Dustin Pedroia ELSA/GETTY IMAGES SPORT FIELDING Fielding was a strength last season during the run to the World Series title. In his first season with the Red Sox, Victorino was the defensive leader en route to his fourth career Gold Glove. He won three straight with the Phillies between 2008-10. Victorino is available to play anywhere in the outfield, and he especially excelled in right field and center field, even at age 33. Pedroia is solid at second base but Middlebrooks is still a work in progress at third base. Pierzynski is a proven veteran at catcher but he’s new to the pitching staff, and that could take some time. STARTING PITCHING Lester and Jon Lackey look to be a strong 1-2 punch for the Red Sox. Jake Peavy, Clay Buchholz and Felix Doubront round out the starting five. Lester was extremely consistent last season, going 15-8 with a 3.75 ERA while throwing 213 1/3 innings. He started 33 games and gave the Red Sox a chance to win virtually every time out. Lackey got stronger as the season continued and wound up winning 10 games. Peavy and Buchholz are both proven starters. In fact, Peavy won the NL Cy Young with the San Diego Padres in 2007. If he can locate his old form, look out. Doubront is unproven but with this staff, the pressure won’t be too high. If Doubront can give the Red Sox production, this staff could be among the best in all of Major League Baseball. RELIEF PITCHING A new-look relief staff sure looks formidable. A bullpen of Junichi Tazawa, Craig Breslow, Edward Mujica, Brandon Workman, Chris Capuano and closer Koji Uehara is as deep as any club in the majors. Uehara had 21 saves and a miniscule 1.09 ERA last season. Tazawa registered 72 strikeouts in 68 1/3 innings, which comes out to more than one strikeout per inning. Mujica was a standout for the St. Louis Cardinals where he had a 2.78 ERA in 65 games. He’ll give the Red Sox some much-needed depth in the bullpen. Look up and down the roster and all you see is talent. Farrell will be able to rest guys because of the depth here. That will help as the playoffs inch closer. MANAGING Give the Red Sox a ton of credit. Following a difficult 2012 season, they weren’t afraid to make wholesale changes. Valentine’s hiring was a mess. Bringing in Farrell was the right move at the right time. The players bought in immediately and it carried over into a World Series title. The veterans respected Farrell and the young players developed quicker than expected. Repeating a World Series title is extremely difficult, but at least the right structure is in place to go for it. Farrell proved his worth last season and who knows, a second consecutive championship could occur. That’s why they play the games.
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