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The Red Sox are hoping new manager John Farrell can help get them back on the right track
The bad news is it will be another barren postseason at Fenway Park. The good news is, this team is unlikely to finish in last place.
Just two years ago, such a statement would have seemed impossible to make about the Red Sox, but times have changed. After their worst season in nearly 40 years, the Red Sox seem to be heading in the right direction.
The Sox have purged themselves of the bad contracts of Josh Beckett, Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford. Maybe they have learned their lesson, because they did not dole out any big contracts this offseason.
The new-look Sox are managed by former pitching coach John Farrell. Farrell's arrival should be a positive for a pitching staff, which ranked 12th in the American League last season.
Left-hander Jon Lester pitched his best baseball with Farrell as his pitching coach. Lester should show a bounce-back from his dreadful 2012 season and give the Sox a much needed ace. Clay Buchholz should also benefit from the addition of Farrell.
Disappointing John Lackey will return this season, and while he is unlikely to be back to his ace ways, he should be at least serviceable, which is more than you could say the last time he pitched. He is in much better shape this year, which means he is dedicated to coming back strong.
Felix Doubront was very mediocre in his first season as a starter, but there is no reason to think he will be any worse in 2013.
The Sox found themselves a dependable starter in Ryan Dempster, who has pitched 200 or more innings in four of the last five seasons.
The Red Sox pitching will need to be more than solid for this team to finish higher in the standings. With Gonzalez, Crawford and Youkilis gone, the team does not have the tough middle of the order they were once known for.
Their best hitter may still be David Ortiz, who is coming off an injury and is 37 years old. Jacoby Ellsbury failed to play in half of the games for the second time in three years, so injuries are a huge concern there.
The Red Sox still have some nice spots in their lineup. Second-year third baseman Will Middlebrooks showed tons of promise in his first big league action, before succumbing to an injury. Perennial All-Star second baseman Dustin Pedroia can always be depended on for a good season. Catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia showed he can provide a little pop in the bottom of the order.
Still, the team did not do enough in the offseason to give themselves a truly potent lineup. Adding Mike Napoli at first base and outfielders Jonny Gomes and Shane Victorino were nice moves, but hardly replace the bats of Cody Ross, Gonzalez and Crawford. Each of those players are hard-nosed, gritty players who can contribute and be great for the clubhouse, but they are more just placeholders for the next generation of Sox prospects.
This team has a lot of question marks, and seem to be heading in the right direction, but 2013 doesn't figure to be their season.