At first sound, it comes off as faint praise for the damned. There were too many games lost by a power shortage or a costly error by the Red Sox bench last year to change many opinions overnight.
But, if one game tells you anything about what kind of season Don Zimmer’s troops might have this year, it could very well be yesterday’s 7-1 victory in the season opener at Fenway Park over the Cleveland Indians before 34,433.
Sure, Dennis Eckersley lived up to his billing as the Red Sox’ best, stopping the Indians on two hits in seven innings. Certainly, one can point to a tremendous three-run homer by Jim Rice, the league’s Most Valuable Player in 1978, and two lesser ones by Dwight Evans and Fred Lynn as evidence that the new Sox lineup has awesome power. And who can quarrel with the aggressiveness of a club that gives a hitter (Evans) the green light on a 3-0 count, or allows a hitter to swing away in an obvious base-stealing situation?
“I knew in my heart,” said Red Sox manager Don Zimmer, “that Remy had stolen that base in the third, and I yelled to Rice, ‘Take It.’ He took it, all right. He took it right over the wall.”
However, one of the most encouraging aspects of the game was that two of the prime movers were players who probably will be sitting on the bench a month from now. That Jack Brohamer and Bob Montgomery realize this and still go out and perform like regulars instead of bench-warmers is one of the reasons the Sox feel that the sorrow of last year’s classic loss to the Yankees will be quickly forgotten. Brohamer went 2-for-4, with a double and a triple, and made five sparkling fielding plays at third. Montgomery was 3-for- 4, including a triple and a double, and caught a flawless game. It made you wonder why he appeared in only 10 games last year and earned the dubious tag of “teacher’s pet.”
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