CLEVELAND — It’s Opening Day, for the Red Sox and there is cause for legitimate optimism.
The Sox have a true ace in David Price and a lockdown closer in Craig Kimbrel, two important pieces for a championship team. Mookie Betts and Xander Bogaerts are exciting young talents, a pair of 23-year-olds who can be All-Stars and get MVP votes. They’re that good.
David Ortiz remains one of the best designated hitters in the game and is capable of another 30 home runs and 100 RBIs before he retires.
Dustin Pedroia had an .819 OPS before he tore his hamstring last season. His spring training swings and range on defense were reminiscent of what he showed in 2013.
Hanley Ramirez, mercurial as he may be, actually looks good at first base and could drive in a bunch of runs hitting fifth. Young players like Blake Swihart, Jackie Bradley Jr., Travis Shaw, and eventually Christian Vazquez are promising.
If the Sox aren’t at least second or third in the league in scoring, it would be a surprise.
But in the Globe’s season preview section on the Red Sox, I did not select them to make the postseason.
It’s because of the rotation. Outside of Price, it’s hard to find a starter to trust. Clay Buchholz, until he proves otherwise, can’t be counted on for 30 starts. Rick Porcello was rocked in spring training. Joe Kelly has yet to get through an entire big league season in anybody’s rotation, and the same is true of Steven Wright.
Eduardo Rodriguez is undeniably talented but won’t be back anytime soon. It has been six weeks since he injured his right knee, and the lefty has yet to pitch in a game.
This season could hinge on whether Dave Dombrowski can obtain a starter to put behind Price. But this season, unlike last, will not have a trade market flooded with would-be free agents.
I see the Red Sox as an 85-win team, much better than a year ago but not quite good enough for the playoffs. Another last-to-first run seems like too much to expect.
That should keep manager John Farrell around.
A few other notes and observations on the Sox:
■ Per the Associated Press, Price has the third-highest salary in baseball this season at $30 million. Only Clayton Kershaw ($33 million) and Zack Greinke ($31.79 million) are above him.
Ramirez is 18th at $22.75 million, with Porcello 35th at $20.12 million. Porcello’s agent, Jim Murray, was some kind of genius to get that deal a year ago.
Ortiz continues to be a bargain for the Red Sox. There are 56 players in the game making more than his $16 million. That includes the likes of Ryan Braun, Shin-Soo Choo, Andre Ethier, Josh Hamilton, Matt Kemp, Joe Mauer, CC Sabathia, Pablo Sandoval, and James Shields.
■ In terms of team payrolls for this season, the Red Sox are fourth at $190.37 million. The Dodgers ($233.9 million), Yankees ($225.2 million), and Tigers ($196.4 million) are ahead of them.
Those are payrolls for 25-man rosters. When computed for luxury tax purposes, the Sox are well over $200 million.
There are 10 teams under $100 million, with the Brewers last at $62.6 million.
■ The Red Sox’ Triple A rotation will be William Cuevas, Roenis Elias, Brian Johnson, Sean O’Sullivan, and Henry Owens. It’ll be interesting who is first in line when a need arises in the big leagues. Talk about opportunity.
■ The top players at Single A Greenville last season — Rafael Devers, Yoan Moncada, Maurico Dubon, etc. — all were assigned to High Single A Salem. The Sox do not want Moncada skipping any steps. Anderson Espinoza, only 18, will stay in Greenville for now.
■ Spring training sensation Sam Travis will be the first baseman at Pawtucket. Go to McCoy Stadium and see this guy play. He’s like a bigger Pedroia in terms of intensity.
■ MLB will introduce iPads in the dugouts Monday. Teams will be allowed to download video and scouting information for use during games. Farrell said he plans to use them, but also will have the printouts he has become accustomed to using.
■ The Red Sox’ Opening Day roster has players from six countries (United States, Japan, Aruba, Dominican Republic, Venezuela, and Cuba) and 12 states. There are four Californians, three Texans, and two Tennesseans.
■ Betts (24) had the most hits and home runs (four) in spring training. Shaw (23) played the most games and led the team in RBIs (13).
Among players with at least 30 at-bats, Travis (1.147) and Bradley (1.035) had the highest OPS.
Wright (26) pitched the most innings with Kelly’s 22 strikeouts leading the way.
■ As for me, this is my 14th season covering baseball, and every Opening Day feels like the first day of school, only so much more fun. Here’s hoping we all enjoy what the season has in store for us and that it gets warmer in Cleveland.
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