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It is a sign that spring — and dare we dream maybe even summer — is on the horizon.
Boston Red Sox pitchers and catchers report to spring training in Fort Meyers, Fla., Thursday. The rest of the roster joins on Monday.
Three of the new faces set for spring training are Adrian Beltre, Mike Cameron and Marco Scutaro — offseason acquisitions of players known for their defensive abilities.
Their winter signings indicate a shift in the team's approach, away from the Green Monster-bashing days of former Red Sox Manny Ramirez and now-relegated Mike Lowell.
"The Red Sox fans, I think in the past seven or eight years, have become accustomed to a team that most of the time can club the opposition to death," said Glenn Stout, the author of "Red Sox Century," in a WBUR interview. "That's not going to be the case this year. There's not going to be so many 10-8 games. The Red Sox are hoping there's a lot of 3-1 or 4-2 games, with the Red Sox scoring those three or four runs."
Stout said the Red Sox are not alone in baseball with a roster absent many big swatters, as the post-steroids era has many clubs focusing on defense, speed and pitching. Stout also says the offseason acquisitions were partly due to the market of available players.
"I think the Red Sox are taking a big bet with their organizational philosophy," Stout said. "They looked at their team last year, they saw defense as a problem. They looked around to see who was available and saw that by going after defense their dollar went a little farther."
The biggest winter signing, however, was the more than $82 million doled out to pitcher John Lackey, who strengthens an already-potent starting rotation. With Lackey, Jon Lester, Josh Beckett, Clay Buchholz, Daisuke Matsuzaka and Tim Wakefield, the Red Sox have six options for the five rotational spots.
Stout said the 43-year-old Wakefield, who is nearing the team record in wins but coming off back surgery, should be the odd man out.
"I think they hope that those pitchers can carry all the slack," Stout said. "Tim Wakefield is a wonderful backup to have available when and if you need him. The hope is though you're probably not going to need him."
At the other end of the pitching staff is closer Jonathan Papelbon, who also signed a contract over the winter — a one-year deal worth nearly $10 million. Papelbon will use this year to try to erase the memory of his playoff meltdown against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim last fall.
Stout says Papelbon's makeup should help him to get past the poor performance.
"The last test for any great closer or even a very good closer is how they bounce back after a season-ending defeat," Stout said. "I think Papelbon is going to be fine. He doesn't seem like a pitcher who dwells on things."
The Red Sox open the regular season April 4 against the defending-champion New York Yankees at Fenway Park.
Click "Listen Now" to hear the interview with Glenn Stout.
This program aired on February 18, 2010.
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