Boston Red Sox Enter Season With New Manager, Familiar Faces
Thursday is opening day for Major League Baseball, and the Boston Red Sox will begin their 2018 campaign in Florida against the Tampa Bay Rays. Despite winning the American League Eastern Division a season ago, the Sox fired manager John Farrell and replaced him with Alex Cora, who used to play for the team.
MassLive Red Sox beat writer Chris Smith gives us a preview of the Boston Red Sox this season. He gave some insight into how Cora's approach to managing differs from Farrell.
Chris Smith, MassLive: I think we're going to see a different approach as the season goes on in general, in terms of how he constructs his lineup. He's talked a lot about how he's not all about left-right, left-right in the batting order where Farrell was.
The players love him so far. I think he's really united the clubhouse a little bit, in a way, with being bilingual. He can connect to guys like Rafael Devers. He can go out there and teach Rafael Devers. He can be really hands on him in the infield. I think that's going to help a lot of the young Latino players that are in the organization.
Adam Frenier, NEPR: Taking a look at the lineup, there's a lot of familiar faces. Dustin Pedroia won't start the season on the field, as he's recovering from some off-season surgery. The Red Sox last year missed Big Papi [David Ortiz]'s home runs in the middle of the lineup, and this year they signed J.D. Martinez who was with Detroit and Arizona last year. Can he pick up some of the slack in the middle of the lineup in terms of home runs?
Yeah, definitely. I mean, he hit 45 last year in 119 games. He would have led all of baseball in slugging percentage had he played enough games, had enough plate appearances to qualify. So he's a terrific hitter: 45 home runs in 119 games last year. I don't see why he couldn't get another 45 home runs if he plays a full season healthy this year with the Red Sox, especially in the ballpark that he's in right now, Fenway Park. He has good numbers there. You know, he's hit a lot of doubles there so far.
So as Cora said, pitchers might be more aggressive to the one and two and three hitters if Martinez is batting fourth, or the one and two hitters if Martinez is batting third. That might give them more to hit.
Taking a look at the starting pitching rotation, the first three pitchers: Chris Sale, of course being the ace, a healthy David Price and Rick Porcello. Drew Pomeranz isn't going to start in the rotation. Other guys who have started in the past are injured. How is that going to look, and how is that going to affect the first little bit of the season for the Red Sox?
Well, it's a good thing they start off with some games against some weak opponents. They should be seven and two to start off the season, no matter who's in their pitching rotation.
You know, I think they'll get Drew Pomeranz back fairly quickly. Steven Wright could be out for a whole entire month. But it gives other people the opportunity. And you know, I've always been high on Brian Johnson. He had a terrific spring training and we'll see with Hector Velazquez.
But you know, I'm thinking a big year for both Chris Sale and David Price. I think David Price can have a big bounce back especially because he's going into his contract year. And there's the potential. He has ability to opt out after this year if he if he wants to. He's healthy, he's pitched well in spring training. So I don't think it's as dire as people are making it out to be at this point.
Taking a look at the division, the Yankees -- who already have a very good young nucleus -- added Giancarlo Stanton from the Marlins, one of the best sluggers in the game right now. How do you see the American League East unfolding?
I've told everybody so far, I think it's going to come down to the final three games of the regular season, and those three games are Fenway Park between the Red Sox and Yankees. And I think whoever wins that series will win the division, and whoever loses that series will win the first wildcard. I really do think that the teams are that close.