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Sports

Meet the 2014 Red Sox

Like a pack of over-caffeinated teenagers, the core members of the Red Sox kept up a running dialogue via a group text message this winter.

They exchanged photos, videos of their kids and jokes too bawdy to mention. When Mike Napoli was a free agent, they got together and lobbied GM Ben Cherington on his behalf.

There were mentions of the Sox winning the World Series, of course. But come January, warm and fuzzy memories of the fall were quickly shouted down in a flurry of thumbs.

“Turn the page!’ somebody would reply.

At spring training, Jonny Gomes had T-shirts waiting with that same slogan. Turn the page.

It won’t be easy. The Red Sox visit the White House Tuesday and will get their World Series rings Friday. It can be hard to have an edge when everybody wants to congratulate you.

“You see things that remind you of it. But we don’t talk about it,” Napoli said. “You can only look back for so long.”

It will help that the Red Sox weren’t stagnant in the offseason. There’s a new, often opinionated, catcher in A.J. Pierzynski. Relievers Burke Badenhop, Chris Capuano and Edward Mujica will change the look of the bullpen.

Xander Bogaerts gets the chance to show he can play shortstop. Will Middlebrooks is back to show that, for him, 2013 was an outlier. Grady Sizemore returns to baseball after a two-year absence due to injury.

“In our sport, there’s always change and that will be good for us,” Jon Lester said.

The Sox have a deep rotation and bullpen and estimable hitters in Napoli, Dustin Pedroia and David Ortiz. They need Sizemore, Bogaerts and Middlebrooks to settle in and Shane Victorino to stay healthy. But this team may have more talent than last season.

No team has repeated as champion since the Yankees in 2000.

“We’re not satisfied,” Pedroia said. “We showed up to win every day last year. If we do that, we’ll be fine.”

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PROJECTED LINEUP

OF-1B Daniel Nava

  • Fast fact: Nava had one home run in his first 437 at-bats in the majors. He has hit 12 in the 449 at-bats since.

  • Scouting report: Red Sox left fielders hit .278/.356/.434 last season, well above the league average of .256/.318/.406. Nava played a big role in that and should form an effective platoon with Jonny Gomes again.

  • Rookie recall: Nava took a winding journey to the Red Sox, going through two colleges and an independent league. But he played only parts of three seasons in the minors before getting called up on June 12, 2010. He hit a grand slam in his first at-bat.


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OF Shane Victorino

  • Fast fact: Victorino is one of four players to have appeared in the postseason in six of the last seven years. CC Sabathia, teammate Mike Napoli, and Nick Swisher are the others.

  • Scouting report: Victorino played hurt much of last season but still produced at the plate and was stellar in right field. Abandoning switch hitting could make him even more productive.

  • Rookie recall: Victorino was taken in the Rule 5 Draft by the Padres before the 2003 season and played in 36 games before he was returned to the Dodgers on May 29. He did not return to the majors until 2005 with the Phillies.

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2B Dustin Pedroia

  • Fast fact: Pedroia has hit .340 with a .427 OBP against lefthanders the last three seasons.

  • Scouting report: Now that his left thumb is surgically repaired, Pedroia should hit for more power and could have the kind of season where he challenges for a second MVP award. He has another shortstop to break in this season in Xander Bogaerts, but that’s nothing new.

  • Rookie recall: Pedroia was the American League Rookie of the Year in 2007. But he was first called up in 2006 and hit .191 with a .258 OBP in 98 plate appearances.

USA Today Sports

DH David Ortiz

  • Fast fact: Ortiz has 1,758 hits, 381 home runs and 1,245 RBIs as a designated hitter, all career records for the position.

  • Scouting report: Big Papi was a colossus in the postseason, hitting .353 with a 1.206 OPS. At 38, he remains the best DH in the game and a centerpiece of the lineup. Maintaining his health is the only concern.

  • Rookie recall: It was a solid start for 21-year-old David Ortiz in 1997 with the Twins. He played only 15 games but hit .327. But it wasn’t until 2000 that he was in the majors for good.

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1B Mike Napoli

  • Fast fact: Napoli homered off Justin Verlander in his first major league at-bat. His only other homer off Verlander was in Game 3 of the American League Championship Series last season.

  • Scouting report: Napoli deserved a Gold Glove at first base last season and was a productive power hitter. He arrived at spring training determined to refine his two-strike approach and cut down on strikeouts. The Sox hope for more consistency, but accept his ups and downs.

