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Red Sox gear up for opening of spring training

Truck Day festivities at Fenway Park included tossing souvenir baseballs to fans.

Wendy Maeda/Globe Staff

Truck Day festivities at Fenway Park included tossing souvenir baseballs to fans.

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Had the Red Sox simply been tolerable last season, it would have been a vast improvement. That’s how distasteful the 2012 season was.

The Red Sox arrived at spring training with a new manager, new coaches, and a roster of new players after finishing in last place in the American League East with 69 victories. Expectations were something other teams had to deal with.

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Now, with their World Series rings on order and a visit to the White House on the agenda, the Red Sox return to JetBlue Park missing the easy-to-assemble motivational tools available a year ago.

“We just can’t grow beards again and expect to do the same thing by proving all the doubters wrong,” outfielder Jonny Gomes said. “There has to be something new. But we’ll find it.”

That process starts this week when pitchers and catchers officially report. Then comes seven weeks of figuring out what will drive this particular team. For manager John Farrell, it should be more of what worked so well last year.

“This team was good at focusing on the game that night. We established that as our identity,” he said. “Winning the World Series doesn’t change that. We have to have the same process, the same message.”

Wendy Maeda/Globe Staff

A sure sign that spring isn’t far off, the truck carrying Red Sox equipment departs for Fort Myers, Fla.

General manager Ben Cherington reversed the course of the franchise last year by signing a group of veteran players to short-term contracts. An unexpected championship didn’t change his team-building plans. The Red Sox eschewed high-profile additions after the season, electing to fill holes with stopgap veterans such as catcher A.J. Pierzynski while preserving opportunities for their prospects.

“We had some spots that we needed to fill and we wanted to pursue players in the same context that we did last offseason, guys that we felt fit in with what we wanted to do from a skills standpoint on the field, off the field [and] fit into the long-term plan, too,” Cherington said.

“And hopefully we’ve been able to do that. That’s the intent. We understand that we don’t get everything right, but that’s the intent. We’re focused on building the best team that we can each year and we feel good about the team we have going into this year.”

The Red Sox open camp with some significant questions. The loss of Jacoby Ellsbury to free agency — and the Yankees — left the team without a center fielder and leadoff hitter.

Shane Victorino could move to the top spot in the lineup. Jackie Bradley Jr. and Grady Sizemore will compete to start in center field.

Farrell and pitching coach Juan Nieves have six or seven starters to fit into five slots. The Sox return Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, John Lackey, Jake Peavy, Felix Doubront, and Ryan Dempster from last season. The organization also views young righthander Brandon Workman as being worthy of a starting spot.

Dempster, Doubront, and Workman were in the bullpen for the postseason when the Sox trimmed the rotation. Now more decisions are necessary.

The Sox could maintain their surplus to guard against injury or underperformance. One method would be to use six starters early in the season. That would give Lackey and Lester extra rest after their postseason work in October. Lester threw 34 innings in the playoffs and Lackey 26.

The Sox also could revisit the trade market in March when other teams look to fill holes in their rotations.

In Bradley, Xander Bogaerts, and Will Middlebrooks, the Red Sox could be integrating three younger players into prominent roles. For that trio, spring training is important.

The Red Sox went to the American League Championship Series in 2008 after winning the 2007 World Series. The 2005 team lost in the Division Series after the 2004 team wrote a story that will never be equaled.

“Not World Series teams, but good teams nonetheless,” said Cherington, who has been with the Sox since 1999. “So I think you have to look at what you have and work within the framework of what we have now. What we know is that we felt we had a really strong core returning.”

The Red Sox were the first team since the 1991 Minnesota Twins to go from last place in their division to a World Series title in the span of a year. Now a different sort of history can be made. The 2000 Yankees were the last team to repeat as Series champions.

“It’s going to happen eventually,” Gomes said. “Why not us? I think we’re still hungry. It took me a long time to get to the World Series and it was fun. It would be more fun to do it again.”

Red Sox spring training at a glance

The Globe’s Peter Abraham takes a look at what to expect in Fort Myers:

SCHEDULE

Feb. 15: Pitchers and catchers report

Feb. 17: First workout for pitchers and catchers

Feb. 18: Position players report

Feb. 20: First full-squad workout

Feb. 27: Doubleheader against Northeastern and BC

Feb. 28: Grapefruit League opener vs. Twins

March 29: Camp breaks

March 31: Opening Day at Baltimore

NOTABLE NEWCOMERS

Jonathan Herrera: Utility infielder was obtained from the Rockies for Franklin Morales.

A.J. Pierzynski: Veteran catcher accepted a one-year deal. He represents the biggest acquisition of the winter.

Grady Sizemore: Idle for two years because of myriad injuries, the former All-Star is attempting a comeback.

Edward Mujica: Former Cardinals closer is late-inning insurance.

GOING, GOING, GONE

Jacoby Ellsbury: So much for loyalty, he’s now with the Yankees.

Jarrod Saltalamacchia: The Sox took a pass when he became a free agent, so Salty returned to Florida and became a Marlin.

MAN WITHOUT A COUNTRY

Stephen Drew: He’s still a free agent, meaning the Red Sox could bring him back.

PROSPECTS TO WATCH

Henry Owens: The 21-year-old lefthander won’t make the team but he could set himself up for midseason promotion.

Blake Swihart: Another 21-year-old, the athletic catcher could be the starter in 2015.

