COMMENTARY| The new season is only a few months away. While there are still plenty of questions, Boston Red Sox fans are ready to move on. Following the worst season in nearly 50 years, fans don't have a lot to hold on to.
However, there were some bright spots, and it's time to find them.
The outfield was a mixed bag in 2012. While injuries hampered the returning players, new guys stepped in all year.
Cody Ross was a great signing for Boston. The former NLCS MVP came in on a one-year deal looking to jump-start his career -- and that's exactly what he did. Ross had one of the best years of his career, hitting .267 with 22 HRs and 81 RBIs. He was also adequate defensively, playing wherever needed. Ross is a free agent but has been talking to Boston about coming back. He isn't as valuable with Jonny Gomes already signing, but the Sox are still showing serious interest.
While Ross was the only outfielder to play over 100 games, there were some others who played well in limited time.
Jacoby Ellsbury dislocated his shoulder early in the year and didn't come back until August. He was slow out of the gate when back but did finish with a .271 average. Ellsbury was also productive in his limited time, finishing with 4 HRs and 26 RBIs in 74 games. He's expected to be in fine health to start next season. It's an important year for Ellsbury, considering he'll be a free agent at the end of the season. If he wants to cash in, he'll have to find his 2011 form.
Daniel Nava was back in the majors for the first time since 2010 and didn't miss a beat. His on-base average was over .350, and he drove in 33 runs. Nava played well in the outfield, finishing with seven assists. He dealt with a wrist issue down the stretch and missed the majority of the second half. However, Boston liked him enough to keep him on the 40-man roster.
Ryan Sweeney was an unexpected starter early in the year due to injuries. He was one of the better bats early, but eventually cooled down to .260. He still didn't show any power but did manage a .675 OPS. Sweeney was very good in center field, but stumbled a bit in the corner positions. His season ended prematurely when his hand lost a fight with a dugout door.
A few seasons back, Ryan Kalish was the next best thing. However, injuries derailed his entire 2011 campaign and the beginning of last season. When he finally got a chance, he didn't do a ton. Kalish managed to hit just .229 with no power in 45 games. A small sample, but the pressure will be on him with other young prospects moving up fast.
After coming back from injury in August, Carl Crawford played respectably. Crawford hit .282 with 19 RBIs in 31 games. And then he was traded. It will never be known if Crawford would have worked out in Boston, but his terrible first year and questionable durability probably made it an easy move.
Scott Podsednik was a nice little pickup for Boston. Acquired in May, Podsednik was called up and he immediately made an impact. He hit .397 in his first two months before injuring his groin. The Red Sox then traded Podsednik in July but picked him back off waivers a few weeks later. He finished the season making a solid contribution. Boston is not expected to bring him back.
There were others who made small contributions to the outfield as well, including Jason Repko, Che-Hsuan Lin, Lars Anderson, Brent Lillibridge, Marlon Byrd and Darnell McDonald. They are either gone or will be in the minors to start the season.
Ellsbury and Kalish will all be back. Gomes will be in, with Ross still a possibility. Nick Swisher has also been rumored, so the unit is not fully set for the spring. Sweeney was recently non-tendered. The Red Sox will be looking for stability in 2013, and durability will be the ultimate key for the outfield.
There's no question these players will be able to hit the baseball, but can they stay on the field?
Chris Sedenka is a Yahoo! Contributor in Sports covering the Boston Red Sox. You can listen to his daily radio show on 96.3FM in Portland, ME or thebigjab.com. He is also the voice of the Maine Red Claws of the NBA D-League.
You can follow Chris on Twitter @ChrisSedenka.
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