After a 69-93 2012 season, the firing of Bobby Valentine, the hiring of John Farrell and the acquisition of a number of "clubhouse guys," the 2013 Red Sox are finally set to take to the field for games that count.
The Red Sox will open the 2013 season Monday afternoon in New York (1 p.m., NESN) taking on the Yankees and ace CC Sabathia. Boston will counter with Jon Lester, who will make his third consecutive Opening Day start. Lester didn't factored into either of his previous two Day 1 appearances. The Red Sox did lose both of those games and are 2-6 in their last eight road Opening Days.
“It’s a big deal. Don’t let anybody ever say it’s not a big deal, because it is a big deal,” Lester told reporters this spring. “At the same time, you have to always treat it as just a normal game, and I think I was able to do that a little bit better last year. The first year, everything is new. It’s just like your first playoff game, where you think you have to do more because it’s a different part of the year and you’re fighting for something a little more important.”
Getting off to a strong start this year is more important than ever as the team opened last season 1-5 and 2-10 the year before. After establishing a new culture and attitude this offseason the team cannot afford to have starts like the past two seasons.
It will all start with starting pitching, as the group needs to set the tone for the season. The staff as a whole struggled in 2012, finishing 12th out of 14 American League teams in both wins and ERA.
Lucky for the Red Sox, the Yankees are a team depleted by injuries. Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter, Curtis Granderson, and Mark Teixeira will all miss Opening Day. There is no telling when Rodriguez will be ready to come back from a hip injury, Jeter is slated to miss a few weeks with a banged-up wrist while Granderson and Teixeira are each expected to miss the first month.
With the Yankees as banged up as they are it is imperative the Red Sox take advantage by separating themselves from New York in the standings and it all starts Monday afternoon on one of the best days on the entire sports calendar: Opening Day of the baseball season.
Follow Metro Boston Red Sox beat writer Ryan Hannable on Twitter @hannable84