Joe, thanks for your interest. I started covering high schools so far back that one of my first assignments was covering a football playoff game involving a young star from Mount Pleasant High School in San Jose, Calif., named Kenny Williams. I've been a full-time major league baseball writer since 1992, and it's been a great ride. But covering high schools taught me the basics as well as structuring my time, and I enjoyed college assignments before covering the major leagues.
Bruce, I hope you're staying dry in the Bay Area. Sounds like it's been raining too much and cutting into the baseball season at all levels. I think it's too easy to look for changes in the outfield -- for now. Bobby Abreu is one of the best left-handed hitters, but he's a big-ticket player. The Sox's payroll (not counting bonuses and incentive clauses) is just shy of $100 million.
After seeing Pablo Ozuna's troubles in the outfield in Kansas City, don't you think this highlighted a weakness in the makeup of the Sox roster? It seems to me that Alex Cintron, Ross Gload and Rob Mackowiak can handle all the backup duties in the infield, with Gload and Mackowiak also doubling in the outfield. I think what this team really needs is a true fourth outfielder. And if the choice is between Jerry Owens and Ryan Sweeney, I'd like to see Sweeney get another year of playing everyday under his belt, so I'd give the call to Owens. What do you think? --Craig, Orland Park, Ill.
Craig, you make very good points with the depth in the infield and outfield. Mackowiak was a proven outfielder in Pittsburgh. Ozuna had a rough night under windy conditions in Kansas City, but Mackowiak already was spelling Jermaine Dye in right. Gload did a good job under some tough conditions in spring training. With Jeremy Affeldt on the mound, Ozuna was going to get the call in left field that night over Gload.
Right now, Owens and Sweeney need some seasoning at Triple-A, but either can handle the majors defensively. They'll become more attractive options once they get untracked at Charlotte.
Hey, Mark, Janice from CSUS and Chico, Calif. So, it must have been incredible to cover the Sox your first year, and have them win it all. I was at the Boston and Houston games - I told my husband and kids: I can now die happy. Take care. --Janice Gagerman, Chico, Calif.
Janice, many Sox fans share your feelings about the world championship. It was an incredible ride to the World Series, and that's two titles in five years that I've covered. But I didn't strike anyone out or hit a game-winning homer, so I take no credit.
Mark, I know it's way early but being a Sox fan means being a pessimist. Which closers to you see as being available at the deadline for the Sox to pick up? Also, who is next to go from the minor leagues in this type of deal? --Bob, San Antonio, Texas
Bob, one of the wisest decisions Kenny Williams made was not to trade for a closer last summer because of the emergence of Bobby Jenks and the unselfishness of the Sox's relievers. I fully understand the concerns of Sox fans about Bobby's early troubles. But the price usually is high for closers, and the top closers pitch for contending teams. It would have been tough for someone like Jose Mesa or Danys Baez, for instance, to come to the Sox last summer and accept a less than a full-time closer role with Jenks and Dustin Hermanson on the active roster. I expect Williams to follow the same logic. Late-inning relief pitching is expensive. I would expect Casey Rogowski and/or Pedro Lopez to be part of any deal should the Sox acquire help this season.
Mark, is Ross Gload in someone's dog house? Ross is a naturally good hitter who batted .320 in 2004 when he got a lot of playing time in the second half of the season. After being injured in 2005 and having a great spring this year, Ozzie has limited his playing time. It is odd, especially in light of the fact neither Anderson, Mackowiak or Podsednick are hitting a lick. We could use his bat in the lineup. Does Ozzie or Kenny have an issue with Gload's attitude? --Stan Kaminski, St. John, Ind.
Stan, Ross Gload isn't in trouble with anyone. He's a professional hitter who could use at least four at-bats in a game to stay sharp. He has the misfortune, however, of having Paul Konerko ahead of him at first base and Jim Thome off to a productive start. A start in the outfield against a right-handed pitcher wouldn't be the worst thing for Ross.
First of all, Podsednik has been pretty awful so far this season. It's obvious that he's probably still suffering from the groin injury that hindered him last year. What extent do you think his skid will need to hit before we see him benched in favor of trying Jerry Owens in left until he gets back on track? Also, Bobby Jenks seems to have shaped up, hopefully. His velocity is better, and his control isn't as rough as it was in spring. He still doesn't seem quite himself though. If he were to struggle, do you think Brandon McCarthy could make a good short term closer? Or is Neal Cotts the better option in that spot? --Tyson Shroyer, Peoria, Ill.
Tyson, I don't think we'll see Jerry Owens soon. He's off to a slow start at Triple-A Charlotte, and I'm told the instructors are trying to get his swing back to where it was last year at Double-A Birmingham. I think Ozzie will stick with Podsednik as long as he can, which could last through this month. Scott hasn't made any excuses for his slow start, and he has struck out only three times in 26 at-bats. He might not be far off, but only one hit in 26 at-bats is about as tough as flunking out of a junior college.
I think Brandon McCarthy has opened a few eyes but I'm not sure Ozzie wants to risk McCarthy's arm by making him a full-time closer. I think Ozzie will find ways to challenge Jenks throughout this season, and Bobby put himself in that position.
Hey, Mark, thanks for your great work on the Sox. How do you think Coop and Ozzie will manage McCarthy this year? He looks real good so far. Will he pitch as often as Cotts and Politte did last year? --Paul, Wicker Park
Paul, thanks for the kind words. Ozzie and Coop will handle McCarthy as carefully as any pitcher on the staff. It's very tempting to give him a more prominent role because of his smooth adjustment from starter to reliever, but he's only 22 and the future of the Sox's pitching staff. Brandon has handled the adjustment very well. Cotts had at least one year of relief experience because he took on a bigger role, and Politte had even more relief experience. I don't see McCarthy pitching as frequently as Cotts and Politte did last year unless there's a severe breakdown in the bullpen or an injury.