Farrell, Bogaerts optimistic about young core

Players, manager talk offseason changes, Papi's retirement

January 21st, 2016

BOSTON -- Technically, the purpose of Thursday night's 77th annual Boston Baseball Writers Dinner was for several Red Sox players to be recognized and awarded for their accomplishments in 2015. But in reality, the event felt like a chance for everyone to express their genuine excitement for what is ahead in '16.

In a function room a few hours prior to the main event, the buzz for the coming year was palpable just by listening to the words of manager John Farrell, general manager Mike Hazen, shortstop Xander Bogaerts, outfielder Mookie Betts, lefty Eduardo Rodriguez and others.

After back-to-back last-place finishes in the American League East, the Red Sox upgraded their roster with a pair of marquee pitchers in David Price and Craig Kimbrel. Another reason so much optimism surrounds the club is the core of young players who finished last season strong and could be primed to take another step forward in 2016.

"You look back on 2015, and our young players are the ones that carried this team to the extent that they did, and we're going to continue to build around them," said Farrell.

Bogaerts was presented the team's MVP Award at Thursday's dinner. Things are far different for him now than a year ago, when he was coming off a rocky first full season. The shortstop is looking forward to another year of raising his game along with several teammates he came up through the farm system with.

"Once you have a young team with hopefully some guys they want to build around, it's always good," Bogaerts said. "They're close friends of mine, so it makes it easier to blend in with them."

And even if Price couldn't make it to Thursday's dinner, his name was mentioned a lot.

"I think everybody's thinking about it," said Hazen. "He's such a great pitcher. That's first and foremost. That's going to be a huge edge going into the season with him. But also underneath that, in the clubhouse, the way he carries himself, the expectation of work and the expectation of winning, we've had that here. We're going to continue to have that here. He embodies that also. So does Kimbrel, Chris Young and others."

The one word Betts remembers saying when he heard the Red Sox had signed Price?

"Wow," chuckled the outfielder.

Price is the current ace, but Rodriguez -- who was presented with the club's Rookie of the Year Award -- could turn into one at some point.

"It's like the two years in Baltimore and seeing Johan Santana down there," said Rodriguez. "[Price] can help me a lot. He can teach me how to pitch, talk to me about how to control the game and the situations -- everything."

And of course, 2016 will also represent the final chapter of David Ortiz with the Red Sox. The slugger announced his retirement back in November, on his 40th birthday.

There will be a lot of pomp and circumstance, to be sure. But Ortiz's focus will be where it always is.

"David and I have sat down and had at least a preliminary conversation about this and just on how each series will be handled, when we go into a specific city and is there a day we need to set aside the many requests that I would imagine would come his way," said Farrell. "But I will tell you this -- David wants nothing more than to win. He wants to win another World Series before it's over, and that would be this year, so his focus is just that. The bottom line is he wants to win, and that's what his focus is."

Though the 2013 World Series championship wasn't that long ago, the past two summers have felt long in Boston.

"Compared to every other offseason, this one's been a little bit different," said Farrell, who missed the final two months of last season battling back from lymphoma. "Now the focus and attention goes to getting on the field, putting the team together and having the team go out and play to our expectations.

"We've got some ground to make up after the last couple of years -- I'll be the first to admit that. This is a team that's got to go out and execute, but I'm excited about what the potential capabilities are."