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2. BOSTON RED SOX

Wednesday, March 30, 2005; Page H10

How do you top the team's first World Series title since 1918? The loss of Pedro Martinez certainly wasn't a good way to start. Without Martinez the starting rotation is now suspect.

Matt Clement is talented but often inconsistent. David Wells is a big-game pitcher but is 41 years old. Wells was 12-8 with a 3.73 ERA in San Diego last season but he pitched in what is considered one of the most pitcher-friendly ballparks in baseball. Will he pitch with the same vigor now that he has signed a two-year deal? Curt Schilling will begin the season on the disabled list and is it any certainty he'll return at full strength? Wade Miller was a relatively cheap acquisition, but he'll miss at least the first month of the season with a shoulder injury.


The Red Sox are hoping that left-hander David Wells can toss it around as well as he did last season, when he went 12-8 with a 3.73 ERA for San Diego. (Charles Krupa -- AP)

_____ Breakdown _____
 baseball
Lineup
CF Johnny Damon
RF Trot Nixon
LF Manny Ramirez
DH David Ortiz
SS Edgar Renteria
1B Kevin Millar
C Jason Varitek
3B Bill Mueller
2B Mark Bellhorn
Rotation
RHP Curt Schilling
LHP David Wells
RHP Matt Clement
RHP Tim Wakefield
RHP Bronson Arroyo
Closer
Keith Foulke

Best move: Though signing a 32-year-old catcher to a four-year deal may be unwise, the Red Sox thought it was necessary to hang onto team captain Jason Varitek.
Biggest loss: Pedro Martinez had been the team's best pitcher for the past six seasons.
Top rival: New York Yankees.

___ Team Capsules ___
PREDICTED ORDER OF FINISH
NL East
NL Central
NL West
1. Cubs
4. Mets
4. Reds
   
 
AL East
AL Central
AL West
 


Of course the Red Sox continue to have the best offense in baseball, and it likely will be even better now that Trot Nixon appears healthy. Nixon played in just 48 games last year with back problems and a strained right quadriceps. David Ortiz was an MVP candidate and Manny Ramirez is one of the best hitters in baseball. Edgar Renteria replaces Orlando Cabrera and will likely provide more offense. Jay Payton and Ramon Vazquez will help bolster the team's depth.

Closer Keith Foulke allowed just one earned run in the playoffs last season.

Boston fans might not want to get too greedy.


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