Five ways this Red Sox team could actually be good


Chaim Bloom gives a GM's perspective of Opening Day

FORT MYERS, Fla. - The question regarding how the manager of the Red Sox felt moments after the final spring training pitch had been thrown wasn't even completed when the answer was shot back.

"Excited," Alex Cora definitively responded.

He proceeded to elaborate.

"Spring training was a lot different than the last two as far as the traveling and all that. It was a lot longer in that sense. Obviously, the guys playing in the tournament. We're in a good spot," Cora continued. "Offensively, we're a good team. We're not perfect. But we can win ballgames, and that's the most important thing. Let's take the season pieces by pieces and see where it takes us. I'm looking forward to get to Fenway. I know there are a lot of pictures of the home clubhouse and all of that. Thank you for that. Usually when we take the flight to Fenway for Boston and the first time they see the clubhouse, you're like, 'Oh, boy. They're not going to like it.' But they are going to like it. I think ownership and the front office have done an amazing job taking care of this group.

"I think the group is united. We're in a great spot. It's just a matter of performing. That's the bottom line. People are going to judge us not because we have a great group of guys and we have great chemistry. It's what you do every single day over 162 plus. When you take those steps, that Green Monster (scoreboard) will tell you how good you are and how much you have to gain ground. I'm excited about the group, excited about the season. Personally, I'm very excited about that. The boys are finally going to enjoy it. They are five so they understand the whole thing, that this is fun. I'm looking forward to them spending the summer with us and enjoy it. Hopefully everybody enjoys it. Be ready for Thursday. It should be a beautiful day as always. It's Opening Day, man. It's great."

FanDuel SportsBook has the Red Sox over/under win total set at 78.5. They have the 19th-best odds (plus-6000) to win the World Series.

Yes, for the first time in a long time the Red Sox can officially be classified as long shots.

But, after watching virtually every game this team played in spring training, it is clear there is a path to contention. It is one with plenty of potholes, forks in the road, and murky visibility, but it is a path, nonetheless.

And while the Red Sox might view this road a bit better-paved than most, there are reasons Cora is genuinely "excited" about what awaits. Let's take a look at the maybes that this club is banking on becoming absolutelys.

Pap has predictions


We all remember the proclamation and the plan when it came to the Red Sox' 2015 starting rotation. A case could be made (and t-shirts were made) that Wade Miley, Clay Buchholz, Joe Kelly, Rick Porcello and Justin Masterson all had the stuff to live life at the top of the rotation, making everyone forget Jon Lester.

Oh, well.

This time around the Red Sox are banking on another bunch of pitchers with potential: Corey Kluber, Chris Sale, Tanner Houck, Nick Pivetta, Garrett Whitlock, Bryan Bello, Kutter Crawford, Josh Winckowski and James Paxton.

It could work. In fact, throughout spring training it actually looked like this was the thing that might have the best chance at coming to fruition.

Kluber and Sale looked close to their old selves. Pivetta's final Grapefruit League outing offered a reminder of what he can be. The hitters reactions to Whitlock and Bello are just different. Before hurting his hamstring Paxton was the talk of camp in terms of how well he was throwing. And Houck, Crawford and Winckowski (who may have had the best spring training of the bunch) certainly offer the kind of depth in the rotation or bullpen any team yearns for.

Yes, there isn't the no-doubt-about-it top of the rotation guy, such as Gerrit Cole, Alex Manoah or Shane McClanahan. But the group possesses potential to find a couple of those sort of pieces.

Kenley Jansen is ready to evolve - as a pitcher and hoop fan


We can't be hypocrites. The knock on this group's team-building philosophy is oftentimes that it is so focused on finding the next diamonds in the rough that the idea of actually investing in the known goes out the window. But this offseason there was an example of Chaim Bloom and Co. paying for past and future performance. That can be found in the Red Sox' late-inning relievers.

Kenley Jansen. Chris Martin. Joely Rodriguez. And even trading for Richard Bleier.