  • Rookie recall: Napoli spent parts of seven seasons in the minors before the Angels called him up in 2006. He drove in 42 runs in 99 games that season.

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OF Grady Sizemore

  • Fast fact: From 2006-09, Sizemore had more extra-base hits (276) than any player in the American League outside of David Ortiz.

  • Scouting report: He hasn’t played a major league game since 2011. But based on his surprising spring training, Sizemore could be an effective replacement for Jacoby Ellsbury in center field. The big question is how many games he can play in a week and how the Red Sox will cover that defensively.

  • Rookie recall: Sizemore hit .246 with a .739 OPS in 43 games for the Indians in 2004. His first home run was off Zack Greinke.

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SS Xander Bogaerts

  • Fast fact: There are seven players in major league history whose name begins with an X. The other six are named Xavier.

  • Scouting report: The 21-year-old is the shortstop after the Red Sox did not bring Stephen Drew back. Bogaerts will have to make adjustments as pitchers get a look at him, but his history suggests he’ll do that. He was too casual at times in the field last season, but Sox coaches will cure that.

  • Rookie recall: Bogaerts is rookie-eligible this season. But he did play in 18 games last season before getting in 12 postseason games and compiling an .893 OPS.

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C A.J. Pierzynski

  • Fast fact: Pierzynski has caught 1,678 games, the most among active players. He is 12th in innings caught since 1969.

  • Scouting report: The Red Sox had little interest in signing Jarrod Saltalamacchia long-term and believe in prospects Christian Vazquez and Blake Swihart. So Pierzynski was signed for one year and looks like a good choice. His offense will lengthen the lineup a bit and his defense is adequate.

  • Rookie recall: It was a gradual breaking-in process for Pierzynski, who played in seven games for the Twins in 1998, nine in 1999 and 33 in 2000 before becoming a regular in 2001.

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3B Will Middlebrooks

  • Fast fact: Middlebrooks has 32 home runs in his first 169 games. The last Red Sox player to do that was Nomar Garciaparra.

  • Scouting report: Outside of the team winning the World Series, Middlebrooks would like to forget about 2013. He had a back injury that was worse than the team let on, got demoted, came back and played well before losing his spot again. Now comes his second chance.

  • Rookie recall: Middlebrooks played in 75 games as a rookie in 2012 before he was hit by a pitch on Aug. 10 and was lost for the season with a broken right wrist.

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STARTING ROTATION

LH Jon Lester

  • Fast fact: Lester has 1,237 career strikeouts, fifth in team history. He needs 105 to pass Cy Young for fourth place.

  • Scouting report: Lester was 24-23 with a 4.17 ERA in the two years John Farrell managed the Blue Jays. He rebounded with Farrell as his manager last season, posting a 2.57 ERA after the All-Star break, then dominated in the postseason. He was sharp in spring training and gets the ball on Opening Day.

  • Rookie recall: Lester started 15 games after getting called up in 2006, going 7-2 with a 4.67 ERA for a team that finished in third place.

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RH John Lackey

  • Fast fact: Lackey has won 138 games since his rookie year of 2002. Only CC Sabathia (177) and Mark Buehrle (153) have more in the American League in that time. Lackey also is third in starts and innings.

  • Scouting report: Lackey missed 2012 recovering from surgery and pitched his way into the good graces of Red Sox fans after a rocky first three seasons. At 35, he’s in a career renaissance.

  • Rookie recall: Lackey was fourth in the AL Rookie of the Year voting in 2002 after winning nine games. He was 2-0 with a 2.42 ERA in five playoff appearances and won the clinching game of the World Series.

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LH Felix Doubront

  • Fast fact: Doubront has won 24 career games, the most for a Red Sox pitcher from Venezuela. Rich “El Guapo” Garces held the previous record of 23.

  • Scouting report: Doubront arrived at spring training in improved condition and that could signal a strong season ahead. Talent has never been a question for him, durability has. He starts the season third in the rotation, a sign of Farrell’s confidence.

  • Rookie recall: Doubront debuted as a starter in 2010 before moving into the bullpen. He played less in 2011 before becoming a full-time starter in 2012.

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RH Jake Peavy

  • Fast fact: Peavy has a Cy Young, Gold Glove and World Series title on his resume. He is the only active player with all three.

