By Twitter user @RedSox

Play ball: Red Sox swing into season

April 5, 2017

After a cold and inconsistent winter, Fenway Park is finally cleared of snow and the tune of Sweet Caroline will fill the air again.

While all of New England had been bracing the weather, the Red Sox had been training in Fort Myers, FL to prepare to take the field for the start of the 2017 baseball season.

This season will bring many new changes for the team with the loss of their veteran designated hitter David Ortiz after he retired last season.

Ortiz finished the final season of his 20 year career leading the American League (AL) in slugging percentage (.622), runs batted in (127) and doubles (48).

Players, like right fielder Mookie Betts and first baseman Hanley Ramirez, looks to continue to help and contribute to their team’s success this season.

Betts will strive to show that he is a rising star this season by coming up big defensively at times when his team needs him the most.

“It’s different for me this year just knowing in the back of my mind that I can do it, and don’t need to force it,” said Betts to The Boston Globe. “When you try to force things and do too much, bad things happen.”

The 24-year-old standout was the first player to reach 200 hits in the Major League Baseball (MLB) last year. He finished the season with an impressive .318 average, 31 home runs and an MLB season best 359 total bases. Betts will be one to keep an eye on as he progressively starts to heat up.

Many fans lost faith in Ramirez when he first came back to Boston in 2015 after he had struggles playing left field. After last season, it was quite evident that Ramirez stepped up his game.

Ramirez had a smoother run playing at first base and ended the 2016 with a .286 batting average, 30 home runs and 111 RBIs.

Players such as first baseman Mitch Moreland and rookie Andrew Benintendi will also be expected to step up to the plate.

Last season Benintendi had a .295 batting average, .835 on-base plus slugging (OPS) percentages and according to Bleacher Report this year is a favorite to be a contender for AL Rookie of the Year. They also reported that Moreland is predicted to hit at least 20 home runs.

This season will also bring along the addition of White Sox ace Chris Sale, who was acquired for prospects such as Yoan Moncada. Sale has a career 74 wins, 3.00 ERA and 1244 strikeouts.

“I can’t tell you how excited I am,” said Sale to USA Today. “This is everything I wanted. I’m going to an organization very rich in history, and even more recently, a very winning tradition. And I get to pitch at Fenway Park, one of the greatest wonders of the world. How can you beat this?”

With the loss of bullpen pitchers Koji Uehara and Junichi Tazawa, Boston also added right hand pitcher Tyler Thornburg in order to balance out their roster. Currently Thornburg will start the season on the disabled list (DL) due to a right shoulder injury.

Thornburg is not the only player who finds himself on the DL so early into the season, as top starter David Price is out with an elbow injury. Pitchers Eduardo Rodriguez, Steven Wright and Drew Pomeranz will take over until he returns.

No one is quite sure when Price will make his return yet as the recovery process has been a slow one.

Right-hand pitcher Rick Porcello will look to perform as well. Last season he gained the title of AL Cy Young Winner for his remarkable performance.

Porcello finished with a 22-4 record and an earned run average (ERA) of 3.15. He also pitched a total of 223 innings, struck out 189 batters and walked only 32 men.

Porcello got the nod to be the starter for Opening Day at Fenway Park on Monday versus the Pittsburgh Pirates.

“I think there’s a lot to be said for the year Rick had, the leader he’s become on our team, and the dependable pitcher that he is,” Head Coach John Farrell said to the media in early March.

Boston opened the season with their first win Monday with a 5-3 victory over the Pirates. Porcello had a solid first Opening Day start, pitching 6 1/3 innings leaving the Pirates scoreless over the first six innings. In the end, Porcello gave up six hits, three earned runs and had five strikeouts.

With an overall record of 93-69 last season the Sox should have no problem reaching at least 90 wins this season because a majority of their roster will stay consistent. The additions that they made in the offseason will only contribute to their success.

One big factor that will contribute to this season’s outcome is how well Boston’s bullpen can perform. Pitcher Craig Kimbrel failed to stay consistent last season and with Thornburg already on the DL, there are some concerns on how the bullpen will hold up.

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