While winter is in full force in the Boston area, the Red Sox are enjoying sunny Florida as they prepare for the 2013 season. Coming off of their worst season in more than 40 years, the team cannot wait to get on the field and play games for real, but before they do there are a few questions that need to be answered:
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How will John Farrell take control of the team?
Looking back at 2012, Bobby Valentine lost his team during spring training. During the year the Mike Aviles incident in Fort Myers became public and it was Alfredo Aceves announcing he would be the closer - not Valentine or a member of the organization - among other things. It was apparent the communication amongst the team just wasn’t there from the get-go.
It should be different for Farrell who already has the respect of many of the players from when he was the Red Sox pitching coach for four seasons (’07-10). Farrell is a no-nonsense type of guy who expects the most out of his players, but is also a manager players respect.
Will the starting pitching hold up?
Going into spring training, the Red Sox starting rotation looks to be Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, John Lackey, Felix Doubront and Ryan Dempster. In past years the team has entered spring training with an abundance of starting pitchers. That isn’t the case this season as only Franklin Morales and Alfredo Aceves are others who have real major league starting experience. The more likely scenario is that Morales and Aceves will be in the bullpen as long relievers.
First and foremost the group will need to stay healthy, but also produce. Lester and Buchholz are coming off, arguably, the worst years of their respective careers, while Lackey missed the entire season because of Tommy John surgery.
Can the newcomers make immediate impacts?
Although the Red Sox didn’t make any blockbuster signings or trades this offseason, the team did add some quality players to the roster, and for the team to be successful these new players will need to contribute.
First baseman Mike Napoli will need to stay healthy and hit like he did in 2011 when he batted .320 with 30 home runs. Outfielders Shane Victorino and Jonny Gomes are expected to put up decent numbers, along with being leaders in the clubhouse.
Finally, the bullpen could be one of the biggest strengths of the team assuming newly acquired arms Joel Hanrahan and Koji Uehara pitch well.
Follow Metro Boston Red Sox beat writer Ryan Hannable on Twitter: @hannable84