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Boston Red Sox
Nobody was crying in Boston late last season when Steve Avery hinted that his return to Beantown was unlikely. The tears came in the off-season when the lefty decided to exercise his option for another Red Sox go. Translation: Boston, hardly in need of an ace after signing Pedro Martinez, must shell out $3.9 million for a pitcher who allowed 178 base runners in 96 2/3 innings. Based on that performance, Avery might start the season in the pen, but that won't last. Boston's staff is shaky, and Avery, 27, will get his chance. To stay in the rotation, though, he must win seven games by the break.
What They Needed: What they always needpitching. A catcher would also be nice.
What They Got: How about the NL Cy Young winner? Pedro Martinez didn't come cheap, but players of his caliber rarely do. Ageless Dennis Eckersley was signed to complement Tom Gordon. Jim Leyritz, who gives the Sox some added pop, will be behind the plate. Darren Lewis, late of Los Angeles, is a Gold Glove-caliber outfielder.
What it All Means: There aren't many guarantees in baseball, but Martinez will win 18, and Eck has always been good for at least 30 saves. If the rest of the staff holds up, Boston could make a serious run at the playoffs.
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