  • Scouting report: Peavy is an expensive ($14.5 million) rotation piece in what could be the final season of his career given his stated desire to retire soon. An accidental self-inflicted cut on his left index finger during spring training didn’t set him back too much. That he is the No. 4 starter attests to the Red Sox’ depth,

  • Rookie recall: Peavy broke in with the Padres at the age of 21 in 2002, making 17 starts and winning six games.

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RH Clay Buchholz

  • Fast fact: Buchholz has gone on the disabled list at some point in June in each of the last four seasons. He has made only 27 career starts in June and July.

  • Scouting report: Will this be the season he puts it together and competes for the Cy Young Award? Buchholz has never made it through a full season in the majors. If he does, he could rank among the best pitchers in the American League.

  • Rookie recall: Buchholz threw a no-hitter against the Orioles in his second major league start in 2007. He appeared in only four games that season.

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BULLPEN

RH Koji Uehara

  • Fast fact: Uehara has struck out 332 and walked 38 in 230 major league games. He has 23 unintentional walks in 286 career innings.

  • Scouting report: He turns 39 on April 3 but Uehara looked strong in spring training after a stellar 2013 season. The unexpected closer will be watched closely to guard against wearing down, especially early in the season. But he wants the ball.

  • Rookie recall: As a 34-year-old “rookie” for the Orioles in 2009, Uehara was 2-4 with a 4.05 ERA in 12 starts. In 1999, as a rookie starter with the Yomiuri Giants, he was 20-4.

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RH Junichi Tazawa

  • Fast fact: Tazawa had a 10.13 ERA in nine games against Toronto and a 2.24 ERA in 62 games otherwise.

  • Scouting report: With Uehara as his mentor, Tazawa was durable and efficient as a set-up man during the regular season, then appeared in 13 postseason games. He has closer-type stuff if he’s willing to develop the mentality. Watch for his splitter to improve this season.

  • Rookie recall: Tazawa appeared in six games in 2009 and showed promise. But Tommy John surgery was needed the following spring and Tazawa did not return to the majors until 2011.

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LH Andrew Miller

  • Fast fact: Miller averaged 14.1 strikeouts per nine innings last season. Among pitchers with at least 30 innings, only Cincinnati’s Aroldis Chapman (15.8) was higher.

  • Scouting report: The tall lefty was erratic in spring training after missing the second half of last season recovering from surgery to repair a torn ligament in his left foot. Once he’s right, Farrell will rely on him heavily.

  • Rookie recall: Miller was the sixth overall pick of the 2006 draft out of North Carolina and was rushed to the majors that season at the age of 21 after three games in the minors. He had a 6.10 ERA in eight appearances.

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RH Edward Mujica

  • Fast fact: Mujica was on the World Series roster for the Cardinals last season but did not get into a game against the Red Sox.

  • Scouting report: He could be the Uehara of this season, a former closer who starts the season in the seventh-inning slot but moves up when needed. Mujica was an All-Star last season before injury and ineffectiveness cost him his role in September. At 29, his best may be to come.

  • Rookie recall: Mujica pitched well in relief for the Indians as a 22-year-old in 2006, allowing six earned runs over 18 innings.

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RH Burke Badenhop

  • Fast fact: Badenhop has pitched 62 1/3 innings in each of the last two seasons with exactly 12 walks, 42 strikeouts and six home runs allowed each year.

  • Scouting report: The Red Sox like his ability to induce groundballs and his effectiveness against righthanders (.574 OPS last season). Badenhop could emerge as a righthanded specialist. GM Ben Cherington excelled at under-the-radar pickups last season and this could be another.

  • Rookie recall: Badenhop was drafted by the Tigers before being traded to the Marlins in 2007. He appeared in 13 games in 2008, eight of them as a starter.

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LH Chris Capuano

  • Fast fact: Capuano is married to Sarah Clifford, a Grafton native who nearly made the U.S. Olympic team in 2004 in the modern pentathlon.

  • Scouting report: Capuano was signed on Feb. 22 as rotation depth and starts out in the bullpen. He was 4-7, 4.26 for the Dodgers last season. But his 3.55 FIP (what a player’s ERA should have looked like assuming performance on balls in play and timing were league average) was better than that of Lester. He’s a bargain at $2.25 million.

  • Rookie recall: Capuano was drafted by the Diamondbacks in 1999 but didn’t make his debut until 2003, when he appeared in nine games.

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RH Brandon Workman

  • Fast fact: Workman had a 2.41 ERA in 18 2/3 innings at Fenway Park last season and a 7.04 ERA in 23 innings on the road.

