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What problems?

Red Sox will be competitive despite uneven offseason

Posted: Tuesday January 24, 2006 12:18PM; Updated: Tuesday January 24, 2006 1:37PM
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Josh Beckett
The durability of Josh Beckett's right shoulder may well determine if the Red Sox play into October.
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This just in for everybody who dumped on the Boston Red Sox in December just because their general manager had quit, their left fielder asked for a trade, their second-winningest pitcher wanted out, their most important pitchers from 2004 were hurt and they had no center fielder or shortstop:

No games were played in December.

With two months remaining before Opening Day, the Red Sox, pending a deal for Cleveland outfielder Coco Crisp, once again are a 90-win team on paper with most of their problems addressed.

Well, they do still have David Wells, if for nothing more than the entertainment value of bringing his tired, petulant act to Spring Training. Rest assured, Wells, the 15-game winner who wants to return to a West Coast team, won't be on the Opening Day roster.

The Red Sox recovered well, and quickly, from the December funk. Said Toronto GM J.P. Ricciardi, whose team appeared to leapfrog the Red Sox on paper a month ago, "I never doubted them. Just one more reason why I say we can only worry about ourselves and let them take care of themselves, which they do very well. Any time you have resources, you can do some things to get better in a hurry.

"It's like the Yankees. They may have a hard time coming up with prospects, but they're always able to do something because of their resources.''

Whether the Red Sox win more than 90 games (what it takes to be a playoff team in the AL) or fewer than 90 comes down to two things: Does Josh Beckett remain healthy enough to be a dominant pitcher and do well-worn veterans Mark Loretta and Mike Lowell have gas left in their tanks?

Two sources familiar with the MRIs taken on Beckett's right shoulder late last year said the pictures showed major cause for concern. At least one Red Sox executive was against the deal for Beckett after seeing them. Truth is, clean MRIs for pitchers don't exist, and Beckett did throw a career-high 178 2/3 innings last year.

Loretta, 34, was considered by the Padres to be declining, while some scouts thought Lowell looked so bad last season that he doesn't figure to get better, a rough estimation for someone who turns 32 next month.