March 30, 2013

MLB: Sox acknowledge struggles, try to move on

BY JIMMY GOLEN AP Sports Writer

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.

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READY FOR CHANGE: John Farrell takes over as manager for the Boston Red Sox this season as the franchise tries to move on after a historic collapse in 2011 and a disastrous 2012.

AP

Red Sox at Yankees
When:
1:05 p.m. Monday
Probable starters: Jon Lester (0-0, 0.00) vs. CC Sabathia (0-0, 0.00)
TV: NESN

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.

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