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Mailbag: Was Pedroia's season a fluke?

Mailbag: Was Pedroia's season a fluke?

Could it be possible that Dustin Pedroia's breakthrough season last year was a fluke?
-- Kevin P., Suffield, Conn.

I seriously doubt it. If you look at Pedroia's track record, he has been a hitter at every level he has played at. And with the hard work Pedroia has done the last couple of offseasons, he has turned himself into a terrific hitter. He also has the work ethic of a player who is going to be a significant factor for a long time.

Why did the Red Sox release Doug Mirabelli? Last time they got rid of him, it didn't seem like his replacement was able to handle Wakefield's knuckleball and they ended up trading back for him anyway.
-- Michael D., Tustin, Calif.

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Things have changed. The circumstances are markedly different. This isn't the spring of 2006, when Tim Wakefield's knuckleball drove John Flaherty into retirement and Josh Bard all the way to San Diego. Kevin Cash proved last year he can handle the pitch. If you notice, all the talk from within the clubhouse hasn't been about Mirabelli handling the knuckleball, but more the loss that guys are feeling with one of their longtime teammates departing. Mirabelli was an important member of the team behind the scenes. But the Red Sox simply think that Cash's superior defense makes him a more valuable member of the team at this point and time.

What's the story with Gabe Kapler? There were some rumors during the offseason that he would try to make a comeback in 2008. While the Sox don't necessarily have any gaping holes for him to fill, you have to love what he can bring to the clubhouse. Any chance we'll see him this year?
-- Cliff C., Washington D.C.

Kapler actually signed with the Brewers during the offseason and is expected to break camp as one of their backup outfielders. All of Kapler's fans should go to Fenway May 16-18, when the Brewers come to Boston. Because the Brewers will have an extra player that weekend because of the designated hitter, don't be surprised if Kapler gets a good bit of action.

Should we be worried about the depth of the pitching staff with Curt Schilling out, and seemingly little reliable depth beyond Julian Tavarez and a questionable Bartolo Colon?
-- Nate C., Lewisburg, Pa.

Have a question about the Red Sox?
Ian BrowneE-mail your query to MLB.com Red Sox beat reporter Ian Browne for possible inclusion in a future Inbox column. Letters may be edited for brevity, length and/or content.
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I think every team in baseball is worried about their pitching depth at this point. It's just the nature of the beast. The one thing the injury to Schilling has done is place a lot more emphasis on the young pitchers. I believe that's the main reason they signed Colon. He can be an insurance policy if someone is hurt or doesn't live up to expectations.

I'm going to both exhibition games in Tokyo against the Hanshin Tigers and Yomiuri Giants. Do you think Boston will take these games seriously and try to win (like I am hoping) or just let everyone play like a Little League game (like I am fearing)? I would be very embarrassed if they lost to these teams.
-- David E., Osaka, Japan

The Red Sox have only 30 players at their disposal, far less than they have for a normal Spring Training game. In other words, the regulars will get a fair amount of playing time. That said, the motivation in these games for Boston is to get its work in. The main objective is to win the two games against Oakland.

I don't mean to sound stupid, but why does every team in the Majors have a five-man rotation instead of six? Wouldn't the six-man rotation mean healthier arms down the stretch? I mean, when Pedro Martinez was on the team, he would always have a strong first half and a second half that always had shoulder concerns. And Derek Lowe had the "blister watch" come up around the All-Star Game. Every pitcher would get 27 starts in a six-man rotation and would be able to come back totally rested.
-- Anonymous

The Red Sox actually debated this internally over the winter, and it would not shock me at all if they do go with six pitchers at various points during the season. They even did this at times in the second half of 2007. But to do it all year might present a challenge as far as the starting pitchers staying as sharp as they need to be.

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

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