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Three guys the Sox just can’t live without

With position players reporting today, it’s time to turn thoughts away from the pitching staff. Here’s three stars who need to excel for the Sox to shine.

Early spring? You better believe it, and not just because we’re pushing a steamy 50 degrees today.

The Red Sox are now fully assembled in Fort Myers, Fla., with position players reporting today. And what a position Boston finds itself in, having re-stocked its everyday lineup with two of the biggest acquisitions of the offseason.

But as the team learned the hard way in 2010, a mighty lineup on paper only goes so far, especially when big parts of it can’t get onto the field. Same goes for ’11, where the loss of any of these three players could spell doom:

2B Dustin Pedroia
Of all the injuries that helped derail the 2010 season, the loss of Pedroia to a broken foot in June may have hurt the most, removing a critical bat at the top of the order and an underrated glove up the middle of the infield.

Quality second basemen are at a premium, and the Red Sox can ill-afford to lose the All-Star they rely so heavily upon.

1B Adrian Gonzalez
The Red Sox will ask Gonzalez to anchor the lineup, much the way Manny Ramirez did from the right side for all those years. The way pitching staffs deal with the Red Sox will start with Gonzalez, who could be primed for a 40-homer season.

And his defense cannot be overlooked, either. Kevin Youkilis can only play one corner at a time.

OF Carl Crawford

Somehow, the Red Sox managed to get through last season covering for the loss of both Jacoby Ellsbury and Mike Cameron with contributions from a rogue’s gallery of Nava, McDonald and Kalish. But they didn’t throw all that money at Crawford for nothing, and his multi-pronged value cannot be replicated.

 
 
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