With bar stools atop the Monster and a guitar-slinging new GM, the Red Sox have exited the Duquette doldrums and moved into what could be a new era for the team. Last year, the team's hopes were pinned on the return of Nomar and the health of Pedro. Not much is different this year, but there's a better supporting cast.
Yes, Pedro is still yellow. The Skinny Dominican still has a shoulder that could break the hopes of New Englanders with another twinge, but as he gets farther from the serious problems and continues to adjust to the changes in his body, the light gets dimmer. What Pedro and Assistant Trainer Chris Correnti have done is nothing short of amazing. The same workout allowed Derek Lowe to make it through the jump from closer to starter and is being used this off-season by John Burkett and Casey Fossum. It's been referred to in the Boston press as "Correnti's I Want to Win the Cy Young Workout." The name may be meant as a joke, but the results have been no laughing matter thus far.
Lowe was a tough decision. On many other teams, I'd be much more worried by what I saw from him and the situation he's in. Lowe visibly tired last year at about 150 innings, but he remained reasonably effective and his mechanics didn't break down. He should be able to go to about 180 innings this year – if they hold Lowe's innings down slightly, I'll feel better. He does have a nice compact motion which lessens the injury risk somewhat.
Burkett also gets a dim yellow. He's more than a year removed from major shoulder problems and showed little ill effect other than erratic pitching. Burkett wasn't in shape last year and his mechanics deteriorated. Some blame was placed on his not staying in Boston between starts, but it is tough to fault a father with family concerns for going home. Burkett's work this off-season should result in some improvement, or at the very least, continued good heath.
In the lineup, we have another set of dim yellow lights. Nomar Garciaparra is a year removed from his wrist problems, and while he did have a problem with the other wrist last season, I'm less worried about a recurrence this year. Distance to injury is a good thing. It's a similar situation with Bill Mueller. He'll never have quite the same range he did before shattering his knee in Wrigley, but he's still a better defensive option than Shea Hillenbrand. The Red Sox also have another option at third in minor-league free agent acquisition Chris Coste. PECOTA has the three of them in the low-to-mid-700 OPS range, which won't help this team much, but all three have breakout potential.
New DH David Ortiz has a history of nagging ailments and a need for a platoon partner. Johnny Damon's knee doesn't bother me after a full off-season of healing time. The Sox lack depth and minor league insurance for their star players, but they have enough pieces to get through everything but a catastrophic loss.
Do the Sox have enough to beat the Yankees? On paper, no, but injuries – or the lack thereof – could be a deciding factor. As the mainstream press watches Lucchino vs. Steinbrenner and Pedro vs. Clemens, I'll be watching whether Jim Rowe or Gene Monahan can keep his team healthier.