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Thursday, March 21
Boston Red Sox season preview

2001 Record: 82-79, 2nd in AL East
2001 Results | 2002 Schedule | 2002 Roster | 2001 Statistics: Batting | Pitching
Offense (AL rank) Defense (AL rank)
772 runs (7th)
Home: 391 runs (9th)
Road: 381 (tied for 7th)
745 runs allowed (5th)
Home: 4.16 ERA (4th)
Road: 4.13 ERA (5th)
2001 Stats Leaders  
Average: Manny Ramirez, .306
Runs: Trot Nixon, 100
On-base pct: Ramirez, .405
Stolen bases: Carl Everett, 9
Wins: Hideo Nomo, 13
Saves: Derek Lowe, 24
Home runs: Ramirez, 41
RBI: Ramirez, 125
Slugging pct.: Ramirez, .609
OPS: Ramirez, 1.014
ERA: Tim Wakefield, 3.90
Strikeouts: Nomo, 220

 ESPN's Take

Q: Do the Red Sox have enough pitching behind Pedro Martinez to challenge the Yankees?
The Red Sox will score runs with Johnny Damon leading off in front of Nomar Garciaparra and Manny Ramirez. But pitching is the big concern. A healthy Martinez will lead the staff, but then who? The Red Sox replaced Hideo Nomo with John Burkett. While Burkett has pitched great in the NL, the AL has not been kind to him. Can Derek Lowe endure a 200-inning workload or can knuckleballer Tim Wakefield shine while constantly being shuffled between the bullpen and the rotation? There are too many questions and unknowns hovering around the pitching staff. The offense will take pressure, but the Red Sox will break more hearts because their pitching will come up short.
-- Tom Candiotti

 ESPN.com's Crystal Ball
Pedro starts the All-Star Game after going 12-2, 1.78 in first half, but hurts shoulder after striking out Alomar, Helton, Bonds, Sosa, Griffey and Piazza in a row.

John Burkett tapped the mind and style of control master Greg Maddux during his two-year stay in Atlanta, resulting in a career best 187 K's and 3.04 ERA in '01. Now he brings his Maddux act to Boston and AL-only owners should note that his K total from '01 would have ranked 6th on the junior circuit.

When Tony Clark is at his best, he's a .280 hitter capable of 30+ HRs and 100+ RBI. Don't be surprised if Clark is at his best in '02. He's a career .382 hitter at Fenway and has had a hit in 27 of 28 games played there. A strong, healthy spring is more hint of a comeback season.
-- Brandon Funston

Batting order
Johnny Damon, CF
Trot Nixon, RF
Nomar Garciaparra, SS
Manny Ramirez, LF
Tony Clark, 1B
Brian Daubach, DH
Jason Varitek, C
Shea Hillenbrand, 3B
Rey Sanchez, 2B

Jose Offerman, Rickey Henderson, Doug Mirabelli, Michael Coleman, Lou Merloni
Pedro Martinez, John Burkett, Derek Lowe, Dustin Hermanson, Frank Castillo
Ugueth Urbina, Rich Garces, Rolando Arrojo, Darren Oliver, Casey Fossum, Tim Wakefield

Freddy Sanchez, SS
He's been getting some ink after hitting .339 at Class A and .326 at Double-A. He lacks power (3 HR) and doesn't walk (31 BBs) and may be stretched to play shortstop, but if Nomar goes down he may be the best option to fill in.

Catcher: Jason Varitek
A broken elbow sidelined him for the season in June, but he should return at full strength. If healthy, he's one of the better-hitting catchers in the league. Backup Doug Mirabelli slugged .518 after coming to Red Sox last year.

AL Position Ranking: 4th

First Base: Tony Clark
The Tigers tired of Clark's repeated back problems and put him on waivers, where the Red Sox claimed him in the offseason. He also had wrist and shoulder injuries during the second half last year. He turns 30 in June and hit 30 HRs per year from '97-99, so is capable of comeback.

AL Position Ranking: 10th

Second Base: Rey Sanchez
One of the game's best defensive shortstops, if he gets the starting nod over Jose Offerman and Quilvio Veras he should give the Red Sox outstanding range up the middle, something lacking in recent years with Offerman and Mike Lansing.

AL Position Ranking: 9th

Third Base: Shea Hillenbrand
His .263 batting average and hot April (.343) masked his true ineptitude at the plate. His .291 OBP was third-worst among AL regulars and he compensated with just 12 HRs. Proof that not striking out is not always a good thing.

AL Position Ranking: 14th

Shortstop: Nomar Garciaparra
An MVP candidate if healthy, but will last year's wrist injury linger in any way? People talk about his toughness, but facts are facts and he misses at least 20 games per year which means we have to rank him below Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter and Miguel Tejada.

AL Position Ranking: 4th

Left Field: Manny Ramirez
He led the AL with 165 RBI in 1999. He could top that total if the guys in front of him stay healthy and reasonably productive. Last major leaguer with 170 RBI? Jimmie Foxx, 1938 -- playing for the Red Sox.

AL Position Ranking: 1st

Center Field: Johnny Damon
Had disappointing year with Oakland, but that didn't stop Boston from giving him a four-year, $31 million deal. Will provide much better defense than Carl Everett and perhaps provide top-flight leadoff skills. Will likely hit second on days Rickey Henderson plays and hits first.

AL Position Ranking: 5th

Right Field: Trot Nixon
Had a better OPS than league MVP Ichiro (881 to 838), not that anyone noticed. If he can improve .210 mark vs. lefties, he can be an All-Star. Underrated defender, who plays Fenway's big right field nicely.

AL Position Ranking: 4th

Designated hitter: Brian Daubach
Underrated and could be listed higher than below. Best suited for a platoon role (look for Rickey Henderson to play vs. lefties) and best kept off the field, although he can play outfield in a pinch.

AL Position Ranking: 12th

No. 1 Starter: Pedro Martinez
He was 7-1 with a 1.44 ERA through May when shoulder problems set in. A comeback in August was shut down and he finished with just 18 starts. Obviously dominant if healthy, look for the team to give him five or even six days between starts as often as possible. Rough spring has Red Sox faithful at midseason panic level already.

AL Ranking among starters: 2nd

No. 2 Starter: John Burkett
Can he repeat last year's out-of-nowhere season, when he finished third in the NL with a 3.04 ERA? Unlikely, but Red Sox will settle for 4.04 ERA and another 200-inning season.

AL Ranking among starters: 20th

No. 3 Starter: Derek Lowe
Lowe lost his closer role after losing five games by early May. He started three games at the end of the year and joins the rotation full time this season. He relies on a heavy sinker that should produce effective results as a starter.

AL Ranking among starters: 27th

No. 4 Starter: Dustin Hermanson
Acquired from St. Louis for three minor leaguers, Hermanson is a decent No. 4 starter if he can approach 200 innings. Fell prey to the longball last year (34 HRs allowed).

AL Ranking among starters: 29th

Bullpen: Rich Garces, Tim Wakefield, Rolando Arrojo, Casey Fossum
Red Sox relievers were seventh in the AL in bullpen ERA, after ranking in the top three the previous two years. Lack of innings from the starters meant they had the second-most innings pitched in the AL, so they need that workload to drop.

AL Position Ranking: 6th

Closer: Ugueth Urbina
Urbina bounced back from elbow surgery (bone chips) in 2000 to fan 89 in 66 2/3 innings. On the other hand, his ERA was just 3.65 and lefties hit .278 off him.

AL Position Ranking: 7th

Overall Power Index Rankings (AL rank):
Position: 7.00 (7th) | Pitching: 4.83 (4th)

-- David Schoenfield

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