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Inbox: Where's the depth behind Middlebrooks?

Beat reporter Ian Browne answers Red Sox fans' questions

Inbox: Where's the depth behind Middlebrooks? play video for Inbox: Where's the depth behind Middlebrooks?

Do you think that the Red Sox have enough depth at third base behind Will Middlebrooks? I'm really pulling for Middlebrooks to do well this year. But in case of injury or something else, can any of the players on the current roster fill the spot adequately?
-- Paul R., Watertown, Conn.

You are right -- that isn't a position of strength in the organization. Jonathan Herrera was acquired from the Rockies to back up all over the infield, including third base. If Stephen Drew ever re-signs, that would change the situation dramatically, because Xander Bogaerts would then be another option at third.

Has Stephen Drew signed with any team as of yet? And if not, when is the deadline?
-- Vernah S., Williamsburg, Va.

You didn't miss anything. Drew remains a free agent, available to all 30 Major League teams. There haven't been many rumors regarding Drew. There is no deadline. He is free to sign with any team at any time. It seems like the holdup is that other teams don't want to forfeit a Draft pick to sign him. It still wouldn't shock me if he winds up back in Boston.

I'm very happy Mike Napoli was signed for two more years, but do the Sox have a homegrown first baseman in the pipeline? Seems like that is the one position we don't hear much about since Lars Anderson.
-- Dan C., Acton, Mass.

Travis Shaw is a first-base prospect you might hear more about in the coming years. He has some power and the ability to find the gaps as a left-handed hitter. First base is one of those positions that someone from another position can switch to. For example, Middlebrooks could wind up there at some point. In the meantime, with Napoli in the fold for the next two years, there's probably no need to worry about it.

What about Jonny Gomes in left? He had a great year last year, and even though we lose Daniel Nava in the leadoff spot, couldn't Jackie Bradley Jr. be the leadoff hitter if he wins the starting job in center field?
-- Nick R., Fort Myers, Fla.

The combination of Gomes and Nava worked just about perfectly last year, so I'm not sure why you would ever want to mess with that. Look at Nava's numbers last year. People forget how important a player he was. As for Bradley, leadoff might be a little much at the start of the season, but he could certainly work his way into that spot, just like Dustin Pedroia did in his rookie year of 2007.

How old is Grady Sizemore? After not playing for two years, do you feel he can realistically help the Red Sox?
-- Joe A., Warwick, R.I.

Believe it or not, Sizemore is just 31 years old. If he can get his legs back under him, he could have a lot of baseball left in him. We will find out as Spring Training evolves if it's realistic to expect that Sizemore will help the Red Sox.

Do you see Felix Doubront's career mirroring Jon Lester's in any way?
-- Joe D., Richey, Mont.

That's a lot to put on Doubront. Lester is a special talent. Doubront is still simply trying to prove he can be consistent for a full season. Once he does that, we can start trying to make other types of projections.

The Sox are going to try Ryan Lavarnway at first in Spring Training. Do you think this is more for depth or to possibly build some trade value for him as we have some solid catching prospects working their way up?
-- Josh C., Stratford, Ontario

Probably a little bit of both. Players are always more valuable when they can play more than one position. The big mystery with Lavarnway is where his power went last year. Without that, his value is diminished greatly.

Although he doesn't have very good plate discipline, there is no doubt Middlebrooks has great power. Would you be surprised if he hit 30 home runs this coming season?
-- Tim M., Winslow, Maine

Not in the least. Middlebrooks still has a lot of power and athleticism, and there's no reason he can't bounce back and have a big year. From what I've heard, he had a tremendous offseason and looks noticeably stronger.

With the addition of Sizemore and the already strong outfield unit of Nava, Gomes, Shane Victorino and the potential of JBJ, what is the fate of Mike Carp?
-- Nick K., Providence, R.I.

We will have to see how things shape up with Sizemore. Is he strong enough to start the season on the active roster? Carp is a great piece to have. After six weeks of Spring Training, it will be apparent if there is still a viable spot for him on the roster. I tend to think there will be.

There are a lot of moments that people can point to in the 2013 season that propelled the Red Sox to win the World Series. One that really stands out was Jake Peavy's best start with Boston at Dodger Stadium on August 25. Winning that series against the Dodgers set the stretch run tone in my mind. Your thoughts?
-- Steve J., Ridgewood, N.J.

I couldn't agree more. The Red Sox had been sputtering a bit before that West Coast trip and the Dodgers were red hot when that series started. After taking those last two games against Los Angeles, I think the team's confidence was higher for the rest of the season. And with that start, Peavy proved exactly why the Red Sox acquired him.

What happened to Craig Hansen since he was part of the Manny trade? At one time, wasn't he considered Boston's closer of the future?
-- Chris F., Portland, Maine

Hansen's career was, quite simply, a bust. It just never happened for him. Hansen last pitched in the Majors in 2009 and last appeared in the Minors two years ago. Some prospects you hit on and others just never pan out. Hansen never seemed like he was mentally tough enough to make the adjustments needed to become a good Major League pitcher. That slider that was so dominant in college looked average in pro baseball.

Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brownie Points, and follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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