Smith is making nice progress in his return from Tommy John surgery and could face hitters this week. A return to the Red Sox at some point in June is not out of the question. Smith could be a significant addition to the bullpen.
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What is the best trade option for the Red Sox at third base if Pablo Sandoval can't work, and why?
-- Ian Z., Rock Valley, Iowa
Todd Frazier is off to a really tough start after hitting 40 homers last year, but he could be a nice fit for the Red Sox if Sandoval can't produce upon his return. It is no secret the White Sox are in rebuilding mode. The fact that Frazier is off to such a slow start could help the Red Sox, in that the price might be down from what it would have been when the season started. Frazier is eligible for free agency after this season. His right-handed bat could look pretty good while taking aim at the Green Monster.
Is there a chance we see Rafael Devers at the Major League level this year? He's tearing it up so far in Double-A, and although you never want to rush a talent like that, we saw Andrew Benintendi make the jump last year with little trouble.
-- Miles T., Westerly, R.I.
Sure, there's a chance, but the Benintendi comparison doesn't necessarily apply -- he played a highly competitive level of college baseball at Arkansas and was already polished when he was drafted. Devers is still refining his approach as he climbs the ladder in the Minor Leagues. Ideally, he could be a September callup this year after spending the summer completing his development at Double-A and Triple-A.
Is there any great hitter in the Minors the Red Sox could bring up to bolster the offense?
-- Nathan M., Bassett, Va.
Keep an eye on Sam Travis. The right-handed-hitting first baseman has been heating up lately, and the Red Sox are hopeful he is ready to hold down an everyday job by next season. Blake Swihart has had a tough start to the season -- in terms of both health and production -- but he is an option from the left side if he can get it going once he returns from a nagging hand injury.
How about Swihart getting a shot at third base? It looks like he will never be the regular catcher for the Sox, and I keep hearing that he will hit.
-- Dave P., Winter Haven, Fla.
Injuries and inconsistency have really slowed Swihart down over the last year. The first thing he needs to do is get healthy. Then he needs to get into a sustained groove at the plate. And if, by that point, third base is still a problem for the Red Sox, perhaps he can move to the hot corner. Swihart definitely has the athleticism to play there. I still think his bat is most valuable at catcher if he can hit like he's capable of.
I'd like to know your thoughts on what is happening with Tyler Thornburg. What went wrong with his offseason strengthening program and does the team's medical staff have any idea what is actually wrong with him now?
-- Jesse S., Los Angeles
This has been a big mystery, for sure. At first, I think the club was hoping that the root of Thornburg's injury was simply him having some initial trouble keeping up with the shoulder program the team uses for all pitchers. But as the injury has extended for weeks, it seems to be deeper than that. Thornburg and the team were both hopeful he would be well over the right shoulder impingement he suffered in Spring Training, but it continues to linger. At this point, all the Red Sox can do is continue to monitor him and see if he regains strength. MRI's have not shown any structural damage.