I know there were rumors before about the Red Sox hiring Pedro Martinez as some sort of pitching coach. Is anything in the works?
-- Carley C., Connecticut
General manager Ben Cherington confirmed that the Red Sox have extended an offer to Martinez to work in some type of consultant role. It's obvious that Martinez is one of the smartest pitchers in history and would offer a lot to Boston's pitching staff. The question is whether Pedro is ready to make that type of time commitment at this juncture. I do expect he will return to the Red Sox at some point. It's probably just a matter of when.
What will Jason Varitek's role be for the Red Sox going forward?
-- Rick T., West Roxbury, Mass.
Varitek's role is evolving, but he will help Cherington in several roles. In Spring Training, Varitek will work with all the catchers in camp. Once the season starts, I would imagine he will make some trips to the Minor League affiliates to work with the catchers there. I'm guessing he will help the Red Sox evaluate players from inside and outside the organization during the course of the summer. There's no reason not to tap into his mind and experience.
What is the official deal with our catching situation? Will Jarrod Saltalamacchia still be our guy? I think it would be a shame for the Red Sox to toss him aside, especially after his power numbers and improved defense last year.
-- Loren C., Fort Collins, Colo.
Saltalamacchia will share catching duties with David Ross. I'm guessing Saltalamacchia will get the majority of starts, but Ross will see more playing time than most backup catchers. Mike Napoli could also get some spot starts behind the plate, though his primary role will be as the first baseman. The wild card is Ryan Lavarnway. Will he force his way into the picture at some point, or will he be relegated to the Minors?
Now that Napoli is all but signed, how do you see the lineup shaping up?
-- Chester D., Mattapan, Mass.
Manager John Farrell has some options. He could go Jacoby Ellsbury, Shane Victorino, Dustin Pedroia, David Ortiz, Napoli, Saltalamacchia, Will Middlebrooks, Jonny Gomes and Stephen Drew. Or he could lead off with Victorino and hit Ellsbury second or third. Either way, I would expect Pedroia and Ortiz will be your Nos. 3-4 hitters. Other than that, I think the lineup could end up being fairly interchangeable.
It's just my opinion, but Ellsbury is definitely one the top five center fielders in MLB. So why all the talk about him leaving or being traded?
-- Shawn M., Lowell, Mass.
When Ellsbury was healthy in 2009 and '11, he was clearly one of the top center fielders in the game. However, in '10 and '12, he had major injuries and didn't make much of a contribution to the team. The big issue is that his contract runs out after the 2013 season. It's hard to gauge the value of a player who is healthy and elite some years, and sidelined with major injuries in others. The Red Sox also have a young center fielder they believe will be a solid Major League player in Jackie Bradley Jr.
With the way the roster looks right now, do the Red Sox have a chance to get to the playoffs this year?
-- Joseph K., Hooksett, N.H.
Sure they do. Look no further than last year's Athletics and Orioles as proof that anything can happen. For the Red Sox to get the 90 or so wins necessary to get to the postseason, they need some things to go right. Ellsbury has to stay healthy. Napoli's hip needs to hold up. Jon Lester needs to regain his form. Those are just some of the keys. But yes, it certainly can happen.
Which Minor League player in the Red Sox's system has the biggest bat?
-- Nick S., Lee, Mass.
Xander Bogaerts is the one who has the scouts buzzing. He has hit at every level he's been at. The key now is for Bogaerts to develop a little more discipline. This could be a breakthrough year from him, setting him up for a starting job in Boston in 2014.
What are your thoughts on Drew?
-- Bill N., Scarborough, Maine
I think it's a pretty low-risk move, considering that the contract is for one year and that the Sox have another pretty good insurance option in Jose Iglesias. Drew will have every reason to prove that he can be a viable shortstop for a contending team, considering his contract will expire at the end of the season. The Red Sox are hoping for the type of one-year benefit they got from Adrian Beltre in 2010.
Why don't we hear anything about Daisuke Matsuzaka?
-- Buzz V., Narragansett, R.I.
Dice-K kind of pitched himself off the map in 2013 -- he was that bad. I'm guessing he'll sign a deal soon, ideally with either a National League team or somewhere out West. Perhaps he just needed a little more time to regain his confidence and strength after Tommy John surgery.
What role do you think Junichi Tazawa will play this year in the 'pen? Adding Joel Hanrahan and Koji Uehara will at least minimize his significance this year, which is a shame, because he has a lot of talent and seems to be on the cusp of breaking out.
-- Raymond B., Rochester, N.Y.
I don't think anyone is trying to minimize Tazawa. If he builds off what he did late last season, he will pitch in big situations late in the game. The Red Sox have done a nice job adding depth around Tazawa so he won't have too much pressure on him. The success of relief pitchers can be very volatile from year to year.