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Red Sox season preview

With Opening Day at Fenway Park against the Pittsburgh Pirates on April 3, our staff breaks down the 2017 season for the Boston Red Sox.

By: Sports Staff  (In Order)

Claims like, “the Red Sox are the Golden State Warriors of baseball,” have been tossed around since Dave Dombrowski acquired ace Chris Sale at the deadline this winter. I find it alarmingly shortsighted and forgetful of Boston sports fans to assume this is an easy ride.

The competition is not bad enough to count out. The AL East is shaping up to be a dangerous division, with New York’s prospect-heavy lineup (plus Aroldis Chapman, who we should all be very familiar with) and Baltimore’s all-around talent. Expect a tougher race to the division title than you would think.

Last year’s signing of David Price raised concerns, but not until he struggled through June and finished the season with a 3.99 ERA and 1.204 WHIP. Before then, the only issue was his enormous paycheck. He was praised. Let’s pump the breaks before we overhype this rotation, considering its depth depends on an injured Price, a questionable knuckleballer and the wrong side of an Anderson Espinosa trade.

I picture the Red Sox season going much like the 2017 Super Bowl did for the Patriots. Get clobbered at first. Just when people count them out, they come back from a 25-game deficit. Mookie Betts will do his best rendition of the Edelman catch. And Tom Brady will be at Fenway at some point. All is good.

As this Red Sox season begins, a lot of story lines swarm around this team that exceeded expectations in the regular season but failed to meet the expectations set for the playoffs. David Price’s injury puts a hold on the idea of a three-headed monster of starting pitchers with Rick Porcello and Chris Sale. Without David Ortiz, someone has to step up in the hitting department and Hanley Ramirez, the acting DH, looks to fill those shoes after a terrific season that people tend to forget. Mookie Betts, Jackie Bradley Jr. and Andrew Benintendi look poised to hold down the outfield as Dustin Pedroia and newcomer Mitch Moreland lead the infield. This team has a ton of talent in the field and at the plate, but their pitching is definitely not postseason material. Last year everyone saw how weak the pitching staff actually was, and to advance in October having solid starting pitchers and guys pitching shut down innings out of the bullpen is the key. This Red Sox team will make the playoffs again this season and if the pitchers figure it out, another World Series run is possible.

The Red Sox are entering this season with a lot of hype after adding starting pitcher Chris Sale. I have no doubt that Sale can be the ace this team has been searching for, but this team isn’t guaranteed a spot in October. David Price will enter the season on the disabled list (DL) with a lingering elbow injury that I don’t see going away anytime soon.

If Price has to miss an extended period of time in 2017, Boston’s rotation is all of a sudden not much better than last year’s. If you throw in the massive hole that the retirement of David Ortiz leaves in the middle of the batting order, the Red Sox have plenty of problems entering Opening Day. Newly-acquired relief pitcher, Tyler Thornburg, will also be on the 15-day DL to start the season for the Sox and the bullpen showed last season that it is anything but reliable.

This is still arguably the most talented team in the American League, but I don’t see a playoff berth as a given for Boston. Toronto and Baltimore should once again contend for the AL East title with Boston, but don’t count out the Yankees either.

It seems like every year for the past couple of seasons the Red Sox have had a pitching issue, even with the addition of the new ace Chris Sale. However, the most exciting part about this campaign is how electric this outfield is going to be on both sides of the plate. Jackie Bradley Jr., Andrew Benintendi and Mookie Betts are going to light up this league and Betts is already a front-runner for American League MVP. I expect an AL East division title and hopefully, if the bullpen stays healthy, we’ll be talking about an ALCS appearance in October. For now, enjoy the game and enjoy the season. Go Sox.

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