-- Rich P., Southington, Conn.
Getting Bard back on track is one of the keys to Boston's success in 2013. His struggles last season reached a level nobody ever could have expected. But Bard still has a lot of talent in that right arm, and his problems seemed a lot more mental than physical. Bard is another pitcher who had great success under John Farrell, so the renewal of that relationship could pay big dividends.
How is Bard going to be used next season, relief or starter?
-- Scott S., Vail, Ariz.
Look for Bard to stay exclusively in the bullpen. The club tried the transition to the rotation, and it simply looked like a bad fit in every way. Bard has proven he can be an elite setup man, so the Red Sox will try to return him to that role.
In 2011, Jacoby Ellsbury was in the 30-30 club and was second in the American League Most Valuable Player voting. In 2012, he didn't even match up to half the numbers that he had in 2011. So what can we expect from him this year?
-- Shane T., Newton, N.H.
The good news is that the upcoming season is an odd number. Ellsbury fueled the Red Sox to a World Series championship as a September callup in 2007. He stole 70 bases in 2009. And in 2011, he had his MVP-caliber season. He was injury-plagued and inconsistent in both 2010 and '12. With Ellsbury going into his free-agent season, I would expect he will be highly motivated to have a big year. Why he hasn't been able to put it together year in and year out remains a mystery.
With Josh Hamilton on the free-agent market, and with his pull power, what are the chances the Red Sox will sign him?
-- Josh H., Bangor, Maine
This would certainly represent the marquee signing many fans are thirsty for. Honestly, I think it depends on the market. The cost for Hamilton could be off the charts, considering the lack of superstars eligible for free agency this winter. The Red Sox just ridded themselves of contracts they felt were too pricy in that trade with the Dodgers, so I'm not so sure they're about to take another one on.
Do you think that Jarrod Saltalamacchia will be traded?
-- Kayla H., Warren, Mass.
It depends on what other moves the front office has in store. Obviously, the Red Sox are interested in Mike Napoli. If they are successful in signing him off the free-agent market, there probably isn't much of a role for Saltalamacchia. The only exception would be if the club decided to move either Napoli or Saltalamacchia to first base.
Even though Farrell sat alongside Terry Francona for all that time in the dugout, what do you think will be the biggest differences in management styles we will see from him in 2013 as the Red Sox skipper?
-- Doug P., Chicester, N.H.
One thing Farrell has been open about is that he believes in an aggressive style on the bases. There haven't been many teams in Red Sox history that have adopted that style, so it will be interesting to see if Farrell sticks with it. I believe he will have a similar rapport with the players that Francona had, and will also take after Tito from a preparation standpoint.
Will Ryan Sweeney be coming back?
-- Germantown, Tenn.
Sweeney has less than six years of service time, which means the Red Sox control his contractual rights. The Sox have until midnight on Nov. 30 to tender Sweeney a contract for 2013. Essentially, it means they have until that date to offer him arbitration. If they don't, Sweeney becomes a free agent. The Red Sox like Sweeney's defense, but his lack of power makes it hard to consider him an everyday outfielder for a contending team.
Cody Ross had 22 home runs and 81 RBIs in 130 games in 2012, not to mention nine outfield assists and only one error. Why did the Sox let him go to free agency?
-- Russell K., Charleston, Maine
There were negotiations between the Red Sox and Ross's representatives before free agency started, but there wasn't enough common ground to strike a deal. It is certainly within the outfielder's rights to see what is out there. Just as Boston has the right to measure how much it would cost to retain Ross vs. signing or trading for someone else. I wouldn't rule out Ross returning to Boston before this Hot Stove season is through. He is comfortable in Boston, and the Red Sox like what he brings to the table.
During the celebration of the Red Sox 2004 players, there was speculation that Pedro Martinez would return in some capacity to help the current starting pitchers. Do you think that is a realistic possibility?
-- Ruth T., Castleton, Vt.
General manager Ben Cherington is on record as saying there is a position in the organization waiting for Pedro whenever he wants it. His knowledge of pitching is off the charts. I could see Martinez flourishing as a consultant, perhaps working with pitchers in the Minors and Majors.
Who is the guy sitting behind the plate wearing headphones at Sox games?
-- Deb D., Meriden, Conn.
The man you are referring to is Jeremy Kapstein, the team's senior advisor/baseball projects.