Not much has been said about John Lackey and the team's expectations for a comeback season. What's the scoop?
-- Joseph R., Dunnelon, Fla.
The Red Sox are smart not to say too much publicly about expectations for Lackey. You never want to put too much pressure on a guy coming off a significant injury. That said, I do think the Red Sox are quietly optimistic that Lackey can become a big part of their rotation and perhaps pitch better than he has at any point since coming to Boston.
What is the status of Will Middlebrooks? When he was healthy, he made an immediate impact with his bat. Will he be ready to play in 2013?
-- Greg J., Albany, N.Y.
Good news on the Middlebrooks front. He's had a great winter and is ready to go for this season. Considering the way he performed last year before the injury, you'd have to think he will put up even better numbers this year.
With Steven Wright trying to perfect the knuckleball, will we see Tim Wakefield back to help him out with it?
-- Eddie M., Norwood, Mass.
I'm all but sure that Wakefield will make a special trip to Fort Myers, Fla., at some point this spring to work with Wright. Wakefield takes great pride in keeping the knuckleball fraternity alive, and there's no better way than for him to impart his wisdom on a fresh subject.
Assuming that Xander Bogaerts will eventually end up at third base, is it possible that Middlebrooks could shift to first? If not, who could be the long-term solution at first?
-- Lucio O., Porto Alegre, Brazil
There are a lot of possibilities down the road, but you simply can't make that projection just yet. With the type of athlete Bogaerts is, he could probably play just about anywhere. Maybe he will wind up in the outfield and Middlebrooks will stay at third. Maybe Bogaerts will continue to work so hard on his defense at shortstop that he could wind up staying there for a long time. This is one of those "stay tuned" subjects.
Will the competition and balance of the American League East actually play to the Red Sox's favor this year?
-- Kim R., Spring Branch, Texas
You'd have to think so. This is no longer 2003 or '04, when the Red Sox and Yankees were loaded on paper and the other teams clearly didn't match up. I honestly think all five teams in the AL East have a chance to win the division this season if certain things go right.
Since Stephen Drew and Mike Napoli only signed one-year deals, what is the possibility of one or both coming back next year, if they are productive this year?
-- Katelyn S., Aurora, Colo.
I think it's far likelier you'll see Napoli in a Red Sox uniform in 2014 than Drew. Let's face it -- the Sox are deep at shortstop in the farm system with both Jose Iglesias and Bogaerts. Obviously they wanted to sign Napoli for three years in the first place, and the club then cut it to one because of the hip issue. Once the Red Sox get a chance to monitor him every day this season, perhaps Napoli will make the team feel more confident he can hold up over more than one year.
Do you think David Ortiz will have a good season like last season stats-wise? And do you think his tendon will hold up?
-- Steven B., New Port Richey, Fla.
The second question is the important one. If his health holds up, I'm guessing Ortiz will produce like he always does. But given his age, it's certainly fair to have some concern about how the Achilles holds up in 2013. That can certainly become a chronic injury.
Nobody seems to remember the Ryan Dempster signing. Any chance he pitches like he did with the Cubs last year?
-- Hunter N., Nazareth
Dempster's true value to the Red Sox will be if he can maintain the durability he's had during his career. Moving from the National League Central to the AL East, it might be unfair to expect he'll match what he did for the Cubs. In 16 starts for the Cubs last year, Dempster had a 2.25 ERA. In 12 starts for the Rangers, he had a 5.09 ERA.
What role does Iglesias have this year for the Boston Red Sox?
-- Charlie, Eastford, Conn.
Barring an injury or a major lack of performance from Drew, Iglesias will play every day at Triple-A Pawtucket and round out his development. But if Drew does get hurt, Iglesias will get a chance to take over the position.