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Thursday March 6, 2008 9:13 pm

Team Preview: Boston Red Sox

The time has arrived to preview the 2008 defending World Series champion Boston Red Sox. Over the off-season the Red Sox made few moves, and who could blame them? The Bo-Sox finished 2007 with 96 wins and 66 losses, with a team batting average of .279 and a 3.87 team ERA. Boston will enter 2008 with the same batting order and starting rotation, it’ll be up to the rest of the American League to prove to be up to the task of dethroning the Red Sox.

Starting Rotation: The starting rotation for the Red Sox is among the best in the AL. The ace Josh Beckett won 20 games last season, striking out 194 batters in 200 innings. The number 2 pitcher should be Daisuke Matsuzaka. Dice-K struck out 201 batters last season and should only improve in 2008. Expect his 4.40 ERA to fall considerably next season. After that, Jon Lester and Tim Wakefield will take the 3rd and 4th spots. Wakefield still has the best knuckleball in the game, he should win more than 10 games. The 5th spot has left a gap due to the injury to Curt Schilling; the slot will likely go to Clay Buccholz, though he will be placed on an innings limit if that’s the case. Long shots to be the 5th starter in the rotation are spring training invite Bartolo Colon, Devern Hansack or Julian Tavarez.

Bullpen: The bullpen is a definite plus for this 2008 Red Sox team. Jonathan Papelbon, the closer, had a 1.85 ERA last season with 37 saves. The 2 set-up men, Hideki Okajima and Manny Delcarmen struck out a combined 104 batters last season, and had a combined ERA of 2.13. Mike Timlin appears to have slipped a bit; in 2007 the 42 year old had a 3.42 ERA striking out 31 batters in 55 innings. Lefty specialist Javier Lopez had a 3.10 ERA last year. The long man should be Kyle Snyder.

Starting Lineup: One would think that Jacoby Ellsbury would start in center field next season, yet Coco Crisp remains untraded, and slated to start the season in center. In limited action last season the prospect Ellsbury stole 9 bases. The talented but injury prone JD Drew should start in right field with Manny Ramirez in left field. The left side of the infield is solid, with Mike Lowell at third and Julio Lugo at shortstop. Lugo’s average plummeted to .237 last year, but he still stole 33 bases. Dustin Pedroia will be at 2nd base, and the Greek God of walks himself, Kevin Youkilis, will start at first. David Ortiz will DH, he hit 35 bombs last season.

Bench: The Red Sox signed a stellar backup in Sean Casey this off-season, he should get some action this season at first against right handed pitching. Speedy Alex Cora will back up the middle infield. Doug Mirabelli will be the backup for starting catcher Jason Varitek, and on the Red Sox’s current depth chart, Brandon Moss and Jonathan Van Every are slated to be the 4th and 5th outfielders, though Bobby Kielty should give them a run for their money. Former can’t miss prospect Joe Thurston’s been invited to Spring Training.

Overall: The Red Sox were good enough to win the World Series in 2007, and there’s no reason they shouldn’t be in 2008 with such minimal changes. The winning ways in Boston should continue in 2008 when the Red Sox win the American League East division.

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I fixed the wrong info, sorry about that everyone


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