Garin Cecchini: Infielder has an advanced approach at the plate.

Deven Marrero: Shortstop made a good impression in big-league camp last year.

POSITION BATTLES

Center field: The Red Sox signed Sizemore to compete with Jackie Bradley Jr. If Bradley doesn’t win the job, he could go back to Triple A.

Rotation: There are six starters for five spots. Somebody has to go to the bullpen . . . or to another team.

Bullpen: There’s a spot or two up for grabs and plenty of contenders, as usual.

SPRING STORY LINES

Repeat after me: No major league team has repeated as champion since the 2000 Yankees. You can expect to hear that a lot.

Peeved Papi: David Ortiz has been lobbying for a contract extension. Will that become a running theme?

More of Les: Jon Lester has said he will take a hometown discount to sign an extension with the Sox. Your move, Ben Cherington.

X marks the spot: Xander Bogaerts will likely start at shortstop or third base. The 21-year-old could be Boston’s version of Manny Machado.

Red Sox spring training roster

Manager: John Farrell

PITCHERS
No.NameHt.Wt.AgeB/T
33Burke Badenhop6-520030R/R
32Craig Breslow6-118133L/L
66Drake Britton6-221524L/L
11Clay Buchholz6-319029L/R
62Rubby De La Rosa6-118524R/R
46Ryan Dempster6-221536R/R
22Felix Doubront6-216526L/L
41John Lackey6-624535R/R
31Jon Lester6-424030L/L
30Andrew Miller6-721028L/L
45Edward Mujica6-221529R/R
44Jake Peavy6-119532R/R
76Anthony Ranaudo6-723024R/R
36Junichi Tazawa5-1118027R/R
19Koji Uehara6-119038R/R
64Allen Webster6-217023R/R
63Alex Wilson6-021527R/R
67Brandon Workman6-522525R/R
35Steven Wright6-121829R/R
CATCHERS
61Dan Butler5-1021027R/R
20Ryan Lavarnway6-422526R/R
21A.J. Pierzynski6-323537L/R
3David Ross6-220536R/R
55Christian Vazquez5-919523R/R
INFIELDERS
72Xander Bogaerts6-317521R/R
78Garin Cecchini6-321822L/R
38Jonathan Herrera5-915029S/R
26Brock Holt5-1017025L/R
16Will Middlebrooks6-420025R/R
12Mike Napoli6-021532R/R
15Dustin Pedroia5-816530R/R
OUTFIELDERS
25Jackie Bradley Jr.5-1018023L/R
73Bryce Brentz6-019025R/R
37Mike Carp6-220827L/R
5Jonny Gomes6-122333R/R
68Alex Hassan6-322025R/R/
29Daniel Nava5-1020030S/L
24Grady Sizemore6-220031L/L
18Shane Victorino5-919033S/R
DESIGNATED HITTER
34David Ortiz6-423038L/L

Nonroster invitees

PITCHERS

50 Jose Mijares (L)

51 John Ely (R)

59 Tommy Layne (L)

60 Brayan Villarreal (R)

71 Matt Barnes (R)

75 Miguel Celestino (R)

76 Henry Owens (L)

78 Noe Ramirez (R)

94 Dalier Hinojosa (R)

CATCHER

80 Blake Swihart

INFIELDERS

23 Brandon Snyder

48 Mike McCoy

74 Deven Marrero

77 Travis Shaw

81 Heiker Meneses

2014 Red Sox spring training schedule

The Red Sox will play 17 games at JetBlue Park, the team’s spring training facility in Fort Myers, Fla., kicking off with a doubleheader against Northeastern and Boston College on Feb. 27.

DateOpponentVenueTime
Thu., Feb. 27 Northeastern, BCJetBlue Park1
Fri., Feb. 28TwinsJetBlue Park1
Sat., March 1TwinsHammond Stadium, Fort Myers1
Sun., March 2OriolesJetBlue Park1
Mon., March 3PiratesBradenton1
Tue., March 4RaysJetBlue Park1
Wed., March 5CardinalsJupiter1
Thu., March 6MarlinsJupiter1
Fri., March 7BravesJetBlue Park1
Sat., March 8Orioles (ss)Sarasota1
Orioles (ss)JetBlue Park7
Sun., March 9PiratesBradenton1
Mon., March 10RaysJetBlue Park1
Tue., March 11Orioles (ss)Sarasota1
Marlins (ss)JetBlue Park1
Wed., March 12OFF
Thu., March 13TwinsHammond Stadium, Fort Myers1
Fri., March 14Blue JaysDunedin1
Sat., March 15PhilliesJetBlue Park7
Sun., March 16RaysPort Charlotte1
Mon, March 17CardinalsJetBlue Park1
Tue., March 18YankeesTampa1
Wed., March 19PiratesJetBlue Park7
Thu., March 20YankeesJetBlue Park7
Fri., March 21PhilliesClearwater1
Sat., March 22BravesKissimmee1
Sun., March 23RaysJetBlue Park1
Mon., March 24OriolesSarasota1
Tue., March 25RaysPort Charlotte1
Wed., March 26OriolesJetBlue Park1
Thu., March 27TwinsJetBlue Park7
Fri., March 28TwinsHammond Stadium, Fort Myers1
Sat., March 29TwinsJetBlue Park1

Peter Abraham can be reached at pabraham@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @PeteAbe.
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