Originally posted on NESN.com  |  Last updated 7/4/13
It’s the Fourth of July. The Red Sox are in first place. The weather in Boston is fantastic. What more do you need? Well, how about a mailbag to go with your baseball watching, hot dog eating and beverage consuming? It seems like the American thing to do on the day celebrating this great country’s independence. The Red Sox are getting ready for a big 10-game West Coast swing before heading into the All-Star break. It might not make or break their season, but Boston manager John Farrell admitted that it will provide a good test for the club. So far, the Red Sox have passed virtually every test placed in front of them. It won’t be long before the trade winds really start swirling as well. In fact, they’re already whipping around the mailbag. Let’s take a look at this week’s goodness. Do you think that the Red Sox should just save Clay Buchholz until the second half? If they do, but he resumes playing like he had been, do you believe he deserves consideration for his first Cy Young? – Evan Gadarowski At this point, it wouldn’t really be a matter of “saving” Clay Buchholz for the second half. The right-hander simply isn’t ready to return. Buchholz was expected to throw from 90 feet Thursday, marking his third straight day of throwing, but there’s still progress to be made. With only 10 games remaining before the All-Star break and Buchholz likely requiring a rehab start or two, it’s highly unlikely that he’ll return in the first half. “The throwing program will be outlined to 60, 90, 120 [feet] at a varying number of throws or progressive number of throws before we get him on the mound,” Farrell said Tuesday. “We don’t have a specific date that right now he would get back on the mound.” When Buchholz returns, I absolutely think he’ll still be in the Cy Young discussion. He was the front-runner before going down, so if he manages to come back soon and continues to pitch at the same level, he should make up any ground he lost in due time. Right now, Max Scherzer seems Buchholz’s biggest competition. It’s still early in the race, though, and the pack is very congested. Are you going to win the World Series this year? –Bobby Rondo Burnett Not me, personally. No. Do you think that Dustin Pedroia should be an All-Star this year? – Jack Webster Yes — without question. You could make the argument that Dustin Pedroia has been the Red Sox’ MVP this season, and you could make the case that he’s been the best second baseman in the American League. Pedroia enters Thursday’s action first among AL second baseman in WAR (4.1), average (.323), on-base percentage (.405), hits (106) and runs (53). The power numbers haven’t really been there, but he’s been very consistent offensively, and his defense has been as good as it gets. If Pedroia isn’t an All-Star, I’ll eat a bag of nails. Did Jonathan Diaz once play for the New Hampshire Fisher Cats? – Elaine Fournier Brassard He sure did, Elaine. In fact, Jonathan Diaz spent time with the Fisher Cats — the Double-A affiliate of the Blue Jays — each year from 2008 to 2012. He signed with the Red Sox organization as a minor league free agent back in December. I have Mike Carp on one of my fantasy teams and he has not played recently. I want to know how bad his injury is and when he will play again. Thanks, Tom –Tom Wick, Powder Springs, Georgia You’ll be happy to know that Mike Carp is 100 percent healthy, although that won’t help you a whole lot in the fantasy department. The hamstring issue that Carp suffered in Baltimore a few weeks ago appears to be a thing of the past. However, he has only played in five games with 12 at-bats since June 16, for whatever reason. You should probably hit the waiver wire for someone with more consistent playing time. Good luck in your future fantasy endeavors. I’ve seen Michael Young’s name come up in trade speculation. Should the Red Sox consider making a move for him? –Bruce, Woburn, Mass. Michael Young seems to fit the Red Sox’ 2013 mold perfectly. He’s considered a consummate professional, he plays the game hard and he’s versatile. If the Red Sox decided to make a move for the Phillies’ 36-year-old infielder, I have no doubts that he’d be an excellent addition, both on the field and in the clubhouse. Young’s resume speaks for itself. He’s a seven-time All-Star, two-time hits leader (2005, 2011) and a former batting champion (2005) who has experience at every infield position. Adding his grit, leadership and skill set to a team with World Series aspirations makes sense, especially since he’s a free agent after this season and wouldn’t be much of a financial burden. He even has the endorsement of Mike Napoli, who was teammates with Young for two seasons in Texas. Young also makes sense for Boston in that he fits a need. Farrell said that Stephen Drew might return Saturday in Los Angeles, but he has battled inconsistency this season in addition to the recent hamstring issue. The Red Sox would probably consider an upgrade if the