Clay Buchholz, Carl Crawford and 5 Red Sox Hopes
Last year was close to a worst-case scenario in terms of performance compared to expectation, and the Red Sox were still about eight minutes short of making the playoffs. That says this team is still a threat, but certain things have to go differently.
The front office did not deem it necessary to make any big moves in the offseason. They traded away their top two shortstops for prospects and salary advantage, but the main cast looks very similar to 2011.
Some would say, with the Yankees adding pitching, there should have been counteraction, but applause to the front office for showing faith in their guys.
These five hopes have to be on the mind of every Boston fan as a new season commences and they attempt to put the last day of last season out of their minds.
Hope No. 1: Clay Buchholz Stays off the DL.
Between 2009-2010, at 22 and 23 years old, Clay Buchholz made 44 starts and was 24-11 with a 2.98 ERA and 1.265 WHIP.
He looked poised to slot in right behind Jon Lester for the next decade.
He managed only 14 starts in 2011, going 6-3 with a 3.48 ERA in 82.2 innings.
Not bad numbers, but his last came in the middle of June, and its hard to imagine what that disastrous September would have looked like if he had been pitching every fifth day. Remember, all they needed was one loss becoming a win.
With the hated Yankees marching out a sparkling new rotation including phenom Michael Pineda and unsexy but solid Hiroki Kuroda, Boston will need to match them pitch for pitch.
Hope No. 2: David Ortiz Doesn't Hit Like His Age
Since his 30-year-old season, David Ortiz has batted .284 with a .944 OPS.
In all but one season, he's played in more than 140 games.
He's also hit 28-plus HR and 96-plus RBI in all but one season.
He will be 36 this year, and the Red Sox are going to need another bat in the middle of the lineup with Kevin Youkilis coming off back-to-back injury-shortened seasons and question marks throughout the outfield.
Beantown will try to keep Ortiz from playing like a 36-year-old masher. Offense has never been a problem in Boston (well, not recently) but there's risk of this team showing its age, starting with Ortiz.
Hope No. 3: Carl Crawford Remembers Who He Was in Tampa Bay
Not what you expected, was it Boston?
In 2010, Crawford filled the stat sheets to the tune of .307, 19 HR, 90 RBI, 13 triples, 47 stolen bases and 110 runs scored in 154 games.
He showed up in Beantown with a shiny new nine-digit contract and... .255, 11 HR, 56 RBI, seven triples, 18 stolen bases and 65 runs in 130 games.
He's only 30 years old, so there's certainly a chance for rebound, but if that's the first year of seven, Boston fans have cause to be concerned.
There's still plenty of thunder in this lineup to give Crawford more than 100 runs scored alone with 80 RBI. He may not get 50 steals again, but there's great upside.
Hope No. 4: Andrew Bailey Stays Healthy
In 174 career innings, the new Red Sox closer has a 2.07 ERA and 0.954 WHIP, which would normally make him one of the surest bets in the game, but he can't stay healthy.
He pitched 83.1 innings in his Rookie of the Year first year of 2009, and he hasn't topped 50 since.
Boston will provide plenty of save opportunities, but there are also capable arms behind him who can do the job if he falters or spends serious time on the DL.
However, the guys behind him are best served as setup men, so Boston needs to hope he can keep trotting out of the bullpen in the ninth to close the door.
Hope No. 5: Daniel Bard Flourishes as a Starter
Daniel Bard was poised to be the next ninth-inning man in Boston with the departure of Jonathan Papelbon.
He is coming off back-to-back seasons of a 1.00 WHIP or better and has topped 9 K/9 in each of his three major league seasons.
But Boston has a rotation spot in mind for the flamethrower from Texas. It seems hard-throwing relievers are being converted to starters at an unprecedented clip.
Along with Bard, baseball saw the Rangers' Ogando make a successful transition, though he waned late, and will wait to see what happens to Neftali Feliz, Chris Sale and Aroldis Chapman is similar situations.
If Bard can handle the innings, the Red Sox rotation might not be as needy as people think.