Mailbag: Sox shuffling their lineup?

Mailbag: Sox shuffling their lineup?

With Manny Ramirez's slump, would switching him with either David Ortiz or J.D. Drew in the lineup be a good idea? Drew is more of a threat as a backup for Big Papi than Ramirez is right now.
-- Earl G., Thompson, Conn.

Rule No. 1 in baseball: Don't panic or read too much into someone's stats after less than a month of baseball. If you've watched Ramirez in at-bat after at-bat this year, he's actually taking good swings. He's hit a ton of balls just in front of the warning track or right at fielders. And that home run he hit on Sunday night against the Yankees might still be going. I think it would be counter-productive to switch the lineup at this point.

Hideki Okajima has been a great addition to the Red Sox bullpen, and he really stepped up Saturday against the Yankees. Why don't the Red Sox look at him as being a setup man for Jonathan Papelbon? They seem like a fantastic 1-2 punch.
-- Andrew S., Bloomfield, Conn.

Manager Terry Francona definitely showed over the weekend that he won't hesitate to use Okajima in any circumstance. As for the setup roles as a whole, those tend to be managed by specific matchups. Some nights, Okajima might be the guy to go to in the eighth. Other times, it might be a situation more suited to Mike Timlin or Brendan Donnelly. As a whole, guys are going to make their roles obvious by the way that they pitch.

Is there anything new to report on Matt Clement's health situation?
-- Ed S., Rochester, N.Y.

Clement is still in Florida at extended Spring Training. He's on a very gradual program after having his rotator cuff and labrum operated on last September. Last I heard, Clement was throwing the ball at about 120 feet. He still has a long way to go, but he's made all the necessary steps so far. I'm not sure exactly when he'll pitch. I'll keep you posted as best as possible.

Why aren't the Sox using Alex Cora as their everyday second baseman? In my opinion, he's more solid offensively than Dustin Pedroia and just as good defensively. Why not send Pedroia down to Triple-A Pawtucket to work on his offense for one more season?
-- Dan G., Agawam, Mass.

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The Red Sox love Cora as a utility player and think that is the role he's best suited for. I'm sure you've liked the way Cora has hit the ball lately, but most of the time a utility player's production tails off when he begins to play every day. Pedroia has had a rough start, but so have a lot of rookies. He made a great defensive play to save Sunday's game. Maybe that will get him going in the right direction. It's way too early to make a definitive judgment on Pedroia, one way or the other.

Why doesn't Ortiz bunt more often? I was at the game last week in Toronto, and he hit right into the shift twice. The Sox were down by a run and Coco Crisp was on first. The shift was on and if they put a "bunt and run" on, Ortiz would've been on first and Crisp could've made it to third. It just seems sort of selfish to me. I think Ortiz should have been a team player in that situation.
-- Tim L., Toronto, Ontario

To the contrary, Ortiz probably would be selfish if he was trying to take cheap little singles -- bunts or otherwise -- to the left side to boost his batting average. What the Red Sox want from Ortiz is production. They want him to hit the ball out of the ballpark. When the ball goes into the seats, there's not much a shift can do to stop it. Ortiz can't hit home runs and drive in runs if he's trying to hit little tappers to the left side. The Sox love his stubbornness in this particular case. And, on occasion, as Ortiz has proved in the past, he will drop one down at times, especially when Ramirez is on one of his patented hot streaks.

What roster moves do you see happening this season as far as Jacoby Ellsbury and George Kottaras getting some experience in the Majors? Do you see Wily Mo Pena being sent down to make room on the roster for Ellsbury?
-- Bar Harbor, Maine

Kottaras and Ellsbury are two players you're likely to see in September. I don't think the organization feels compelled for any reason to rush either guy to Boston. As for Pena, I'm not sure what playing in the Minor Leagues would do for him at this stage of the game.

Ian Browne is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.