Recognizing that there is still a lot of baseball to play in Spring Training, what do you think the chances are that Junichi Tazawa could pitch his way onto the Major League club without ever spending a day in the Minors?
-- David B., Ohio
Could he? Yeah, he probably could. But would that put Tazawa in the best position to succeed? Absolutely not. As it is, he is going through the culture shock of being in the United States for the first time. Also, he has never faced a professional hitter in a meaningful situation before. And with the pitching depth the Red Sox have, from the Major League roster all the way down to their top Triple-A prospects, there is no reason to do this.
I think Tazawa is in the perfect situation where he can progress at his own schedule, and as soon as the Red Sox feel he is ready to help them win, he will get called up. My best guess is that midway through the 2010 season, he could start to play a steady role in the Major Leagues. The Red Sox have definitely been impressed with his poise and his stuff thus far. There's no reason to stall that momentum by asking him to do too much too soon.
How is Josh Beckett's arm feeling? During the American League Championship Series, he was only throwing up to 93 mph.
-- Josciel V., Tampa, Fla.
Obviously, Beckett was badly hindered with his right oblique injury the last time you saw him. This spring, he is progressing very well. He is fully healthy and looking much like the ace the Red Sox need him to be.
Maybe it's because he has played for smaller-market teams, but why is Jason Bay flying so much under the radar? I read a lot about how much the Sox need someone to protect David Ortiz in the lineup. Do people realize that he is a 30-HR 100-RBI guy? I think Bay is more than capable of hitting in the four-hole. And also, seeing how well he utilized the Monster last year, do you see him possibly putting up career numbers this year?
-- Dennis S., Dalton, Mass.
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I think the first reason Bay can fly under the radar is because of the guy he is replacing in left field. Manny Ramirez is one of the best hitters of all-time. Bay is one of the steadiest run producers in the game, and he is also quiet by nature, which is why he can sometimes go unnoticed. But if he can do over a full season what he did in the last two months of last season, Bay will get plenty of accolades. As for where he hits in the lineup, that could be anywhere from fourth to seventh. Kevin Youkilis, J.D. Drew, Mike Lowell and Bay are all capable of very similar things offensively.
Looking forward, I hope that like me, most Sox fans are cheering for Mike Lowell to have a great comeback year and, of course, be healthy. But looking forward to third basemen of the future for the Sox, what is your prediction? Do you see a player rising up from within as we have been getting used to seeing? Or do you see a trade or signing of a big free agent down the line?
-- Trevor M., Ithaca, N.Y.
Right now, the most logical scenario would seem to be Youkilis moving across the diamond to third base in 2011, which might be around the same time Lars Anderson is ready to become the team's first baseman of the future. Anderson might become the first legitimate power hitter the Red Sox have developed in some time.
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.