Red Sox add Story, hope to build on surprising run to ALCS
BOSTON (AP) — The Red Sox had the advantage of low expectations last season, when they were coming off a last-place finish and their second straight season without a playoff appearance.
Now Boston is looking to build on its surprising 2021, when the ballclub turned 92 wins and a wild-card berth into a spot in the AL Championship Series.
With one major addition, the Red Sox are hoping to usher in chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom’s era of consistent contending that would follow a decade in which they seesawed between four AL East titles and four last-place finishes.
Their batting order remains strong with anchors Rafael Devers, J.D. Martinez and Xander Bogaerts. But they will need longtime Rockies shortstop Trevor Story to make up for the departures of outfielders Kyle Schwarber and Hunter Renfroe.
And the pitching rotation will have to plug gaps left by the loss of Eduardo Rodriguez and Martín Pérez — until Chris Sale is healthy, and beyond.
The Red Sox open the season on April 7 at the New York Yankees.
For 11 straight seasons, the Red Sox had Dustin Pedroia at second base, and he helped them win two World Series (while also picking up a Rookie of the Year award and AL MVP). Since he was injured in 2017, the team has struggled to find a consistent replacement, with six players spending at least a dozen games at the position last year.
That should change with the addition of Story, who signed a six-year, $140 million deal after the lockout. Although he has never played any position other than shortstop in the major leagues, he will move to second base to allow Xander Bogaerts to remain at short.
For the third straight year, Sale will spend opening day on the injured list. This time, he is recovering from a stress fracture in his rib cage — a setback as he tries to complete a comeback from Tommy John surgery that cost him the 2020 season and all but nine starts in ’21.
Without Rodriguez and Pérez, that leaves Nate Eovaldi at the top of the rotation, followed by Nick Pivetta, Tanner Houck, Michael Wacha and 42-year-old Rich Hill.
For more than seven seasons, Jackie Bradley Jr. wowed Boston with his play in center field but left the city wondering whether it was enough to make up for his light hitting.
He signed with the Milwaukee Brewers for the 2021 season and batted .163. He was traded back to the Red Sox in December to see if he can revive his career.
Matt Barnes won the closer role in 2020 and lost it last season after allowing nine runs in 4 2/3 innings over eight August appearances. He will have another shot this year.
The Red Sox have also added 35-year-old Jake Diekman, who had a career-high seven saves in 67 relief appearances for Oakland last season.
ROOKIES TO WATCH
As the first baseman for the silver medal-winning U.S. team, Triston Casas led the Olympics with three homers and eight RBIs in six games. He batted .279 with 15 homers and 59 RBIs in 86 Double- and Triple-A games last year.
Outfielder Jarren Duran batted .258 with 16 homers and 36 RBIs in 60 games at Triple-A Worcester last season, and he also stole 16 bases. He batted .215 in a six-week major league callup last season.
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