After a busy offseason in which they rehired their former manager (Alex Cora) and also acquired several new roster pieces, the Red Sox are excited to get back to work and turn last season's 24-36 finish into a distant memory.
While Boston will be overlooked by most prognosticators going into the season, the Red Sox possess a quiet confidence about 2021.
"We have a good baseball team. Good baseball teams win a lot of games," said Cora. "We are versatile and athletic, and deeper than actually '19. I do believe that going into Spring Training, we have a lot of options. It's getting to a point that you start looking at lineups and different combinations, and we got guys that can do different things in different spots in the lineup.
"It's a better team, I think -- a team that is capable of competing to play in October. For all the talk about the division being strong and getting better, I do believe that our team is going to compete. We're going to be in a good position, and hopefully we have a good season."
With Spring Training underway in sunny Fort Myers, Fla., here are the nuts and bolts about what you can expect.
Given the pandemic, how is Spring Training going to be different this year?
Once games get underway, fans will be allowed at JetBlue Park, but at a seating capacity of 24 percent, meaning about 2,400 fans per game. The biggest change is that fans will not be permitted to attend daily workouts. Also, the annual open house and daily tours of JetBlue Park will not take place.
What are the key roster/position battles to watch?
Keep an eye on first base. Bobby Dalbec belted eight homers in 80 at-bats in his first taste of the Majors last season, but he has to prove he's ready for a full season of action. While Michael Chavis has fallen off the radar over the past year or so, he is still on the roster and will try to earn back his place in the everyday mix by having a strong spring. Marwin Gonzalez, who has reportedly agreed to a one-year, $3 million contract with incentives, could also see playing time at first base against righties.
The outfield picture also bears watching. Is Franchy Cordero -- the main piece acquired in the Andrew Benintendi trade -- ready to take over in left field, at least against righties? Can he stay healthy? Will right fielder Hunter Renfroe start against lefties and righties? Is Alex Verdugo ready to play center field every day? Is there still a chance that Jackie Bradley Jr., who surprisingly hasn't signed anywhere yet, return to the Red Sox?
As far as the starting rotation goes, there could be competition for the fifth spot between Nick Pivetta and Tanner Houck, and there's also a chance Cora could go with a six-man rotation at times.
When is the first Spring Training game?
The Red Sox open their Grapefruit League schedule on Feb. 28 against the Twins. It is a road game. The first home game is March 1 against the Braves.
How can I watch/listen/follow Spring Training games?
NESN will televise a minimum of 10 Grapefruit League games, including the March 1 home opener against the Braves. The full schedule will be released in the coming days. All games will be available to listen to via select stations on the Red Sox Radio Network, including 850-AM in Boston. You can follow play-by-play of all Red Sox games using the MLB app.
Who are some prospects to keep an eye on in camp?
The Red Sox will have their top four positional prospects as ranked by MLB Pipeline in Major League camp in Jeter Downs, Triston Casas, Dalbec and Jarren Duran. Look for Dalbec to graduate from prospect status early in the season as he's expected to spend the season in the Majors, perhaps even as the starting first baseman.
Downs, acquired in the Mookie Betts/David Price trade a year ago, is Boston's top-ranked prospect and all eyes will be on his development.
Casas is the Minor League hitter the Red Sox are most excited about, and the lefty patterns himself after Joey Votto.
Duran is probably Boston's most exciting Minor Leaguer, thanks to blazing speed that he uses both on the bases and in center field. He has also added power to his mix.
Nick Yorke -- the club's first-round selection out of Archbishop Mitty High School in San Jose, Calif., back in June -- will get his first chance to display his skills after getting an invite to camp. The Red Sox love his bat.
What's the story with Chris Sale and when will he be back?
The lefty ace underwent Tommy John surgery last March and the earliest he will be back in the rotation is June or July. Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom acknowledged recently that Sale had a recent injury with his neck that led the club to temporarily scale back his throwing program. It remains to be seen if that delay will have a significant impact on when Sale can return.
When is Opening Day and who is the opponent?
For the second straight year, the Red Sox will open their season at home against the Orioles. First pitch is scheduled for 2:10 p.m. ET.
Is the team planning to sell tickets to regular-season games?
The Red Sox are taking their lead from government and health officials, and there's been no word yet. But club president/CEO Sam Kennedy recently expressed optimism that a reduced capacity of fans could be allowed at Fenway Park as soon as Opening Day.
Who is the likely Opening Day starting pitcher?
Lefty Eduardo Rodriguez would have started Opening Day for the first time last season, but he didn't throw a pitch in 2020 due to myocarditis, which is inflammation of the heart. Look for him to get the nod this time, provided he makes it through Spring Training with no setbacks.
What is the likely Opening Day lineup and rotation?
Enrique Hernández, 2B
Alex Verdugo, CF
J.D. Martinez, DH
Xander Bogaerts, SS
Rafael Devers, 3B
Christian Vázquez, C
Franchy Cordero, LF
Bobby Dalbec, 1B
Hunter Renfroe, RF