What would be your optimistic and realistic expectations for the Red Sox in 2013? A new year always brings new hope, but do we actually have a shot this year?
-- Ryan L., Escanaba, Mich.
Yes, they have a shot, but certain things have to go well for the team to reach a win total in the high 80s or low 90s that could be good enough for a postseason berth. Jon Lester has to revert back to his pre-2012 form. Felix Doubront needs to take another step forward. Clay Buchholz needs to stay healthy. David Ortiz needs to show he's over the Achilles injury. Newcomers Mike Napoli, Shane Victorino and Stephen Drew need to be consistent contributors. If most of those things happen, it could be a fun summer in Boston.
Will the extra players at catcher, shortstop and in the bullpen become major trade chips? Or will they remain in the system and help the PawSox make another run at the Triple-A title? Also, at what point has Jose Iglesias gone through too many years of development?
-- Chris H., Lakeville, Mass.
Surplus at positions is a good thing. The best-case scenario is that everything goes as well as you hoped, and you can trade some of those players to fill another need. If not, you have people ready to step in if there are injuries or underperformance. It's a fair question on Iglesias. This is probably a make-or-break year to determine if he is a true part of the future, or just another prospect that didn't live up to the hype. It sounds like he had a great winter of preparation, even spending some time with Dustin Pedroia in Arizona.
What will Chris Carpenter's role be this season?
-- Mark G., Mesa, Ariz.
Considering that the team recently designated him for assignment and retained him only because nobody claimed him off waivers, Carpenter still has a lot to prove from a consistency standpoint. He was outrighted to Triple-A Pawtucket, so he will have to have a string of really good outings down there before we see him in Boston again.
Everyone seems to forgot we still have Pedro Ciriaco. Where does he stand with the club this season?
-- Jack M., South Burlington, Vt.
I'm not sure who forgot. Ciriaco will go into camp as the leading candidate to be a super-utility player. He will move all around the infield and probably work more on his outfield skills during camp. Ciriaco's speed is also a real good dimension for manager John Farrell to have off the bench.
The way the Red Sox's farm system is set up with outfielders, should we already be saying it's a foregone conclusion that Jacoby Ellsbury will be gone during or after the 2013 season?
-- Thom R., Lynn, Mass.
Remember how you felt when Jonathan Papelbon entered his walk year? I'm sure you figured that, most likely, he would sign somewhere else as a free agent. That's also the case here. The Red Sox and Ellsbury have had ample time to get an extension done the last few years, and obviously they haven't done anything. There is probably a reluctance on both sides, which is why Jackie Bradley Jr. has a strong chance at being the Opening Day center fielder in 2014.
As much as I had hoped bullpen coach Gary Tuck would be back for 2013 season, does his retirement compel the front office to look to someone like Jason Varitek to fill that role?
-- Bryan L., Virginia Beach, Va.
Varitek is enjoying being a full-time husband and father these days, and I don't think he has much interest in going back to the grueling schedule he lived during his playing days. I'm guessing Varitek will be ready to dive back into the game full-time in a few years, whether as a manager, pitching coach or catching instructor.
Is there any news about Ortiz's recovery? It seems an awfully silent subject? What gives here?
-- Douglas M., Portland, Ore.
I think the quietness is just a sign of what time of year it is. Starting next week, you will get all kinds of updates on how Ortiz is progressing once people catch up with him in Fort Myers, Fla. You are right to be concerned though. The Red Sox desperately need Ortiz's production all year long. You saw what happened when he was out last season.
I'm a bit surprised that Alfredo Aceves is still on the roster, given his performance and discipline issues last season. If Boston does hold onto him, does he project more as purely a bullpen arm, or also as rotation depth?
-- Patrick G., Berkeley, Calif.
There's no doubt Aceves is on a short leash heading into the season for the reasons you mentioned. I think Farrell has already made it very clear what kind of conduct and performance is necessary. Farrell seems to like Aceves more as a reliever because of his durability and ability to perform in different roles.
Don't you think Rubby De La Rosa can be the pitcher the Red Sox are looking for?
-- Charlie, Boston
That's the hope. This is De La Rosa's first full year coming off surgery, so the hope is that he can focus strictly on pitching and not building his arm back up. It will be fun to watch De La Rosa in Spring Training so we can gauge what kind of factor he could turn into. He has already had success in the Major Leagues with the Dodgers.