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Ask Nick: Will Victorino switch-hit?

Posted by Matt Pepin, Boston.com Staff  March 4, 2014 10:40 AM

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FORT MYERS, Fla. – Except for Ryan Dempster's retirement and a couple of Jake Peavy finger incidents, the Red Sox have gone through a relatively quiet camp so far.

Here are some topics to mull over:

• Grady Sizemore continues to pass his early tests – running, fielding and hitting. He was scheduled to get a couple of days of down time after playing Tuesday vs. the Tampa Bay Rays. Sizemore has been very frank with himself. He says it's too early to determine whether he's a full-time player. If he is, he'll generate some interesting roster decisions.

Sizemore does have minor league options, but he would have to give his consent to go to the minors if he or the team felt he needed more at-bats.

• It's not that the Red Sox have given up on Jackie Bradley Jr., but the realization is he's not a burner on the basepaths, but above average. They're working on improving Bradley's confidence and aggressiveness in trying to steal bases. They feel any speed he has is seen best in the outfield.

• Christian Vazquez continues to draw rave reviews for his catching and throwing ability, but as we pointed out in our Sunday Baseball Notes, don't forget Dan Butler. He may be 27, but look at his offensive numbers and then combine it with his solid defense and he's a catcher that's being looked at very closely by other organizations if the Red Sox find they don't have room for him with Vazquez and Ryan Lavarnway also in Pawtucket.

Lavarnway, of course has been re-invented as a first baseman/DH/C so he'll get at-bats beyond catching.

• Just based on a few at-bats, looks like first base prospect Travis Shaw is going to be an effective Fenway hitter with impressive power to the opposite field.

• When I mentioned "30 home run power" for Will Middlebrooks, hitting coach Greg Colbrunn added, "or more."

• The Red Sox will miss having a dynamic leadoff man like Jacoby Ellsbury and they'll miss the consistency of Stephen Drew's shortstop defense.

• Do not forget about right fielder Bryce Brentz. He's been the forgotten man but one of the few righthanded hitters with power in the Sox organization.

Here's the mailbag:

Will Shane Victrorino switch-hit this year or just bat from right side?
JM, West Baldwin, Maine
He's been very secretive about that. Asked him recently and he said, "You all have to see." At the end of last season he said he would continue to be a switch-hitter. May he be an non-traditional switch-hitter and not go left-right every time? Perhaps.

Regarding John Henry's 30-year shelf life comment about Fenway Park, it's like a can of Spam. As long as fans tolerate the uncomfortable seats, or sub-standard food, he can keep raking in the money. Does he really think fans are happy with Spam with a Red Sox label? Does he care, or is the almighty dollar just too consuming?
Toby, Needham
Lots of different opinions about Fenway. Some people would be crushed if the old ballpark went away; others welcome a new facility. I think the original intention was to pursue a new ballpark, but after their initial pursuit it was decided they were better off redoing Fenway. As for the almighty dollar, I think the Sox owners could make a lot more money with a new ballpark. Every owner who has opened a new ballpark has made a ton of money. Personally, I'm for a new ballpark, but it's a moot point. Not going to happen.

I know that it might sound like wishful thinking. Yet, looking at a simple comparison of runs scored versus runs allowed, the Yankees were the only team in the East that allowed more runs than they scored. Is it not likely that the Yankees had things go their way on the field more than they didn't—and that their team was not as good as their record? And then would it also not be surprising if the improvements that they made in the offseason allow them to stay even, not improve?
Joshua, Madison, Wis.
Their lineup was decimated last season so you understand them not scoring as many runs. What they did with that makeshift lineup was remarkable. They lose Jeter, Teixeira, A-Rod, Granderson, and Youkilis. Now I know they've lost Cano, but their improvement should allow them to be one of the top scoring teams in baseball. Next question is pitching. If Sabathia can pitch with his new skinny body, if Kuroda rebounds, if Tanaka is the real deal and Michael Pineda comes back strong, they'll be good. Problem there is their bullpen. I think Robertson can handle the closer role, but their late-inning relief and lack of depth may bite them.

Nick, wondering how you feel about the Red Sox' young pitchers and who will emerge to help during the season?
Rick, Worcester

In the 30 years I've covered the team this group is impressive in terms of potential. They'd have a ways to go to match the mid-80s homegrown guys like Roger Clemens, Bruce Hurst, Oil Can Boyd, Bob Ojeda, John Tudor, Al Nipper, and Steve Crawford, but certainly they have a chance to get there. I've learned over the years not to get too crazy in love about pitching prospects until they actually get to the majors and show something.

I think the surest thing they have right now is Brandon Workman. He's made all of the adjustments both as a starter and reliever and come away pretty solid. We see the continued struggles of Allen Webster, who wasn't developed by the Red Sox, but he has great stuff and seems very nervous on the mound. Anthony Ranaudo and Henry Owens have excellent stuff and poise. Matt Barnes has come up with some shoulder soreness, so we'll have to watch that. That homegrown pitching rotation that started the season in 1986 was pretty impressive.

Do you think Roger Clemens will ever get into the Hall of Fame?
Nick, Reno, Nev.

I think he will. Clemens was a Hall of Famer as was Bonds. lt may take all 15 years, but it's hard to close your eyes and really believe that the only reason he accumulated those numbers was because he took steroids for a few years. Same with Bonds.

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