The Boston Red Sox think they’re capable of winning a third straight American League East title, despite the fact the New York Yankees spent the winter reloading and are the experts’ pick to win the division, if not the league.

Boston responded to the Yankees’ acquisition of Giancarlo Stanton by signing J.D. Martinez. While most people still give New York the edge in power, the Sox think they have the edge on the mound.

The Sox are still a team built on pitching. Starting pitching. Chris Sale, David Price and Rick Porcello are still the Big Three expected to lead the way.

Last year Price contended with injuries and threw a career-low 742/3 innings. And Porcello suffered a major- league worst 17 losses.

But left-hander Drew Pomeranz stepped up and delivered an unexpected 17-6 season with a 3.32 ERA that made him one of the game’s top pitchers. He had the AL’s third-lowest ERA after May 19, and held opponents to two or fewer runs in a big-league best 23 starts.

He gave no indication that any of this would happen in spring training a year ago. He made just three starts last spring and threw only 12 innings after receiving a stem-cell injection to his pitching elbow.

In mid-May, he left a start against Tampa Bay with tightness in his triceps yet didn’t miss a start.

A week later he was on a roll and just kept going. Which is why he’s been telling us for more than a week that this latest elbow issue – he left the March 2 spring-training game with forearm tightness – is no big deal.

He expects to throw a bullpen session later this week and still believes he’ll be ready for the start of the season.

Pomeranz would know better than us, but with just a little more than two weeks to go before the regular season opens at Tampa Bay, there has to be concern he won’t be ready to go.

He would join Eduardo Rodriguez and Steven Wright on the sideline in what would be a real test of Boston’s pitching depth.

Coming into the season the Sox felt they had six big-league starters with a supporting cast of Brian Johnson, Hector Velazquez and Roenis Elias. Now there’s a chance that two of those pitchers will have to make starts at the beginning of the season when the team opens with six games in six days.

The good news is Boston follows that opening schedule with three off days over the next six. Barring rainouts, the Sox won’t need a fifth starter again until April 18 in Anaheim, California, the 18th game of the season. In fact, the team’s fourth starter would only have to make two starts in the first 16 games.

Manager Alex Cora has plenty of time to work things out, and could rely on Sale, Price and Porcello to get him through the first few weeks of the season. Johnson and Velazquez could make a start or two each. And Pomeranz would have ample time to coax his elbow back into shape.

This is an important year for Pomeranz, who will be a free agent at the end of the season. If he comes anywhere close to his success of 2017, he would be in line for a major payday.

It’s also an important year for the Red Sox, who are firmly in the middle of a window of opportunity that has seen them fall short in their playoff hopes in each of the last two years. Cora was brought in to change that, and he’s got the pitching to do it.

That pitching needs to be healthy. And Pomeranz has delivered the first major health scare of the spring.

Of course, it’s exactly what he did last year. And then went on to deliver a season-long performance that was vital to Boston’s success.

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

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