BOSTON (AP) A revamped lineup and change in attitude has the Boston Red Sox looking to repeat a feat they performed just two seasons ago when they went from worst to World Series champions.
Like the hip-hop song they blasted in their locker room after the 2013 division and World Series titles were clinched in Fenway Park, the Red Sox started at the bottom.
They’ve carried the theme over this season.
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”There’s a good vibe going around,” said first baseman Mike Napoli, who rallies spirits in the clubhouse by growing beards with teammates. ”It feels a little like 2013 in here. We’re just having fun.”
During this past offseason, GM Ben Cherington looked to grow a weak offense that finished 11th in the AL in scoring.
Cherington spent $88 million to sign Hanley Ramirez, who began in the organization’s minor league system before stints with Miami and Los Angeles, and signed third baseman Pablo Sandoval to a five-year, $95 million deal.
It was a quick fix for a lineup that lacked pop besides another strong season by Big Papi.
”This has a chance to be a lineup that doesn’t give the opposition too many breathers or take a hitter off – so to speak,” manager John Farrell said. ”There’s the ability to do some damage up and down the lineup.”
The 39-year old Ortiz posted a .263 average with 35 homers and 104 RBIs last season, his eighth time in 12 reaching 30/100 with the club.
The revised order still leaves the question of how Red Sox starting pitching will hold up.
Cherington moved quickly after left-hander Jon Lester opted not to return, signing instead with the Cubs.
The GM acquired right-hander Rick Porcello from Detroit for slugger Yoenis Cespedes, traded for lefty Wade Miley and signed free agent Justin Masterson, who was coming off an injury-plagued season. The trio is expected to join Clay Buchholz and Joe Kelly.
Some have questioned whether they have a top-of-the-rotation type. Buchholz thinks they’ll feed off the doubters and strive.
”I think we’re going to fly under the radar for the most part, which I think is a good thing,” he said. ”At some point they’re going to say, `They’ve got their stuff in order and they’ve got a pretty good staff.”’
They aren’t hiding from how bad last season ended after going 71-91 and finishing 25 games out in the AL East.
”Our record says what we were, and that wasn’t good,” Farrell said.
A FUN TRIO
Just a few days into spring training, Ortiz dubbed himself, Ramirez and Sandoval as ”The Three Amigos.” The three are expected to bring both pop and some interesting times in the clubhouse.
”This will be a lively group and, I think, a fun one to be part of,” Farrell said. ”I think the biggest thing is, they love to play the game. You can see the joy come out of them when they do well, and there’s no question they’ll draw from one another – the confidence they’ll draw from one another.”
NO STICKER SHOCK HERE
The Red Sox pledged more than $180 million to bring in Ramirez and Sandoval.
”The proven power hitter obviously has a hefty price tag attached to it,” Farrell said.
Ramirez hit 13 homers with 71 RBIs. Sandoval had 16 with 73 and won a World Series with San Francisco.
KEEP QUIET AND PLAY
Shane Victorino, who had his 2014 season cut short by back surgery, isn’t about to try to analyze what went wrong last season. He feels like it’s time to move on and make up for it.
”You try to be the best team you can be,” he said. ”Don’t want to sit here and talk about this and talk about that. You’ve got to go out there and do it. There’s no other way of looking at it.”
KEEP AN EYE ON THIS
Ortiz didn’t want to listen to any new rules about speeding up the game by having batters keep one foot in the box in between pitches. He even joked that he’ll run out of money if he’s fined.
”This game has been going on for over 100 years,” he said. ”It’s the nature of the game. I don’t care who you are, you’re not going to change. The pitch comes through, you come out of the box, you come back in.”