5 Boston Red Sox to Be Excited About in 2012
New Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine has made it clear that this season's version of the Boston Red Sox won't be like that of the team in 2011.
Valentine has increased practice speed and banned alcohol in the clubhouse, setting a new tone for a new season.
Not much has changed for the Red Sox in terms of roster moves, and the nucleus of a team that was predicted to win 100 games last season remains intact.
The Red Sox are poised to improve upon their poor performance down the stretch in 2011, and here are five players that fans can get excited about entering 2012.
It is hard to imagine Jacoby Ellsbury putting up better numbers than he did last season (.321/32/105), but that's exactly what he has the potential to do.
Ellsbury was the runner-up in the AL MVP voting and could have easily been voted as the MVP if not for Justin Verlander's unbelievable season.
Ellsbury put confidence back in the minds of fans who thought he was soft and injury-prone after the 2010 season, in which he only played a handful of games.
In 2012, Ellsbury will be as confident as ever and will continue to get on base for the big guns in the middle of the lineup. By getting on base, Ellsbury can use his speed to generate scoring opportunities and impact the game in many different ways.
In the field, Ellsbury will cover a huge amount of ground, putting less pressure on the corner outfielders to make plays.
There is no doubt that Jon Lester has the ability to be one of the best pitchers in all of Major League Baseball, but 2011 didn't reflect that.
Lester posted an unimpressive 15-9 record for the Red Sox. More importantly, he didn't pitch well down the stretch when the team really needed him to.
This offseason, Lester has taken responsibility for his poor play and will be back better than ever in 2012.
The Red Sox will need him to be the ace he is capable of being, with uncertainty at the back end of the rotation.
Lester knows that Red Sox Nation is disappointed with his performance and clubhouse antics from a season ago, which will give him the necessary fire to come back with a vengeance in 2012.
Andrew Bailey will have a lot of pressure to perform at a high level in 2012, as he tries to replace perhaps the greatest closer in Red Sox history.
Jonathan Papelbon bolted from Boston for the big money in Philadelphia, leaving a gaping hole at the end of the Red Sox bullpen.
Fortunately, the Red Sox were able to acquire former Rookie of the Year Andrew Bailey to stabilize the closer position.
Bailey has never had an offense as good as this Red Sox team and will flourish with the opportunity to be on the positive side of the scoreboard.
Bailey has never had more than 30 saves in a season, but many more opportunities will come his way in Beantown.
Look for Bailey to perform at a high level if healthy.
How can Red Sox fans not be excited about seeing Adrian Gonzalez play in 2012?
Gonzalez was expected to put up big numbers in the friendly confines of Fenway Park in 2011, and he did not disappoint.
Aside from hitting .338 with 27 home runs and 117 runs batted in, Gonzalez also won the Gold Glove at first base.
Gonzalez is one of the most talented players in the game, but also a model teammate—something the Red Sox need more of in 2012.
Sox fans shouldn't be concerned about a drop-off in production for Gonzalez in 2012 because of his proven track record as a consistently dominant player year.
As stated in the opening, Bobby Valentine has implemented some of his strict rules to try to instill discipline and effort in a team that was clearly lacking both a year ago.
In addition to banning alcohol and increasing speed in workouts, Bobby V has also made it mandatory to ride the team bus to games in spring training, barring extenuating circumstances.
Since Valentine signed on as manager of the Red Sox, fans have been eager to see the impact he will make on the players. If his first couple of weeks are any indication on how Valentine will run this team, Red Sox Nation has a lot to look forward to in 2012.
Along with bringing a positive attitude in the clubhouse, Valentine will also provide some candid moments with the media, making him an extremely interesting figure to watch in 2012.