Red Sox 101 chat with the Globe's Amalie Benjamin -- March 23, 2007

tommy__Guest_: Amalie, who's the best centerfielder in Red Sox history?

Amalie_Benjamin: I think Dom DiMaggio certainly has to be in any discussion of the best center fielder in Sox history. He's a guy who had some pretty darn good years out there.

GoGators__Guest_: Do you expect the new Hitting Coach, Dave Madagan, to have an impact on the lower part of the batting order? IMO, we could use some offensive consistency with both catchers, Crisp, & Pedroia early in the season as opposed to making more adjustments during the season. What is Magadan's approach to hitting?

Amalie_Benjamin: You know, I didn't get to spend a whole lot of time with Madagan while I was at spring training, but I think it will take some time for the batters to adjust to him. And there are problems with some of those guys that might be hard for Madagan to fix (Crisp's injuries, Pedroia's big swing -- which he said isn't going to be changed, and the catchers' ages).

sox07__Guest_: Something I"ve never quite understood is the concept of "fielder's choice" - if the batter makes it to first, does it count as a hit, or how is the whole thing counted?

Amalie_Benjamin: In a fielder's choice the batter is not credited with a hit when he makes it to first base. Essentially the fielder has a choice, he can make the single out at one of two places (say, either at second base or at first). Since the batter could have been out at first, he doesn't get a hit. It's counted as if he made an out (which he did.) I hope that explains it.

Red_Sox_Cutie__Guest_: Why did it take so long for the Sox to announce Paplebon as their closer? Is that why they didn't go hard after a closer this offseason?

Amalie_Benjamin: Papelbon was ruled out of the closer's role in September of last season after he suffered a slippage in his shoulder joint. So the Sox seemingly were quite serious about using another player as their closer until it was determined that Papelbon wouldn't do further damage to his shoulder working with the unpredictable routine of a closer. There wasn't much out there by way of a closer this offseason, teams were asking for too much in trades and some of the free agents had a lot of question marks.

tommy__Guest_: Booo! You forgot Tris Speaker in center! He revolutionized the position and led the team to two championships.

Amalie_Benjamin: True, I forgot Tris Speaker. I have to say I have a soft spot for DiMaggio, though. Either would work.

bigguynh__Guest_: Hi Amalie, I enjoy your columns. Could you tell me now that the closer situation is all set. Will the Red Sox make a run at signing Roger Clemens?

Amalie_Benjamin: Thanks! The closer situation does certainly open up a spot in the rotation. I would be shocked if Julian Tavarez holds that spot for the rest of the season. I see three major possibilities for the fifth spot in the rotation -- Roger Clemens, Jon Lester, or Kyle Snyder. I think they will certainly make a run at Clemens, though I think it's most likely that Lester will earn the role a few months into the season.

Bill_Clinton__Guest_: What is the name of that guy who stands on a hill and throws that little ball to the guy with the mask?

Amalie_Benjamin: If you're in Japan, there's only one name: Daisuke Matsuzaka.

D_W_Johnson__Guest_: Define success for Dice-K this season?

Amalie_Benjamin: I think success for Dice-K would be winning 15 games. Sure there are people estimating that he could be the best rookie since Doc Gooden. I don't think that's fair. Despite having much more professional experience than the traditional rookie, Dice-K has a lot of adjustments to make (going from the six-man rotation, a new culture, hitters with much more strength and ability). I think 15 or so wins isn't out of the question, and I think that would be a successful first season in Boston.

ChelanFan__Guest_: What's the difference between a four seam and a two seam fastball?

Amalie_Benjamin: A four-seam fastball is the traditional fastball that most people think about. It goes straight and it goes fast. A two-seam fastball is what some people think of as a sinker. The ball is "heavier" and causes more players to drive it into the ground. Derek Lowe was a good example of a guy who threw a lot of two-seamers. The grips are different on the two pitches.

LeftOut__Guest_: Kyle Snyder has been a starter for his career, and Tavarez a releiver. Both have had decent springs from what I hear. Is the fact that Snyder has not been tapped for the 5th starter position an indication that he will not be on the 25 man roster, a consolation price for Tavarez, or a decision that Taverez is better?

Amalie_Benjamin: I think the Red Sox have been very impressed with Kyle Snyder, so much so that they are probably going to have him on the roster to start the season (if he doesn't make the 25-man roster, the Sox will probably be forced to trade him or risk losing him). I don't think Julian Tavarez will be in that starting spot for the rest of the season, and I think Snyder will potentially get a chance at it. Tavarez pitched very well in the role at the end of last season.

Lucy__Guest_: What is high cheese?

Amalie_Benjamin: High cheese is a fastball thrown, usually above the strike zone, designed to get a batter to swing and miss.

ChelanFan__Guest_: It seems like the bench is kind of thin with only Pena and Hinske...with Pap in BP do you think they will make room for another position player?

Amalie_Benjamin: It seems as though Francona wants to start the season with 12 pitchers, meaning the bench will be thin. There may be room for someone like a David Murphy (outfielder) as the season moves along.

sox07__Guest_: What about the split-finger fastball? How does that compare to the 2-and 4-seam?