right deal came along. With all of that said, the Red Sox’ focus leading up to the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline should still be on improving the team’s pitching, particularly the bullpen. Young might be a good fit, but Will Middlebrooks could settle into a groove after putting together a monster performance for Pawtucket on Wednesday and Xander Bogaerts is knocking on the big league door, so acquiring help for the left side of the infield should take a backseat for the time being. The Red Sox’ bullpen has been solid this season, but Boston could use another arm, especially with Andrew Bailey struggling. The unit has been busy of late, meaning fatigue could become an issue, and the Red Sox could use a reliever capable of inducing ground balls, as the bullpen currently consists of multiple fly ball pitchers. The Red Sox might kick the tires on Young, especially if the Phillies make him available and the cost isn’t too high. The Sox are better off using their resources to acquire pitching, though. The offense has managed just fine so far. Here’s a question regarding the closer issue: Provided he is healthy, why not bring up Daniel Bard and just give him a chance? If his speed is anything close to what it was before Bobby Valentine almost wrecked his career last year, then he probably can’t be any worse than Andrew Bailey has been. Bard just might surprise everyone and be a whole lot better. –Jerry, Greenville, S.C. First of all, I can’t afford to bring you to Foxwoods. I like a roll-the-dice mentality, but what you’re proposing is borderline reckless. Daniel Bard has spent time on the disabled list with an abdominal strain, so there’s the health part of it. Even if we throw that out the window and assume he’s now 100 percent healthy, though, it wouldn’t be wise to rely on a pitcher who has been awful in limited action at Double-A this season. It might not be time to give up on Bard completely. But it’s also not time to close your eyes and throw him out there in the ninth inning of a major league game during a playoff push. The American League East is once again tight, so while the Red Sox’ bullpen might not be in an ideal place, mismanagement will only compound the issue. Koji Uehara has handled matters just fine since taking over as the closer. Even if he isn’t a long-term solution, he’s a far better option than Bard. Plus, Farrell has consistently rewarded players for producing this season. Giving the bullpen’s most prominent role to a pitcher who hasn’t been productive in two years sends the wrong message. (Side note: I wouldn’t blame Bobby Valentine for Bard’s disastrous 2012. The failed starter experiment was out of his hands.) You can forget about Jackie Bradley Jr. Focus on other unknowns. A year from now, Jackie will start in either left field or center field, bat second or third, and be hitting around .350 with no more AAA stints. Relax, my friend. JBJ is the real deal. Pretty soon, the club will depend on him as they have and do on David Ortiz. JBJ will make you forget about almost all other outfielders. He is THAT talented! –Eric, Yellville Excellent. Thank you. When do you see Jackie Bradley Jr. getting called up for good? And, do you think the Red Sox will re-sign Mike Napoli and Jacoby Ellsbury after the season? – Shane Squires Jackie Bradley Jr. is the next man up, meaning he’s an injury or trade away from becoming a major league regular. Assuming everything remains the way it is, though, you’ll see him in September, and my guess is that he’ll be in the starting lineup next season. The reason is because I don’t think that the Red Sox will re-sign Jacoby Ellsbury. Ellsbury is really coming on strong of late, and he’s the most prolific base stealer in baseball right now, so perhaps the Red Sox will make a push to keep him around. But with Bradley waiting in the wings, the reward of keeping Ellsbury might not be worth the cost. Napoli, on the other hand, is a wild card. He’s been solid, but his recent drop-off in power is a bit concerning. If they can retain him at the right price, the Red Sox will certainly consider keeping him, but I wouldn’t be shocked to see them move on. The last few months of the season will be a big determining factor. I’m not sure if this is something that the Red Sox will consider, but I keep envisioning a 2014 infield of Middlebrooks (first base), Pedroia (second base), Jose Iglesias (shortstop) and Bogaerts (third base). Who was the Red Sox’ best offseason acquisition? – Alan Gorewitz My vote goes to Koji Uehara. I like a lot of what the Red Sox did during the offseason, but Uehara has been a very consistent and valuable member of the bullpen since Day 1. Now, with him taking over the closer’s job, we’re really seeing the importance of his signing. Have a question for Ricky Doyle? Send it to him via Twitter at @TheRickyDoyle or send it here.

This article first appeared on NESN.com and was syndicated with permission.

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