Posted: 2022-04-06 22:14:30
Modified: 06/04/2022 22:13:52
BOSTON — The Boston Red Sox had the advantage of low expectations last season as they emerged from a last-place finish and their second straight season without a playoff appearance.
Now Boston is looking to build on its surprising 2021, when the ball club turned 92 wins and a wildcard berth into an AL Championship Series berth.
With one major addition, the Red Sox hope to usher in the era of chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom that would follow a decade in which they have oscillated between four AL East titles and last four finishes.
Their batting order remains solid with anchors Rafael Devers, JD Martinez and Xander Bogaerts. But they’ll need longtime Rockies shortstop Trevor Story to make up for the departures of outfielders Kyle Schwarber and Hunter Renfroe. And the pitching rotation will have to fill the gaps left by the loss of Eduardo Rodriguez and Martín Pérez – until Chris Sale is healthy, and beyond.
The Red Sox open the season Friday at the New York Yankees, after Thursday’s originally scheduled debut was canceled by rain forecasts.
New look: For 11 straight seasons, the Red Sox had Dustin Pedroia at second base, and he helped them win two World Series (while also winning a Rookie of the Year award and AL MVP). Since sustaining the injury in 2017, the team have struggled to find a regular replacement, with six players spending at least a dozen games in the role last year.
That is set to change with the addition of Story, who signed a six-year, $140 million deal post-lockdown. Although he has never played anything other than shortstop in the major leagues, he will move to second base to allow Xander Bogaerts to stay short.
To start: For the third straight year, Sale will spend opening day on the injured list. This time he is recovering from a stress fracture in his rib cage – a setback as he tries to come back from the Tommy John surgery that cost him the 2020 season and all but nine starts in 21.
Without Rodriguez and Pérez, that leaves Nate Eovaldi leading the rotation, followed by Nick Pivetta, Tanner Houck, Michael Wacha and 42-year-old Rich Hill.
Old friends: For more than seven seasons, Jackie Bradley Jr. wowed Boston with his play in center field, but left town wondering if that was enough to make up for his light hit.
He signed with the Milwaukee Brewers for the 2021 season and hit .163. He was traded to the Red Sox in December to see if he can revive his career.
Enclosure: Matt Barnes won the closest role in 2020 and lost it last season after allowing nine runs in 4⅔ innings in eight August appearances. He will have another chance this year.
The Red Sox also added Jake Diekman, 35, who made a career-high seven saves in 67 relief appearances for Oakland last season.
Recruits to watch: As first baseman for the silver-medal-winning United States, Triston Casas led the Olympics with three home runs and eight RBIs in six games. He hit .279 with 15 home runs and 59 RBIs in 86 Double and Triple-A games last year.
Outfielder Jarren Duran hit .258 with 16 homers and 36 RBI in 60 games at Triple-A Worcester last season, and he also stole 16 bases. He averaged .215 at bat in a six-week major league call-up last season.