Spring Snapshot: Healthy Red Sox have healthy goals in ’11

Big League Stew

Every day in spring training until we finish the entire league, Big League Stew takes a brief capsule look at each team we visit in the Grapefruit and Cactus leagues. Next up is City of Palms Park, where the Red Sox hope to make it three's company in their case of recent World Series titles.


2010 RECORD: 89-73, 3rd in AL East

BIGGEST ACQUISITIONS: One offseason after spinning some stuff about improving the team's defense, the Red Sox returned to the land of big free agents, signing Carl Crawford to a seven-year, $142 million contract. They also pulled off winter's biggest trade, finally prying Adrian Gonzalez (right) from his hometown San Diego Padres.

BIGGEST DEPARTURES: A decent amount of star power packed its bags as third baseman Adrian Beltre signed with Texas and C/1B/DH Victor Martinez landed in Detroit.


1. Is everyone present and accounted for? Looking back, the Red Sox winning 89 games in 2010 despite a regular run from the field to the MRI and X-ray machines might be an achievement that ranks with either of the recent World Series titles. Dustin Pedroia, Jacoby Ellsbury and Kevin Youkilis all missed significant time, the rotation had to deal with the usual ailments from Josh Beckett and Daisuke Matsuzaka and nine different players appeared in left field. Save for the odd, errant BP ball, everyone is back and ready for the 2011 season — well, for now, at least — a health report that makes the Red Sox the favorites to win the tough AL East. {YSP:MORE}

2. Where's the weak link with this team? With an ownership group desperate to show they hadn't gone all soccer, all the time, GM Theo Epstein hit the market with an open checkbook. He used the cash to guarantee a premier lineup and bullpen for Boston, but spending sprees in previous years kept him out of the starting pitching scene. And that makes it the biggest question mark when it comes to the Red Sox. While Jon Lester is a good bet to repeat his performance at the top of the staff, no one's quite sure what the team will get from injury-prone Beckett, a declining John Lackey or Clay Buchholz, who's toting an ominous label as a player due for a major stats correction. (He even says so himself.) As for Dice-K regaining his status as a reliable starter, well, um, yeah ... don't count on it.

3. What's up with Jacoby Ellsbury? The speedy center fielder stole 70 bases in 2009, but missed most of 2010 with broken ribs. He says that he is healthy, but there are plenty questions still waiting to be answered. Will he bat leadoff? Will he be as aggressive on the basepaths? Is everything OK between him and the team after he got into that dustup with Red Sox doctors last season? He can be an important catalyst for all of the lineup's big bats, so a bounceback season is important.

4. Hey, what happened to the team's defensive makeover? The buzz term of last offseason is gone — let's face the fact that it was just good PR — and it's been replaced by a compromise of sorts. While the Red Sox lose out replacing Beltre at third with Youkilis (creating an average left side of the infield with 36-year-old shortstop Marco Scutaro), they'll pick up plenty of outs by adding A-Gone at first and Crawford in left.

5. Will Jonathan Papelbon end the year as the team's closer? Oh, is this going to be a good story line to blog about. With Paps not being as effective as he was in the past and his impending free agency looming next offseason, the length of his leash will be a hot topic of debate across Boston all season. If he struggles, might he be replaced by Daniel Bard or Bobby Jenks, both of whom are capable of doing the job? And if Papelbon is dethroned, will the relationship between the two sides stay amicable? It's potentially a big soap opera, even in a camp that seems intent on writing a storybook season.

'Duk is in the Grapefruit League this week as part of Big League Stew's Spring Swing. Follow his journey up and down Florida's Gulf Coast here and through Facebook and Twitter.

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