Red Sox not running from problems of last 2 years

The Boston Red Sox knew they couldn’t ignore the awful results

of the last two seasons, so they decided to address the issue

directly.

In billboards around Boston and a full-page newspaper ad, the

team presents its motto for 2013: ”What’s broken can be

fixed.”

”It’s a marketing slogan. But I think this one has the added

virtue of being true and transparent,” Red Sox president Larry

Lucchino said as the team embarked on spring training and began the

effort to make fans forget the previous 199 games.

”We know that last year and the final month of the preceding

year were the beginning of a very downward trend for this

franchise, a historic collapse, a disastrous 2012; that it was no

secret that things needed to be repaired, reset, rebuilt, reloaded,

reset – whatever `R’ word you want to use. And that acknowledging

it was probably and honest way to approach the season.”

The first step in the tear-down was the August trade that

shipped underperforming and over-complaining Josh Beckett, along

with Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford and more than a quarter-billion

in future salaries, to the Los Angeles Dodgers. Then they got rid

of manager Bobby Valentine, who was brought in to shake up Terry

Francona’s coddled and complacent clubhouse but made too many

enemies in the process.

”Bobby didn’t go out there and get any hits or make any errors

or do any of that. We lost those games. It’s on us,” said second

baseman Dustin Pedroia, who had never finished the season on a

losing team before. ”I don’t want it to happen again. … We’ve

got to do everything better than we did last year. It was

difficult. We had a tough time. We lost a lot of games. So I think

everybody’s motivated to make sure that doesn’t happen again.”

Now the Red Sox turn to manager John Farrell’s steady and

familiar style to turn around one of the worst stretches in the

history of the franchise.

The former Red Sox pitching coach had been team’s first choice

before it hired Valentine after the unprecedented collapse in

September of 2011. Farrell moved south from the Toronto Blue Jays

to take over the team that is rebuilding after its salary and

talent purge sent it to the bottom of the AL East but provided the

chance at a fresh start in 2013.

Instead of a big splash on the free agent market, the Red Sox

made a series of smaller moves in the offseason, acquiring starter

Ryan Dempster and closer Joel Hanrahan along with first baseman

Mike Napoli, outfielder Shane Victorino and shortstop Stephen Drew.

Outfielder Jonny Gomes and catcher David Ross were also added in

the offseason, and outfield prospect Jackie Bradley Jr. has

impressed this spring.

Pedroia is back in the infield, Jacoby Ellsbury is in center

field and David Ortiz will be the designated hitter when healthy,

which probably won’t be on opening day because of inflammation in

both heels. Third base is Will Middlebrooks’ job to lose, and

Jarrod Saltalamacchia will catch when Ross doesn’t.

The Red Sox are hoping for bounce-back years from Jon Lester and

Clay Buchholz now that Farrell, their former pitching coach, is

back and they are out from under Beckett’s influence. Dempster

solidifies a rotation that was suspect in 2012, Felix Doubront has

the potential to contribute and John Lackey, who missed all of last

season with Tommy John surgery, has a chance for a fresh start as

well.

”Everybody who has surgery has doubt, for sure, when you first

start throwing. Got a big zipper in my arm for a reason,” Lackey

said. ”At the end of last season when I came down here and threw

two innings, I felt pretty good about that. Things went well and I

had a normal offseason and that was nice in terms of confidence

coming into this season.”

Lackey hopes to recapture the form that once made him a Game 7

winner, in the 2002 World Series for the Angels. The Red Sox twice

won the World Series since then, but those glory days seemed a long

way away recently at Fenway Park.

”I don’t think we played to our potential,” Saltalamacchia

said. ”Going through what we went through last year, it wasn’t us.

It’s not Red Sox baseball and we all know that. Even guys that come

in from another team, right away you know what Red Sox baseball is

about and last year wasn’t that. So I think we all have a chip on

our shoulder.”

AP freelance writer Maureen Mullen contributed to this story

from Fort Myers, Fla.