BOSTON (CBS) – Play Ball!
It is opening day for the Red Sox, as they get set to take on the defending American League champion Texas Rangers.
“I’m excited,” new first baseman Adrian Gonzalez said, ready to make his Red Sox debut after a summer full or transition and shoulder rehab. “It’s a long time coming now and all the energy and hopefully the possibility of winning a World Series starts today.”
After a rash of injuries and missing the postseason in 2010, there is plenty of reasons for Boston to be confident in 2011. Leaders like Dustin Pedroia and Kevin Youkilis are back from injuries, and will be joined in the lineup by Gonzalez and Carl Crawford. As for the rotation, Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz are coming off career years, and Josh Beckett is looking to bounce back after an injury-plagued 6-6 2010. The bullpen has also been revamped, with the addition of Bobby Jenks and Dan Wheeler to provide help for closer Jonathan Papelbon and Daniel Bard.
“We have a lot of hype with the team we have, but we still have to go out and perform,” Opening Day starter Jon Lester said. “I think guys are going to do that. Are guys going to struggle? Sure. Guys are not going to get of to good starts, or start hot and slow down. It’s a long season, baseball is weird. You just have to take the good with the bad and try not to make that roller coaster ride too much of an up and down.”
Dan Roche With Opening Day Starter Jon Lester
“We’re looking good,” DH David Ortiz said, who after a slow start to 2010 ended up with 32 home runs and 102 RBIs. “Hopefully God keeps on blessing us and keeps all those injuries away from this ball club so we can fulfill all those expectations for us.”
“Health is always a big factor,” Lester added. “I think the biggest thing for us to just go out and play. Not to worry about what people say about us or what they expect for us. It’s a matter of going out and playing, and knowing everyone out there has each others back and well see what happens in September and October.”
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Much like 2010, it seems like injuries could be the only thing that could derail the special season that lies ahead. The Red Sox are favored by nearly everyone to win the World Series. Sports Illustrated picks them to not only win it all, but hit the 100-win mark.
The team knows they are good, but there is still a full season of baseball left to be played.
“It’s just paper,” third baseman Kevin Youkilis said of all the predictions and praise. “It’s a lot of talk. You’ve got to play the game, no matter what it says on paper.”
“I don’t ever base my optimism on the pundits,” Manager Terry Francona said. “I like our team. I like the way we worked in spring training and I like our talent. But 162 games is a long year. We’re excited and now we have to go show it.”
Although they will not buy into all the hype and predictions, Boston does know they have a great chance to bring home the Red Sox’ third World Series in eight years.
“That’s the joy of playing for the Boston Red Sox,” Lester says, “you know every year coming into spring training, regardless of who says what about our team, were going to have a chance to win. Just with the core guys we’ve had, you’re always going to be in contention.”
“I’m really hungry for that,” Crawford said of getting a World Series ring. “I don’t have one, a few of my friends have one. Older guys that have one tell me about it, and the good thing is these guys in the clubhouse are just as hungry as I am.”
“I’ve got two rings sitting at home and I never look at them,” Youkilis said. “For me I just want as many rings I can possibly have. It means a lot of success and a lot of hard work paid off. For me it would be great to get a ring, but first things first, we have to win the first series of the year and beat the Texas Rangers.”