Inbox: How will the lineup look in 2011?

Inbox: How will the lineup look in 2011?

I'm emptying out the Inbox one last time before the holidays. I hope everyone has a great rest of 2010 and a happy New Year.

Now that the Red Sox have picked up both Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford, can you give us an idea of what the lineup will look like? Will they drop David Ortiz down to fifth or sixth to make room?
-- Paul H., Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.

I think this is roughly what you will see on Opening Day: Jacoby Ellsbury CF; Dustin Pedroia 2B; Crawford LF; Gonzalez 1B; Kevin Youkilis 3B; Ortiz DH; J.D. Drew RF; Jarrod Saltalmacchia C; Marco Sctuaro SS. There are many other ways manager Terry Francona could go, such as hitting Ellsbury and Crawford back-to-back or hitting Gonzalez third. With so many weapons, I don't think Francona can really go wrong no matter what order he puts these guys in.

Will the Red Sox still try to sign an experienced left-hander for the bullpen? I'd love to see Brian Fuentes or someone like him -- a guy who can get lefties out.
-- The Hague, Holland

At this point, it looks like the left-handed solutions are going to be internal. Felix Doubront has a live young arm and has the stuff to do a nice job setting up from the left side. Rich Hill and Andrew Miller are pitchers who will battle it out in camp to be the second lefty. One thing the Red Sox have going for them is that they have right-handers -- including Bobby Jenks, Daniel Bard and Jonathan Papelbon -- who perform well against lefties.

My question is regarding that constantly revolving door at short. So the way I see it is that Spring Training is most likely a battle for the starting gig between Scutaro and Jed Lowrie, with the loser being a real asset in the infield utility role. Jose Iglesias presumably needs at least another year in the Minors. Is this the way you see 2011 at short?
-- Tom, England

Right now, Scutaro projects as the starting shortstop. But this isn't to say Lowrie can't come to Spring Training and prove himself to be so productive and healthy that Francona decides to make a switch. And yes, I agree -- Iglesias could well be ready to hold down the position starting in 2012.

Do you think that the Red Sox are through with the renovations to the lineup, or will they maybe still do some more tinkering? What else do you think that they either need to do or will do? Thanks for all the time you spend with the blog. Happy Holidays.
-- Ellen C., South Florida

The starting nine is set. If anything, Theo Epstein might look for one more player to round out his bench. As it stands right now, he has Jason Varitek, Lowrie, Mike Cameron and Darnell McDonald. Cameron and McDonald seem a little repetitive, so I wouldn't be surprised if a Bill Hall-type who can play the infield and outfield is signed at some point.

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Question:

With the signing of Gonzalez, are the Red Sox going to have to let Ortiz sit out most of the Interleague games, only using him as a pinch-hitter?
-- Sean M., Washington D.C. (Mass. native)

The Red Sox play all nine road Interleague games at one time on the schedule, so I can't see Ortiz sitting out all of those games if he's healthy and productive at the time. Look for Gonzalez to start six or seven of those games at first, with Ortiz playing two or three times.

Since it looks as though the Red Sox won't be adding a new catcher and Saltalamacchia and Varitek will be the backstops, how do you envision Tito platooning them? I imagine that Tek would get more playing time than he did as a backup catcher to Victor Martinez, but maybe that's not the case.
-- Pamela C., Whitingham, Vt.

Yes, Terry Francona has already stated that Varitek will play more than the average backup catcher. A big part of it will depend on how Saltalamacchia plays. If he looks ready to be the primary catcher, he'll be given that chance. But if he struggles, Varitek is a nice option. The one thing we know going in is that Saltalamacchia hits better against righties and Varitek is better against lefties, so that is a dynamic you will probably see Francona factor in quite a bit.

What do you think we can expect from Ellsbury come next season? How is his progress in recovering from 2010 doing? With Crawford now in left, I would love to see them both go and steal 100-110 bases together.
-- Bob H., New Orleans

When the last report was given on Ellsbury a couple of weeks ago, he was progressing nicely in his recovery and feeling only normal soreness. The expectation is that he will be back at full strength in 2011. I agree with you about the Ellsbury-Crawford combo. It is going to cause a lot of headaches for opponents on the bases.

Who do we have to back up Youk at third base for the coming season? Is Theo relying on Scutaro and the often injured Lowrie to back him up, or do you think there will be further infield depth acquired?
-- Tim H., Belfast, Northern Ireland

Lowrie is a pretty nice option, if healthy. But I do think there will be another player on the bench with infield experience before Epstein is finished constructing his team.

Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brownie Points, and follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.