Gerald, welcome back! I look forward to our visit to Oakland in late May-early June at the Oakland Coliseum.
The fact that they play 20 consecutive games toward the end of April means that Dylan Axelrod will have to hold his own as the fifth starter and that there will be no extra days of rest for the rotation, nor will be able to juggle it with days off or arrange it so that Chris Sale is pitching every fifth day.
The Sox do have two days off in the final 11 days of the season, so I think that will be a benefit if they're in contention.
Some were miffed that the Sox play a four-game, wrap-around series in Houston, with the final game starting on a Monday night and not allowing the Sox to arrive in Minneapolis at a reasonable hour.
I looked at Cincinnati's schedule, as a comparison, and noticed the Reds have five, three-city trips. But the only interesting quirk is that the Reds have an off-day the day before and after they play a two-game series at Oakland.
I'm not sure if I like Alex Rios batting third, is that too much pressure for him? Do the Sox have the weakest hitter batting third within the division, compared to the Twins' Joe Mauer, the Royals' Billy Butler, the Tigers' Miguel Cabrera and the Indians' Asdrubal Cabrera? -- Sergio
I fully understand the intentions to move Rios to the third spot. It's reminiscent of what Ozzie Guillen did toward the end of 2006 with Jermaine Dye, his hottest hitter, moving from fifth to third. Rios runs much better than Adam Dunn and Paul Konerko, and more run-scoring opportunities are created this way. I also like the mix of right-handed and left-handed batters in the middle of the order.
I'll take Rios over Asdrubal Cabrera. Mauer does a terrific job of covering the plate, Miguel Cabera is the most feared hitter in the league and Billy Butler should have received consideration to play for Team USA for the World Baseball Classic.
There's plenty of time to adjust if this doesn't work out. But the larger scrutiny falls on Dayan Viciedo in the sixth spot and Flowers in the eighth spot in this lineup.
What's your opinion of the Sox bullpen? It seems like it should be a major strength over the course of the season. A few seasoned vets combined with several young guns who had some real experience last year. I think the bullpen is the X-factor. -- David; Bexley, Ohio
I think the bullpen is the biggest asset on the team. I look for better things from Nate Jones, who had an impressive rookie season but needs to prevent inherited runners from scoring. A healthy Jesse Crain, combined with Matt Lindstrom, should take some pressure off Addison Reed.
Matt Thornton's velocity dipped in spring training, but he's been working on other pitches this spring. Same with Reed, who is trying to be less predictable early in counts. Donnie Veal is working on being more effective against right-handers.
Some scouts told me last week that they believe Hector Santiago's arm is being wasted in the Sox's pen and that he should be starting, but that speaks to the Sox's current depth in the pen.
Brian Omogrosso would have made the opening day roster in most seasons, and I wouldn't be surprised if he was the first reliever promoted from Triple-A Charlotte in the event of an injury or trade.