You have your no-doubt-about-it closer. The set-up guy who should be a solid complement to John Schreiber (or even Houck). And the proven veteran lefties.

When pushing the optimism of this group heading into Opening Day, we do have to avert our eyes from spring training. Both Jansen and Martin had very uneven exhibition seasons, with Rodriguez starting the season on the injured list due to an injured oblique. But ... all together now: "Thou shall not be seduced by the Grapefruit League!"

There is also the prospects of someone else stepping up to fill whatever void needs to be plugged. The potential of Zack Kelly. The version of Ryan Brasier that dominated the final month of 2022. The continued evolution of Winckowski. Or maybe even Bryan Mata getting dropped into the big leagues at some point.

At least they know this: This April can't be worse than what we saw in the first month a year ago.


Watching the post-WBC spring training games, you can understand where the manager is coming from when he sings the praises of what this offense might represent.

The best versions of each of these hitters - from first to last - represent really tough outs. Now, it's about uncovering the ceilings instead of the floors.

Perhaps the most important piece of the puzzle resides in the middle of the batting order. That's where the Red Sox are banking on Justin Turner and Masa Yoshida protecting Rafael Devers. Both Turner and Yoshida are heading to Boston carrying the optimism of productive March's (with the exception of one fastball to the face).

But can they be what the likes of Xander Bogaerts and J.D. Martinez represented when the Red Sox were really rolling? At least there is a chance. And then there are the positives that come with Adam Duvall really catching fire in the final few weeks of spring training, Triston Casas looking like he belongs and Christian Arroyo representing perhaps the Sox' best all-around Grapefruit League player.

A case could be made for both good and bad when it comes to virtually every one of these hitters. But, as we put Florida in the rearview mirror, the "good" case isn't all that hard to muster.


This probably doesn't matter all that much. As Cora noted, a team can have the best chemistry, intentions and motivations in the world, but unless you have talent it's all eye-wash.

But the prevailing attitude in Red Sox camp for the last 1 1/2 months did seem eerily familiar to another notable season. That would be 2013.

There is something to be said for a group that is made up of we'll-show-you-30-somethings - as was the case in 2013 - who understand Rudy-on-the-stool speeches don't matter a lick unless you make sure business is done the right way. And it certainly seemed there was a very real focus on making sure there was no room for interpretation when it came to defining how these days should unfold.

Recent history suggests that Red Sox teams who have something to prove usually do pretty well. This seems to be the mantra once again this time around. Listening to Cora prior to the last spring training game, that was pretty evident.

"I have a lot of reasons to go out there and guide this team to where we want to go. We always have the same expectations, just like the fan base and the organization. But there were a lot of things that happened in the offseason that kind of like, 'OK ...' I took it personal. It's not baseball-related. I think it's life related," Cora said. "If I needed a chip on my shoulder than I just got another one. I don't want to say I'm more locked in than previous years, but people lit a fire under me in the offseason, personally. I'm ready to go. I'm really locked in on what I want to do. Some things you take personal and others you just brush away. I think there are a lot of things that happened in the offseason where I was like, 'OK, this is how it goes? Well, let me go out there and do my thing.'"


It sure seems like this guy is on pace to be ready to play in the final few months of the 2023 season. His surgically-repaired elbow hasn't slowed him down when it comes to working out every morning at spring training, with actual swings of the baseball bat now slated for less than a month away.

Contract and expectations aside, we saw that when healthy Story can truly impact a team - both offensively and defensively. And what we should also understand is that of all the players on this club, nobody's value take more of an uptick because of the new rules than this infielder.

Defensively, he possesses the kind of athleticism that these no-shift games will end itself to. And in this new world of the running game actually mattering, Story is due to become even more of a weapon. (He has been thrown out stealing just 30 times in 143 attempts.)

If the Red Sox are still in it come August, this type of player should scratch right where they are itching.

Now, it's just finding that road to those mid-summer meaningful games.

Featured Image Photo Credit: USA Today Sports