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Sox's '20 means busy calendar, roster questions

@IanMBrowne
December 30, 2019

The calendar is flipping to 2020, which means that there will soon be baseball to warm people up from the chilly New England winter. Here is a look at what is ahead in the coming weeks for the Red Sox. Are there any events going on before Spring Training? Circle

The calendar is flipping to 2020, which means that there will soon be baseball to warm people up from the chilly New England winter.

Here is a look at what is ahead in the coming weeks for the Red Sox.

Are there any events going on before Spring Training?
Circle mid-January on your calendar. The 81st annual Boston Baseball Writers Dinner is set for Thursday, Jan. 16. NESN’s Jerry Remy will be on hand to receive the top award given out by the writers -- the Emil Fuchs Award -- for his long and meritorious service to the game. Xander Bogaerts (Thomas A. Yawkey Memorial Award for Red Sox MVP), Rocco Baldelli (MLB Manager of the Year), Mike Yastrzemski (New England Player of the Year), Rich Hill (Tony Conigliaro Award), Rafael Devers (Heart and Hustle) and Eduardo Rodriguez (Red Sox Pitcher of the Year) are among those being honored by the Boston chapter. Tickets are available here.

The day after the dinner, the Red Sox begin their sixth annual Winter Weekend. The venue will be the MGM Casino in Springfield, Mass. Many players, coaches and alumni will be on hand to interact with fans, and members of ownership and the front office will participate in the team’s annual Town Hall. Tickets are available here. The event runs from Jan. 17-19, and it has been a big hit in recent years.

When does the equipment truck leave Fenway?
It has become an annual rite of spring, watching the team’s truck depart for Fort Myers, Fla. This year, the truck leaves Fenway Park and heads south on Feb. 3. As usual, the festive event will be open to the public.

When does Spring Training actually start?
The first workout for pitchers and catchers at JetBlue Park at Fenway South is set for Feb. 12. The first full-squad workout is on Feb. 17. Those workouts are free and open to the public.

When do Spring Training games begin?
The 2020 Red Sox will take the field for game action for the first time on Feb. 21 when they host Northeastern. The next day will feature the start of Grapefruit League action, with the Tampa Bay Rays visiting the Sox.

When do the real games begin?
Alex Cora will start his third season as manager of the Red Sox on March 26 at the Toronto Blue Jays, with first pitch scheduled for 3:37 p.m. ET. Fenway Park will open its gates for the home opener on April 2 against the White Sox.

Here are three additional questions the team must answer before the season starts.

Is Chris Sale back to full health?
The ace was inconsistent and then injured in 2019, which was a big reason the Red Sox fell well short in their title defense. Sale had his left elbow checked out again by Dr. James Andrews in November and was given a clean bill of health. But everyone will feel a lot better about Sale once he starts pitching in Spring Training. If Sale is at full strength heading into Opening Day, Boston should be dangerous. If not, it could be in trouble.

How will the bullpen pieces fit together?
The downfall of the Red Sox in the first half of 2019 was a wildly inconsistent bullpen. Once roles started to get defined after the All-Star break, the relief crew performed better. It will be interesting to see how Cora pieces it together in ’20, and if chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom is able to add any impact newcomers in his first year at the helm in Boston. Brandon Workman did a solid job as closer in the second half, but the Sox haven’t yet said if he’ll be handed the job for Spring Training. Matt Barnes, Darwinzon Hernandez and Josh Taylor are nice pieces for the setup crew. A successful bullpen has been vital to the success of teams across MLB in recent years.

Who’s on first?
Gritty left-handed hitter Mitch Moreland held down first base for the last three seasons, but he is now a free agent. If he doesn’t come back, who takes his spot? Young power hitters Michael Chavis and Bobby Dalbec could get the chance to win the job in Spring Training. Don’t be surprised if Bloom supplements those right-handed bats by acquiring a left-handed hitter. Is it possible Moreland could be re-signed to another short-term deal?

Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook.