Will Curt Schilling be back next year, and Tim Wakefield too?
-- Scott C., Wilkes-Barre, Penn.

I think it's pretty clear-cut with Wakefield. If he's healthy and still wanting to pitch, the $4 million option is a no-brainer for the Red Sox. You can't find innings-eaters like Wakefield for that price. As far as Schilling, the situation is far more complex. The Red Sox, mainly because of Schilling's age and some concern about the shape he was in back in Spring Training, opted not to extend his contract before the season started. They went into wait-and-see mode, and Schilling suffered an arm injury in the middle of the season and lost some velocity. If Schilling's price stays at $13 million, I think the sides will simply agree to part ways. If that price goes down a bit, the sides might be able to find common ground. Everyone knows that Schilling is still the ultimate competitor and a very smart pitcher. It's just a matter of how much money the Red Sox think those attributes are worth for a pitcher who will be 41 in Spring Training.

Wouldn't the best case scenario for the Red Sox next year be to keep Mike Lowell at third base and sign Alex Rodriguez and have him move back to shortstop? Julio Lugo hasn't been all that great this year, and if we had to get rid of Manny to make this happen, I think Jacoby Ellsbury has shown he is Major League ready.
-- Ariel H., Miami, Fla.

Interesting thought. I'm sure the Red Sox have thought up that one during their brainstorming sessions. The bigger problem is A-Rod's price tag. Would the Red Sox be willing to ante up more than $30 million per season for one player, as special as that one player is? Like I said a couple of weeks ago, there is at least one high-ranking member of the organizational brass that is convinced that Rodriguez will simply go back to the Yankees. But this is the ultimate stay-tuned scenario.

Is it my imagination, or is there anything to the fact that Tim Wakefield lacks confidence to pitch without Doug Mirabelli behind the plate? Wakefield's last two starts entering Monday were atrocious, and Kevin Cash was filling in for the injured Mirabelli. It seems that the same thing happened at the beginning of last year before Mirabelli was traded back from San Diego.
-- Don N., Fitchburg, Mass.

Don't forget that Wakefield had two tremendous starts in a row with Cash, not allowing any runs. What happened was that Wakefield got injured and missed a start and seemed to completely lose his rhythm. I don't think the Cash-Mirabelli thing has factored into it at all.

Do you think that the Red Sox should perhaps rest Daisuke Matsuzaka for some or all of the remainder of his scheduled regular-season starts and give spot starts to Clay Buchholz or Julian Tavarez? I know that the division isn't yet clinched, but it would take the direst of ends to the season not to make the playoffs now. I also know that the Red Sox are saying that Matsuzaka's problems aren't due to fatigue, but he has been struggling and we will need all of our pitchers at their best to do well in the playoffs. Maybe a short rest would let him recharge his batteries a bit.
-- Alistair D., Dundee, Scotland

You were ahead of the curve. Terry Francona announced that Matsuzaka will not start as scheduled on Wednesday night in Toronto, and instead will get a couple of extra days of rest before pitching in Tampa this weekend. Keep in mind, not all of this move was designed to get Matsuzaka more rest. Part of it was simply lining up the rotation for October.

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I have noticed that Red Sox bats have been stifled particularly when facing pitchers known around the league as really hard throwers, i.e. pitchers who rely mostly on their fastball such as Scott Kazmir, Felix Hernandez and Justin Verlander. It is painful to watch the Red Sox offense when pitchers such as these are on the mound. Should this be a real concern going into October, and because of this reality, is there a team that the Sox might wish to avoid in the playoffs? Are the Red Sox aware that they are having such trouble with hard-throwing pitchers, and what are they doing to rectify this?
-- Andrew K., Abbotsford, BC

To me, there is little doubt that the offense will have to take its game up a notch or two if this team is going to play deep into October. The offense has underachieved on a whole. Obviously, having Manny Ramirez out for nearly 20 games hasn't helped. J.D. Drew hasn't put it together yet but has been swinging the bat better of late. Perhaps the offense will begin clicking at just the right time. As for teams they would want to avoid, I don't think a championship-caliber team can go into October with that type of mentality.

In your mind, who wins AL Rookie of the Year? Dustin Pedroia or Delmon Young?
-- Kalan A., Vancouver, BC

Great question. For a while, I think this was Pedroia's award to lose. But Young has come on very strong over the last couple of weeks and could finish with 100 RBIs if he has a hot finish. Pedroia has been a rock for the Red Sox since May, proving to be a tough at-bat at all times and playing fantastic defense. I think whichever guy has the stronger finish will probably take home the award.