The Boston Red Sox get back to work this week, hoping their actions speak loud enough to get the attention of New England fans.

It has been a quiet few months for the Sox, who made their big news last fall after being ousted in the first round of the playoffs for the second consecutive year. Winning the AL East for the second straight year – something the franchise had never done before – would be an accomplishment celebrated in most baseball markets.

Not in Boston. Within days, the regular-season AL East champs had fired Manager John Farrell and replaced him with Alex Cora. Practically the entire coaching staff has been changed as well. The Red Sox are hoping the energetic Cora is able to coax a better postseason performance out of his roster.

It is, essentially, the same roster that Farrell had last season. There have been no major free-agent additions. That could change in the days ahead, with more than 100 free agents still sitting on the sideline as spring training begins. J.D. Martinez, the man most fans have identified as the hitter most likely to help the Sox, is still out there looking for a long-term deal.

For now, Cora will have to assume Martinez is not walking through that door anytime soon. He’ll have to make plans to compete with the hand he’s being dealt, hoping it’s good enough to compete with a Yankees team that has a frightening amount of power in the lineup after the addition of Giancarlo Stanton.

Boston’s best hope of competing with New York, or any other team for that matter, is to get even better performances from the pitching staff in 2018.

The Red Sox posted a 3.70 ERA in 2017, second best in the American League. That number was bolstered by a bullpen that was one of the best in the game. Red Sox relievers had an ERA of 3.15 last season, second best in baseball and nearly a full run lower than the starters’ ERA (4.06.)

That came as a surprise, since the Sox went into last season believing they had built one of the best starting rotations in the game. That rotation returns intact and has the potential to be even better in 2018.

That hope begins with David Price, who made only 11 starts in 2017 and threw a career-low 742/3 innings as he pitched through arm trouble. It has been a rocky two years in a Red Sox uniform for Price, who pitched brilliantly out of the bullpen in the playoffs last fall. Price has repeatedly said he believes he will win Sox fans back over if he performs on the field. That test begins now.

Rick Porcello is also trying to re-establish himself as a premier pitcher. He lost a Major League-leading 17 games last season after winning the Cy Young Award in 2016. We know that wins and losses don’t truly quantify a pitcher’s success, but we also know you never want to have the most losses in the game. In 10 of those 17 losses, Porcello received zero runs of support. He received one or two runs in the other seven. So, the Red Sox were 11-0 when Porcello received three or more runs of support. He would hope to get more support in the coming year.

A year ago, the Sox envisioned a Big Three at the top of the rotation that would lead them deep into the playoffs. That didn’t materialize, even as Chris Sale turned in one of the great full-season pitching performances in Red Sox history. It could happen in 2018 if Price and Porcello come even close to the domination they have shown in the past.

For the second straight year, this team is built on pitching. While the offense still may get help from outside sources (we’re looking at you, Mr. Martinez), the starting rotation has the potential to be even better than last season. That’s where hope for the 2018 Red Sox begins.

Tom Caron is a studio host for the Red Sox broadcast on NESN. His column appears in the Portland Press Herald on Tuesdays.

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.