Amalie_Benjamin: The splitter gets to home plate slightly slower than a fastball. The fingers are split farther apart, and the ball breaks downward.

sox07__Guest_: What about a defensive outfielder like (oh, I forget his name!) - the guy with the rocket for an arm who threw out two guys at the plate from right field...

Amalie_Benjamin: Alex Ochoa, the one with the rocket arm, may opt out of his minor league contract. He most likely will not begin the season with the Sox, so it will be up to him whether he wants to accept an assignment to Triple A.

OKIE__Guest_: Hi Amalie - How about another starter?

Amalie_Benjamin: Will the Sox get another starter? In a trade? If that's what you're thinking, I believe Clemens might be the only starter outside the organization with a good chance to land with the Sox. They have a number of internal options right now, including Jon Lester, as he progresses back from cancer.

PAPI4PREZ__Guest_: Where does Eric Henske fit in with this team?

Amalie_Benjamin: Eric Hinske probably won't get a lot of at bats this season. He'll be a bat off the bench, spelling Kevin Youkilis at first, Mike Lowell at third, and a corner outfielder on the rare occasion that Wily Mo Pena isn't subbing.

jimmy__Guest_: Do you think Dice-Kwill wait until the post season to throw the gyro ball?

Amalie_Benjamin: I think Dice-K's biggest advantage with the gyroball is that people believe in it. I don't believe he throws it, just variations on other pitches that don't move the way the traditional pitches move (like his changeup). The unknown is far more intimidating than the known, in the end.

C__Montgomery_Burns__Guest_: How many batsmen are allowed on a modern day baseball squadron?

Amalie_Benjamin: Mr. Burns! How lovely of you to join us. As an Isotopes fan, shouldn't you know this?

ChelanFan__Guest_: Whats the latest about Clement....his name isnt real popular in Boston but it seems a lot of his struggles were related to a bad shoulder. If he could get healthy couldn't he be effective?

Amalie_Benjamin: Matt Clement is a long way from being ready to pitch in a game. He's still throwing (essentially playing catch) and he wouldn't be ready until at least the All-Star break, though he is ahead of schedule. If he is healthy, there is potential for him to help the team, but I think it's so far down the list that the Sox aren't even thinking about it at this point.

Dice__Guest_: Hi Amalie - I was watching the Sox game last weekend on St. Pats day, there were a bunch fans wearing what looked like some Japanese Head Bands, what were those?

Amalie_Benjamin: I have to say I have no idea. Wish I could help you more.

Lucy__Guest_: What will the breakdown of the roster look like? How many pitchers? How many position players?

Amalie_Benjamin: Likely the Sox will keep 12 pitchers and 13 position players. Five starters (Schilling, Matsuzaka, Wakefield, Beckett, and Tavarez) and seven relievers (Pineiro, Romero, Okajima, Papelbon, Donnelly, likely Snyder, and potentially Lopez or Hansack). Mike Timlin will join the team at the expense of that last player when he comes off the disabled list. Position players will be four outfielders (Ramirez, Crisp, Drew, and Pena), two catchers (Varitek and Mirabelli), one designated hitter (Ortiz), and six infielders (Youkilis, Pedroia, Lugo, Lowell, Hinske, and Cora).

henry__Guest_: I think Julio Lugo is going to be an outstanding addition to the team. What are your expectations?

Amalie_Benjamin: I think Lugo is going to be a great addition to the clubhouse, as well as a solid leadoff guy. He'll be running (within reason), and he told me he's going to have the green light to steal this season. Not that you'll suddenly see the Sox as a base stealing team. His problem, as always, will be defense. He'll make his errors, but he's also a lot more athletic than most shortstops.

DC__Guest_: From a question above - I got one of those headbands, they were from

Amalie_Benjamin: Here's your answer!

smg__Guest_: Hi Amalie. I haven't heard much from Coco this spring, though I know he is a talkative guy. what's his state of mind? how's he feeling about the season?

Amalie_Benjamin: Coco has been dealing with a stiff left shoulder this spring. That's why he hasn't played in a game since last Wednesday (more than a week ago). His finger isn't a problem, but I think he's not happy to be working through injuries again. It's not fun for a player.

mrredsoxnation__Guest_: Has anyone here seen my old friend Roger? Can you tell me where is gone

Amalie_Benjamin: Roger is spending time at Astros camp, helping out, working out a little. The question isn't where he's gone but where he's going, whether it's to New York, Houston, or Boston.

C__Montgomery_Burns__Guest_: What is the punishment for fans running on the field during a game? Are they treated as gently as Drew Barrymore and Jimmy Fallon were?

Amalie_Benjamin: The answer is just don't do it. There's no need. (Oh, and I have to admit that I haven't seen Fever Pitch. Potentially a personal failing.)

Amalie_Benjamin: Hey guys, I've got to go work on my pieces for the baseball section we'll be coming out with before the season. I hope I've cleared up some questions you had -- and don't be afraid to email me with more! Have a great day.