Baseball is back.
The Red Sox will open the 2016 season Monday afternoon in Cleveland against the Indians where David Price will make his Red Sox debut. It was a busy offseason for the team with the Price signing, as well as additions in the bullpen in Craig Kimbrel and Carson Smith.
It was also an eventful spring training capped off with manager John Farrell announcing Travis Shaw will start at third base over Pablo Sandoval.
Here is a look at what to expect this season offensively and from the mound.
Although the Red Sox finished in last place in the AL East last season, the offense wasn’t the issue. In the American League the Red Sox were fourth in runs scored and fourth in average. They also will return almost everyone and their young players have another year of experience under their belts.
In the infield, Hanley Ramirez will likely have a better season than last year, especially if he stays healthy. Dustin Pedroia is hoping for a bounce back year after being plagued by injuries in 2015. Xander Bogaerts will continue to get better with age and the biggest thing for him is raising his home run total, as he had just seven last season. Shaw will hope to build on his 13 home runs in 65 games last season, while Sandoval will hope to crack the starting lineup and improve on his .245 average last season.
In the outfield it appears Brock Holt and Chris Young will platoon in left field, while Jackie Bradley Jr. and Mookie Betts will start in center and right field respectively. This leave Rusney Castillo coming off the bench, which is a bit surprising given he may be better off starting the year in Triple-A to build confidence and possibly his trade value.
From the mound it starts with Price, who will obviously bolster the Red Sox rotation, but there is reason for concern behind him. Eduardo Rodriguez will start the season on the disabled list. Clay Buchholz will be the No. 2 starter, but as always durability is a question with him. Joe Kelly will be the third starter, but he was inconsistent last season and even was sent back to Triple-A at one point. Rick Porcello and his $20 million a year contract will be the No. 4 starter as he hopes to come back strong after a difficult first year in Boston, while knuckleballer Steven Wright will be the fifth starter.
The bullpen will be much better than last year, but there is trouble to start the year as Smith will miss a few weeks with an elbow injury. Kimbrel will take over the closer’s role and Koji Uehara will primarily work before Smith, but will likely be the setup man until Smith returns. Matt Barnes, Robbie Ross Jr. and Noe Ramirez will be the middle relievers, all who gained valuable major league experience last year.
88-74, American League Wild Card