BOSTON (AP) — Five things to know about the Boston Red Sox as they start spring training camp:
STOCKED WITH STARTERS: Begin with Jon Lester. Then continue with Clay Buchholz, John Lackey, Jake Peavy, Felix Doubront and Ryan Dempster. The Red Sox are loaded with solid veteran starters and promising youngsters Brandon Workman, Allen Webster and others awaiting their turns. Lester is set to make $13 million in the final year of his contract and says he’d like to sign an extension during spring training. “I want to be here until they have to rip this jersey off my back,” he said. Lester pitched a career-high 213 1-3 innings last year with a 15-8 record and 3.75 ERA. He went 4-1 in the postseason, capped by a 2-0 record and 0.59 ERA in Boston’s World Series victory over the St. Louis Cardinals.
DEEP LINEUP: The Red Sox lost speedy Jacoby Ellsbury, their outstanding leadoff hitter, to the New York Yankees in free agency, but the heart of their lineup remains with David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia and Mike Napoli. New catcher A.J. Pierzynski has been better offensively than the player he replaces, Jarrod Saltalamacchia. Xander Bogaerts contributed as a rookie after coming up late in the season and started all six World Series games at third base. The Red Sox led the majors in runs and were second in batting average.
CENTER OF ATTENTION: With Ellsbury gone, the Red Sox are pinning their hopes on young Jackie Bradley Jr. or Grady Sizemore to fill the gap in center field. Bradley had an excellent 2013 spring training but faltered after that and spent most of the season in the minors. Sizemore missed the past two seasons after operations on his right knee and back but was an All-Star from 2006-08. If both struggle, the Red Sox could move Shane Victorino from right field to center and fill the corner spots with returnees Daniel Nava, Jonny Gomes and Mike Carp.
WHAT A RELIEF: As if having closer Koji Uehara and setup men Junichi Tazawa and Craig Breslow wasn’t enough, the Red Sox added Edward Mujica to their bullpen. Mujica was an All-Star last season when he had 37 saves and a career-best 2.78 ERA with St. Louis. A rough September cost him his closer’s role and he pitched only two postseason innings. He provides insurance for Uehara, who turns 39 on April 3. Last season, his first with Boston, Uehara was 4-1 with a 1.09 ERA. In 74 1-3 innings, he had 101 strikeouts and allowed just nine walks and 33 hits.
BYE-BYE BEARDS: The bushy beards that blossomed as the Red Sox drove to their championship are on their way out. Gomes planned to ditch his before spring training. Ortiz and Victorino cut theirs off in a charity event shortly after the World Series. Growing the beard “was a pretty cool experience,” Gomes said. “We want to bottle it up and enjoy it.” Manager John Farrell said the Red Sox agreed “that when we get on the field we’ll be cleaned up.”