Today, at Yanks Go Yard, we continue our series on the Yankees' rivals in the division. ..."/> Today, at Yanks Go Yard, we continue our series on the Yankees' rivals in the division. ..."/> Today, at Yanks Go Yard, we continue our series on the Yankees' rivals in the division. ..."/>

2012 AL East Q+A – Boston Red Sox

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4. Daniel Bard is the next reliever to be given the Joba experiment as a starting pitcher? Can Bard be successful in the rotation or are Cherington + Bobby V messing with his head?

D: It sounds like Bard will be given every opportunity to stick in the rotation and yes I honestly believe he will.  Last season he worked on developing his sinker, a third pitch to his repertoire.  If he can use it a little more than 4% and have the movement that he did last season then he’ll be more successful.  Everyone knows he can throw hard and eventually waiting for the fastball all the time will burn him.  His groundball ratio was up last season, meaning the sinker was working.  Needless to say he’ll need that pitch to help him be successful as a starter.  I fully expect an innings watch on him, much like Joba.  Hitting 150 innings would be his ceiling I’m thinking.  He’s young and if he can prove to be a reliable starter then this kid has many great years ahead of him.  Protect the arm now and reap the benefits years later.

5. The David Ortiz arbitration battle finally ended this week . My question is on-the-field related. Is this the year we see the decline of Big Papi?

D: I don’t think so.  Will he bash 40+ home runs?  No, but another 30 isn’t out of the realm of reason.  He’s 36 and limited to the DH role, so in all likelihood this will be his last year in Boston.  With the balanced schedule waiting in the wings in 2013, the Sox will have to re-evaluate Big Papi’s situation based on all the interleague play.  Back to this year, I think we saw the decline two years ago when he struggled for the first two months.  To me that was his ultimate rock bottom.  Last season he proved he still has plenty of pop in his bat and was an integral part of the Red Sox offense; 29 HR, 92 RBI a .309 BA, isn’t too shabby.  Is it worth $14-15 million a year for the next two years?  No, not when he can’t play any other position.

6. I know it is early, but is this Red Sox team in your estimation good enough to win the AL East or make the playoffs in 2012? Why or Why Not?

D: The optimist in me says yes they can win the AL East, but that rests on four areas:

1.       if Kevin Youkilis stays healthy enough to play in 150 games – Youk is a huge spoke in the offensive wheel.  When he’s on base, things happen.  I’m not sure he can stay healthy enough to play in even 140 games as his body appears to be breaking down.  I’ve said all along, trade him now while his stock is relatively high.  If Will Middlebrooks can have a good camp, then maybe he’s ready for the bigs by July and a deal involving Youk can be worked out.

2.       Beckett, Lester and Buchholz stay healthy all season – reasons stated above.  This team needs big years from two of the three for sure with the third having, at minimum, career average type of year.

3.       Jacoby Ellsbury can have another fine year – Ellsbury doesn’t have to duplicate last year, but he does have to hit well over .300 and produce 80-90 RBI to help drive this team.  I don’t expect him to hit 30+ homers again, but 20 would suffice.  Also, if he’s not going to hit 32 homers again, then he needs to steal more bases.  I think Bobby V will utilize the speed of Ells and Crawford more this year.

4.       Carl Crawford – if he returns to his Tampa Bay form, look out.  It would mean an unbelievable lineup from the number one spot through the number six spot with crooked numbers on the scoreboard a possibility every inning.

That’s a lot to ask for so I don’t see this club winning the division in all reality.  The Wild Card I do feel is a possibility even if they don’t add the second team until next year.

Thanks to Derek for participating in this and we will hear from him a lot during Yankees-Red Sox’ series this 2012 season!