Boston Red Sox: Can Fresh and Refreshed faces trigger bounce-back?

Pitchers and catchers are playing catch, and position players are taking hacks and shagging fly balls. Spring training has arrived (on-time, at that!) and it’s time to welcome new faces into the Red Sox clubhouse and wonder if any of them will represent that missing puzzle piece to an October run. 

A quiet but methodical offseason

While there weren’t any major offseason deals following one of the worst seasons in franchise history, the front office did make plenty of small splashes with a handful of signings and a couple of trades.

Hunter Renfroe, Matt Andriese, Garrett Richards, and Marwin Gonzalez all signed one-year deals ranging from $2.1 million to $10 million. Kiké Hernández and Hirokazu Sawamura both signed two-year deals, for $14 million and $3 million respectively. I’m actually really excited to see Hernández in the lineup on a near-regular basis, likely bouncing from second base and centre field. Plus, he can sport one of the best moustaches in the game.

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The team also acquired Adam Ottavino via a rare trade with the New York Yankees in exchange for cash and a player to be named later. And Franchy Cordero arrived through a trade that sent Andrew Benintendi to the Kansas City Royals. There’s lots of upside to Cordero who’s got plenty of power and tremendous speed that can be a burst of life to Boston’s lineup if only he can stay healthy. He’s only played 95 games through four years in the league.

The long-awaited return of Eduardo Rodríguez and Chris Sale

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Okay, so these guys aren’t exactly new faces, but they sure feel like a sight for sore eyes after spending the last year watching from afar.

Rodríguez recently told The Boston Globe that he’s feeling 100 percent physically and mentally after battling back after missing last season with COVID-19 and myocarditis. If all goes well through camp, he’s expected to resume his role as the squad’s ace. After tossing more than 200 innings in 2019, here’s to hoping he’ll once again be the workhorse we’ve seen, and continue to dominate.

Sale also spent his 2020 season rehabbing following successful Tommy John surgery earlier in the year. He’s expected to make his return to the rotation around the All-Star break. There’s no sign the team plans to rush any part of his timetable which should mean the first time Sale’s taking the mound feeling 100 percent since 2017. He was a force to be reckoned with that season, going 17-8 while touting a 2.90 ERA and league-leading 308 strikeouts.

A familiar face returns to the helm

Finally, one of the most impactful returns will be manager Alex Cora. After serving his one-season suspension for his involvement in the 2017 Houston Astros sign-stealing scandal. As Chad Jennings of The Athletic put it, this isn’t necessarily a fresh start because, if the Red Sox wanted to start anew, they wouldn’t have brought Cora back after his year away from the league. Cora and the Red Sox are together again because the front office has seen what life is like with and without him leading the ballclub. They struggled without him and he’s intent on bringing back his style of play to new and familiar faces in the clubhouse.

“I’m going to do it the same way I’ve done it in ’18 and ’19. Confident, with conviction, and trying to put these guys in situations to be successful, and this is the way I know how to do it. This is what I do, and let’s see where it takes us.”

Red Sox manager Alex Cora on his return to the clubhouse

Cora’s made it clear that improving defensive play is a significant priority after committing 45 errors in 60 games last season. This spring, two practice fields at the team’s Fort Myers facility will be dedicated to infield and outfield defensive drills.

This team’s coming off the heels of a 24-46 record that resulted in its worst winning percentage (.400) since 1922. Sure, it’s only been a few years since they finished last in the AL East in back-to-back seasons (2014-2015) but haven’t I proved to you there’s hope in these fresh and refreshed faces? Spring training is a time for hope, optimism, and plenty of what-if moments. This team went through the wringer last season and I believe they’re ready to climb back up out of the basement and I can’t wait to watch every minute of it.

Like the great philosophers, Chumbawamba once said, “I get knocked down, but I get up again.”

Greg is one of the growing team of writers at Bat Flips and Nerds. You can follow on Twitter @g___desrosiers

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