars be in line with what the Sox are thinking? On Saturday, Will Middlebrooks played his first – and so far, only – game at first base in his life. He did so respectably, but is one game, 11 chances, and 10 putouts, enough for the Sox to believe he can play there for an entire season?
I agree, Nieves probably hasn’t gotten enough credit for the performance of the Sox pitching staff this season. At least publicly. Perhaps that is a function of working under manager John Farrell, who established his presence in Boston as the pitching coach for four seasons, including his first season in 2007 when the Sox won the World Series. But I think within baseball circles and within the Sox clubhouse, Nieves gets his due credit. Prior to joining the Red Sox, he had been with the White Sox for 14 seasons. In his last five seasons in Chicago he had the title of bullpen coach, but was really an assistant pitching coach to Don Cooper. Nieves’ familiarity with Jake Peavy was instrumental in the sox acquiring the right-hander just before the trading deadline.
It will be interesting to see what the Sox do with Berry for the postseason. Do they use a roster spot for Berry, hoping they can use him in that ‘Dave Roberts’ spot? Since the Sox acquired him on Aug. 27 from the Royals for right-hander Clayton Mortensen, he has appeared in just nine games, entering seven games as a pinch-runner, and with just one stolen base in his only attempt, on Sept. 5 against the Yankees. He made his Sox debut on Sept. 1, replacing Jacoby Ellsbury in center field, who left after his ninth-inning at-bat when he jammed his left hand on swings at the plate. On Sept. 11, he went into left field in the 10th after Mike Carp pinch-hit for Jonny Gomes, and hit a grand slam. So, I wouldn’t expect to see him going in as a defensive replacement.
@MaureenaMullen Who poses the toughest match up for the Sox in the playoffs and why?— Anthony Curtis (@AnthonyCurtis68) September 23, 2013
That’s an interesting conversation, since we’re still not sure who is going to be in the playoffs or what seed the Red Sox will have. Will they be able to hold onto the best record in the American League? Will Tampa Bay and Cleveland, currently the wild card teams, be able to hold onto those spots, or can another team – Texas is currently one game out, Kansas City is three games out – overtake them?
There are a lot of permutations to consider and a lot of ‘if this, then that’ scenarios to factor in. But, for the purposes of this answer, let’s just look at the situation as it stands now. If the Sox are able to hold onto their top seed in the AL and if Tampa Bay and Cleveland are able to hold onto the wild card, the Sox will begin their ALDS at home on Oct. 4 against the winner of the one-game play-off between the Rays and Indians.
I think the Sox match up well against either of those teams. They finished the season series 6-1 against the Indians and 12-7 against the Rays. But with the Rays starting pitchers, I believe they will be more of a challenge. While they did not have a good showing against the Sox this season, they just swept a four-game series from the Orioles and begin a three-game series against the Yankees in New York tonight, before finishing up with three games in Toronto. If the Rays continue that kind of momentum, and can find some consistent offense to go along with their vaunted rotation, they may hit a stride at just the right time and give the Sox a run for their money.