5 Questions with Ian Browne of MLB.com

The 5 Questions series continues with one of the most well-known beat writers for the Boston Red Sox, Ian Browne of MLB.com. A personal favorite, Browne’s blog Brownie Points, is a must read for any Red Sox fans out there, because he brings news and insight from inside the clubhouse and on the field. Being the primary Red Sox writer for MLB.com, Browne keeps fans up-to-date and in-the-loop all year long. For all the latest news and transactions, you can follow Browne on twitter. Enjoy!

Q: Even though it is still early in the season, many fans are concerned with the ineffectiveness of the Sox bullpen, especially with the high number of walks and earned runs. Do you think it is too early to be concerned about the ‘pen? If the struggles continue, would the Sox try and make a move to bring in an elite reliever or is the price just too high?

A: Yes, I think it is too early to be concerned about the bullpen. The reason the ‘pen has struggled is because the starting rotation has performed below expectations, forcing manager Terry Francona to ask too much out of his relievers. If the starters are going six to seven innings, then you get into a situation where you are handing off to Daniel Bard and Hideki Okajima and putting them in positions where you can succeed. And the setup men are then, in turn, putting the ball in Jonathan Papelbon’s hands for a clean save opportunity. They do need more consistency from Manny Delcarmen and Ramon Ramirez. In the past, Theo Epstein has consistently gone out and gotten a reliever near the trade deadline when the Red Sox needed one. I don’t think this year will be any different.

Q: David Ortiz’s struggles have been well documented and he is has been one of the hottest topics so far this season. If you were the manager of the Red Sox, how would you use (or not use) Ortiz in the lineup?

A: I would probably do exactly as Terry is doing right now – play Ortiz against all righties and put Mike Lowell in there against lefties. If Ortiz can go on the type of power streak he did last June, I would then start keeping him in there against the bulk of lefties as well and try to work Lowell in more at first and third base. If Ortiz hits like he is supposed to, Lowell could start once a week at DH, once a week at third and once a week at first. But if David continues to be spotty, or even worse, ineffective, Lowell will become the primary DH, as well he should. I think this situation will sort itself out by the end of the month. I do think it’s too soon to give up on David Ortiz.

Q: The talks of trading Mike Lowell have died down with Ortiz’s slump. Is it now more likely that Lowell stays in Boston for the entire season or do you think the Sox management will attempt to trade him regardless?

A: The Red Sox are going to pay the bulk of Mike Lowell’s salary regardless of whether he is on the club or not. That said, the club doesn’t need to feel compelled to trade him. Lowell is still a respected figure in the clubhouse and he has shown the ability to contribute in a bench role, something many starting players have a tough time transitioning to. But if another team suddenly needs a corner infielder or DH and offers the Red Sox a chip that would be useful for Lowell, then you could see a deal. For example, the Max Ramirez deal with Texas back in December would have made perfect sense for both sides.

Q: Despite cooling down a bit recently, Dustin Pedroia has 6 home runs to lead the team and is still hitting close to .300. Do you think Pedroia will continue to have a strong season and finish near his career high in batting average (.326+) and/or home runs (17+) in 2010?

A: Pedroia is the best player on the team, pure and simple. Pedroia and Kevin Youkilis are the two players on this team that you can pretty much gauge exactly what they are going to give you. Not only that, but Pedroia has also become the team’s leader. I think you’ll see a representative season from Pedroia with a .300-plus average, 15-20 homers, 15-20 stolen bases, 100 runs scored, 80 RBIs and tremendous defense.

Q: After watching regular season baseball for a month or so now, which American League teams have surprised you the most (positive or negative)? Which National League teams have surprised?

A: I get so immersed in covering the Red Sox that it’s hard for me to follow a lot of other teams. That said, the Mariners have been a huge disappointment. A lot of people thought they would win the AL West. I expected the Rays to be good, but maybe not quite as good as they’ve been. In the NL, the Nationals and Padres have both played well above expectations so far.

Tags: 5 Questions AL West Boston Red Sox Daniel Bard David Ortiz Dustin Pedroia Hideki Okajima Ian Browne Jonathan Papelbon Kevin Youkilis Manny Delcarmen Max Ramirez Mike Lowell Ramon Ramirez San Diego Padres Seattle Mariners Tampa Bay Rays Terry Francona Theo Epstein Washington Nationals

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