  • Scouting report: He was trusted with the eighth inning of the clinching game of the World Series, so obviously he’ll find a role this season. Workman could one day emerge as a starter, but his stuff also suggests he could close.

  • Rookie recall: Workman had an impactful rookie season in 2013. He appeared in 20 regular season games and seven more in the postseason. Workman did not allow a run in 8 2/3 postseason innings.

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BENCH

OF Jonny Gomes

  • Fast fact: The Sox were 10-1 in postseason games Gomes started last season. But they were a modest 42-34 (.552) in games he started during the regular season.

  • Scouting report: Gomes was an effective pinch hitter (6 for 21, 7 RBIs) but didn’t mash lefties (.795 OPS) as well as hoped. Farrell likes the energy he brings to the lineup.

  • Rookie recall: Gomes was 3 for 29 over 13 games for the Rays in 2003 and ’04 before he came to the majors in 2005 and was an everyday player. He was third in the Rookie of the Year voting behind Huston Street and Robinson Cano.

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OF-1B Mike Carp

  • Fast fact: Carp drove in nine runs in 24 plate appearances as a pinch hitter last season. He had one RBI in 23 plate appearances as a pinch hitter in the first five years of his career.

  • Scouting report: The Red Sox surely could have traded Carp if they wanted. But they preferred to maintain their depth. He had a productive 243 plate appearances last season, collecting 29 extra-base hits and driving in 43 runs.

  • Rookie recall: Carp debuted with the Mariners in 2009. He started his professional career with the Mets organization in 2004 before being part of a three-team, 12-player deal in 2008.

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INF Jonathan Herrera

  • Fast fact: Herrera was obtained from the Rockies in December for pitchers Franklin Morales and Chris Martin. The Sox have made six trades with the Rockies since 2010.

  • Scouting report: He’s an underwhelming offensive player (career .325 OBP), but can play second, shortstop and third. If the Red Sox seek a mid-season roster upgrade, this could be the spot they target.

  • Rookie recall: Herrera played in 28 games for the Rockies in 2008 before he was non-tendered. He re-signed with Colorado and spent all of 2009 with Triple A Colorado Springs before returning to the majors in 2010.

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C David Ross

  • Fast fact: Pitchers caught by Ross have a 2.51 earned run average in 13 postseason games.

  • Scouting report: Ross played in only 36 games last season because of multiple concussions but started six games in the postseason. The Sox hope he can play 50-60 games this season and give them production from the right side. His off-field leadership and contributions to producing game plans for the pitchers is significant.

  • Rookie recall: Ross played briefly for the Dodgers in 2002 before getting in 40 games as a rookie in 2003. He had 10 home runs in those 40 games.

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DISABLED LIST

LHP Craig Breslow

  • Fast fact: Breslow and Ryan Lavarnway were the first Yale products to appear in the same Major League game for the same team since Frank Quinn and Sam Mele were with the Red Sox in 1949.

  • Scouting report: The lefty was held back in spring training to guard against recurrence of the shoulder injury he developed last season. Once he’s ready to go, Breslow will be in the mix as a late-inning set-up man.

  • Rookie recall: Breslow has played for six teams in eight seasons. His debut was in 2005 with the Padres when he pitched in 14 games and had a 2.20 ERA.

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IN RESERVE

OF Jackie Bradley Jr.

  • Fast fact: In 2013, Bradley was the first Red Sox player to make the Opening Day roster without any Triple A experience since Shea Hillenbrand in 2001.

  • Scouting report: One of the reasons the Red Sox let Jacoby Ellsbury walk was their belief in Bradley to replace him. Grady Sizemore has interrupted those plans, but Bradley could eventually emerge as the center fielder.

  • Rookie recall: Bradley made the Red Sox out of spring training last season and started the first 10 games. He started only 16 other games the rest of the season, playing 37 in all.

MANAGER

John Farrell

  • Fast fact: Farrell, Jake Stahl (1912), Ed Barrow (1918), and Terry Francona (2004) are the only Red Sox managers to win the World Series in their first season.

  • Scouting report: Farrell dispersed with drama, held the players accountable, and embraced the virtues of defensive shifts in his first season with the Red Sox. His simpatico relationship with the front office presents a united front.

  • Rookie rapport: Farrell gave chances to Xander Bogaerts, Jackie Bradley Jr., Drake Britton, Allen Webster, Alex Wilson, and Brandon Workman last season. Expect to see more of the same faith in young players.

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