Let baseball season begin

January, 20, 2014
Jan 20
12:00
AM ET
BOSTON -- With all due respect to the Bruins, Celtics and our college basketball and hockey teams, the Patriots’ loss to the Broncos Sunday in the AFC Championship Game means baseball season is upon us. Here are a few things to bring you up to speed.

Forecast for Fort Myers on Monday: Partly cloudy, high of 73.

Days until the equipment truck leaves Fenway Park: 19 (all dates are from Monday). It’s scheduled to depart on Feb. 8.

Days until Sox pitchers and catchers report: 26. Reporting date is Feb. 15. Physicals will be held the next day, with first workout scheduled for the 17th. The full squad report on the 18th, with the first full-squad workout scheduled for the 20th.

Days until the exhibition doubleheader against Boston College and Northeastern: 38. The Sox will play games against the Eagles and Huskies on Feb. 27.

Days until the first game of the Grapefruit League exhibition schedule: 39. The Sox will host the Minnesota Twins on Feb. 28.

Days until Opening Day: 70. The Red Sox are scheduled to open the season March 31 against the Baltimore Orioles in Oriole Park at Camden Yards. First pitch: 3:05 p.m.

[+] EnlargeJon Lester
Jamie Squire/Getty ImagesLeft-hander Jon Lester could be in line for a big payday this spring.
Days until the home opener in Fenway Park: 74. The Sox will host the Milwaukee Brewers at Fenway Park. First pitch: 2:05 p.m.

Notable new faces: There will be a new catcher, A.J. Pierzynski, and a couple of new right-handed relievers, Edward Mujica and Burke Badenhop. There’s also a new utility infielder, Jonathan Herrera.

Who’s gone: Jacoby Ellsbury is with the Yankees, and Jarrod Saltalamacchia with the Marlins, both having left as free agents. Closer Joel Hanrahan, who underwent Tommy John surgery, is unsigned, while closer Andrew Bailey, who had shoulder surgery, was nontendered and also is unsigned. Left-handed reliever Franklin Morales was dealt to the Rockies. Backup outfielder Quintin Berry signed a minor-league deal with the Orioles, with an invitation to big-league camp. Backup infielder John McDonald signed a minor-league deal with the Angels, with an invitation to big-league camp.

Unfinished business: Free agent shortstop Stephen Drew has not yet signed; there’s an outside chance he could come back to the Sox if the right multiyear deal doesn’t materialize elsewhere. Left-handed reliever Andrew Miller was offered a token raise by the Sox and could take the team to an arbitration hearing if the sides can’t strike a deal. The Sox could still trade a veteran starting pitcher to open payroll space to re-sign Drew. The Sox are expected to engage left-hander Jon Lester in contract extension talks during camp; Lester’s prospects for a huge payday brightened dramatically when the Dodgers signed Clayton Kershaw to a seven-year, $215 million contract. At some point, the Sox also will open a dialogue with David Ortiz about an extension, although the club doesn’t seem to feel any urgency to do so. NESN has yet to announce whether beloved broadcaster Jerry Remy will return this season.

Rookie watch: Center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. and shortstop Xander Bogaerts are expected to break into the starting lineup. Catchers Christian Vazquez and Blake Swihart both will be in big-league camp, as well as outfielders Bryce Brentz and Alex Hassan and a host of young pitchers, highly regarded left-hander Henry Owens and right-handers Matt Barnes and Anthony Ranaudo joining such promising returnees as Allen Webster and Rubby de la Rosa.

Job competition: The lineup looks set, assuming GM Ben Cherington makes no further changes. If the Sox re-sign Drew, a battle could develop between Bogaerts and Will Middlebrooks for third base. There should be competition in the rotation behind the first four of Lester, Clay Buchholz, John Lackey and Jake Peavy. Felix Doubront would appear to have an edge for the fifth spot over Ryan Dempster, although Brandon Workman cannot be ruled out of making a bid. It would not be a shock to see the Sox trade a pitcher late in camp. Catcher Ryan Lavarnway, who has yet to claim a regular roster spot, will be making what could be a last push to prove he belongs in the Sox future.

Injury watch: Second baseman Dustin Pedroia had surgery to repair a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his left thumb in November and is expected to be ready for spring training. Outfielder Shane Victorino had nerve release surgery on his right thumb in December and also is expected to be ready for spring training. The Sox may choose to ease both players into camp activity. Miller, who had surgery to repair a torn ligament in his left foot last July, also is said to be 100 percent coming into camp.

Social note: Rookie Bradley Jr. was married in the offseason.

Odds on Sox to win the World Series [Bovada Sportsbook]: 12-1.

Gordon Edes

Red Sox reporter, ESPNBoston.com

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