With the Red Sox passing the midpoint in their season, we're answering some reader mail. This week's mailbag had questions about all the injuries, Jonathan Papelbon's effectiveness and more.
Q: Do you think there is any disconnect between the Red Sox and Jacoby Ellsbury on his rib injury? Why is he going to be in Toronto this weekend? -- Cooper (Watertown)
A: Cooper, I don't think there's a disconnect, but I do believe both sides could have handled Ellsbury's situation a little bit better. It's unusual for a player to leave the team and go elsewhere to rehab. Even Red Sox team medical director Dr. Thomas Gill said during a conference call a few weeks ago he thought all the best facilities and treatments were in Boston.
Ellsbury is scheduled to rejoin the team in Toronto this weekend, and it's going to be interesting to see how he is physically and what kind of reaction he gets from his teammates. Now that he's back with the club, his main focus will be returning to baseball activities.
Q: What do you think the Red Sox are realistically expecting from Jacoby Ellsbury for the rest of the season? -- KJC (Hyannis)
A: KJC, the Sox are hoping for a healthy and productive outfielder. I know that's stating the obvious, but he has game-changing abilities that the Red Sox desperately need in the second half. The Yankees are doing their best to improve because they know the Red Sox are hurting right now. Getting a player like Ellsbury back at the top of the lineup is crucial.
Q: With all these injuries, will the Sox look to make any moves? Or are they just going to hope they can stay in it while guys get healthy? -- Bill (Hartford, Conn.)
A: Bill, you can bet GM Theo Epstein has been working the phones. He said recently he would likely wait until the July 31 deadline before making any moves because he wanted to see how the club would respond. It's also safe to say he'll be looking for bullpen help. Due to all the injuries, if the Sox are to have success in the second half, they will have to rely on their rotation and bullpen.
Q: Are you worried at all about Jonathan Papelbon? -- Elliot (San Diego)
A: Elliot, I'm not worried about Papelbon. He has had his struggles, but his fastball is starting to show a lot more life of late. The movement on his off-speed repertoire is coming around. In a recent conversation I had with him, he seemed confident. Unlike the other homegrown talent in the Red Sox organization, Papelbon has decided to go year-to-year with his contract status before he tests the free-agent market. The one question I'm asked time and again is whether I think Papelbon will someday sign with the Yankees? Honestly, I wouldn't be surprised if that happens.
Q: What's the deal with Mike Lowell? Do you know when he's coming off the DL? Is he back with the team? -- Owen (Stoneham)
A: Owen, Lowell (hip) is eligible to come off the disabled list Thursday. He recently asked for, and was given, permission to return home to South Florida while the Sox were playing in Tampa. The veteran third baseman has made it no secret he's unhappy with his lack of playing time and said he has thought about asking for a release. He likely did some soul searching when he returned home. The Sox can't do anything with him until he comes off the DL.
A: Shawn, I hate to break this to you, but once the entire rotation is healthy, it won't be Dice-K. Veteran knuckleballer Tim Wakefield will likely resume his role in the bullpen. He won't be happy about it, but he'll be a true professional and do what's best for the club.
A: Warren, It comes down to a numbers game. Once the outfield is completely healthy, Epstein and manager Terry Francona will have some decisions to make. Both McDonald and Nava deserve to stick around because of the impact they have had for the injury-riddled Red Sox. Both are tremendous guys and you would hate to see them sent back to the minors. However, once Ellsbury comes back and proves to be healthy, it wouldn't surprise me if Mike Cameron (hernia) decides to shut it down and has the surgery he needs to repair the damage. If everyone were healthy, McDonald and Nava would not be here. I know a lot of people, including myself, are glad they got an opportunity.
Q: The PawSox moved Michael Bowden to the bullpen recently. How long until he ends up on the Red Sox roster? -- Gabe (Boston)
A: Gabe, he could be the move Epstein makes sooner rather than later. The organization considers him a "bulldog" on the mound, and after watching his development the last few years, I always believed he would be a better reliever than starter. If Manny Delcarmen continues to have health issues (back and forearm this season), Bowden could slip into that spot in the bullpen. There's a reason he was moved into the PawSox bullpen; now it's only a matter of when the Sox decide to call him up.
Joe McDonald covers the Bruins and Red Sox for ESPNBoston.com