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March 30, 2013

Improved Sox won't be able to hang with league's titans

For the first time in a long time, the Red Sox head into opening day with little hype and little buzz.

A team that used to own the Boston sports scene has been relegated to third or maybe even fourth fiddle thanks to recent struggles and successful teams in other sports.

Despite the low expectations that face the Sox entering the 2013 season, this is still not a team to sleep on, albeit a team that is not a serious World Series contender.

Nowhere to go but up

The 2012 season was an unmitigated disaster for a number of players, and fortunately there is nowhere to go but up. Several Red Sox players had career worst years in 2012 and that simply won’t happen in 2013.

Staff ace Jon Lester was nothing short of abysmal last season winning just nine games and posting an ERA north of 4.00. Last season Lester was a big part of the disappointment, this season he will be one of the main reasons for the team’s improvement.

This spring, Lester has been nothing short of dominant allowing just two earned runs in 24 innings pitched. He will start opposite CC Sabathia on opening day in Yankee Stadium and expect Lester to revert back to his old form as the team’s bona fide ace.

It’s not just Lester that has me feeling optimistic about the Sox pitching staff. Clay Buchholz has picked up right where he left off last season this spring, pitching great and settling into the No. 2 slot. Ryan Dempster in the No. 3 spot gives Boston a very strong trio at the top of the rotation, in fact that trio stacks up with every starting pitching trio in the entire American League East.

Let’s not forget the Sox have quietly put together what looks like a very strong bullpen, especially if Andrew Bailey stays healthy; which is a big if. Joel Hanrahan is a more than capable closer and the Sox have the seventh and eighth innings locked up too with Bailey, Koji Uehara, Alfredo Aceves and Junichi Tazawa. Not too many teams can boast that kind of clout in the bullpen.

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