Hope abounds for rebound as Sox open camp

Pitchers, catchers set for first official workout

February 17th, 2016

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- When Red Sox camp officially opened on Thursday, the quest for redemption was underway.

For a team that has taken pride in being a perennial contender, back-to-back finishes in last place were tough to endure.

There is hope all over the diamond that 2016 should be different.

"We made some changes," said first baseman Hanley Ramirez. "We got better in the bullpen. We got an ace. [David] Price is a fighter. He's a competitor. He's unbelievable. I got a chance to watch him from the other side, and when he's on the mound, he's no joke."

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Price -- who was in camp more than a week before Thursday's reporting date for pitchers and catchers -- gives the club the ace it hasn't had since Jon Lester was traded in 2014.

"You can tell immediately the comfort that he has with everything that surrounds his spot on this team, his spot in the rotation and some of the things that are expected of a No. 1 starter," said Red Sox manager John Farrell.

Closer Craig Kimbrel, who arrived on Wednesday, fronts a bullpen that should be loaded. Setup man Carson Smith, acquired in a trade from the Mariners, is another key addition.

"We have guys who can go out there and get you out of jams, and when you can get somebody out of a jam, it's always good to be able to depend on each other, knowing that you have that comfortable feeling that there's guys back there who are good at their jobs and know what they're doing," said Smith.

And those young players (Xander Bogaerts, Mookie Betts, Blake Swihart, Eduardo Rodriguez, Travis Shaw) who created so much excitement during the team's strong finish last year? They were so determined to build off that early success that they've been working out at the team's Spring Training complex for several days already.

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"I think the way young players came up and performed early in their careers, it made a lot of people proud, particularly the coaches and managers who had an impact on those players all the way up through our system," said Farrell. "Their intuitiveness, their awareness of the game, that's what caught the attention of all of us and made everyone excited for this season."

"Everyone in this locker room, everyone who has played this game, all we want to do is win," said Brock Holt, Boston's lone All-Star from 2015. "We've got a lot of talented players in this clubhouse and guys we think are capable of helping us do what we want to do by the end of the year. We got a lot of guys here early and ready to go. I think that speaks to the kind of group we have."

All pitchers and catchers were present and accounted for on reporting day except for righty starter Joe Kelly, who witnessed the birth of his son in California earlier this week. Kelly should arrive by early next week.

Pitchers and catchers underwent physicals on Thursday, and the players went through an informal workout in the late morning. Their first official workout is on Friday. Position players are due to arrive on Tuesday, and the first full-squad workout will take place the following day.

The 2016 Red Sox will take the field in a game for the first time on Feb. 29, when they host Northeastern University and Boston College in a doubleheader. The first Grapefruit League action comes on March 2, when the Twins visit JetBlue Park.

If rebounding from the past two disappointing years isn't motivation enough for the Red Sox, there is also the fact that this will be David Ortiz's final year in the Major Leagues.

"He's unbelievable, his heart," said Ramirez. "David's going to be missed in the game, and I'm just looking forward to him enjoying this year, and maybe he can lift that trophy before he goes."