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Preview: Lookin' Good All Around

With pitchers and catchers reporting in seven short days, the Red Sox have to be excited for their new season, with some new faces. But also, there are some faces we are all used to that will help and define Boston's club this year.

With the Mark Teixiera trade long gone, Boston can be happy and grateful with it's predicted infield. Kevin Youkilis will remain at first and Mike Lowell at the opposite hot corner. Lowell and the Sox may still have a little soul-mending to do, however, Lowell being the professional he is, you can bet on him forgiving, forgetting, and forging on. Youkilis also was granted a magnificent wish this winter by signing a four-year, $41.25 million contract with Boston with a 2013 option.

At second base, who can forget about Dustin Pedroia? The reigning MVP will be sure to turn out yet another great season. Last year, Pedroia played 157 games, finishing with a .326 batting average and 213 hits. We don't even need to mention his defense. Pedroia is a defensive monster, eating anything that comes his way.

The shortstop position has been a battle for the Boston club since the day Nomar left. This year will be no different. Jed Lowrie and Julio Lugo will be involved in a battle of epic proportions for this infield position. Some believe that Lugo used to be the go-to guy, but after Lowrie's performance last season, they will contend for the desired position. Manager Terry Francona will have a lot on his plate looking for his main man.

After another wildly free agent-driven offseason, the catcher position is finally aligned. Jason Varitek was left out of a job until late last week, when he and agent Scott Boras finally came to terms with the club. Tek agreed with a one-year, $5 million contract with an option for 2010. Along with The Captain, the Red Sox picked up Josh Bard from San Diego for an alternate behind the dish. Bard's had a few quiet years and you can be looking into the Red Sox farm leagues for more catching prospects that will soon show their faces in Fenway.

The Red Sox can smile when they think about their outfield situation. Returning left fielder Jason Bay made his name be known in Boston after the junior high cheerleader drama that was Manny Ramirez. The love-hate relationship of Coco Crisp is now long gone due to the acquirement of pitcher Ramon Ramirez from Kansas City. Jacoby Ellsbury can be expected to stay as lead-off man and centerfield and the Sox can hope he will be able to follow through when September and October roll around. J.D. Drew is once again projected as the right fielder and Boston was able to pick up Rhode Island native Rocco Baldelli from Tampa Bay to add depth to the field and to add another bat to the lineup.

The acquisitions of pitchers John Smoltz, Brad Penny, and Takashi Saito, just to name a few, have added some depth to the bullpen. By signing closer Jonathan Papelbon to a souped up contract, Boston may not have to sweat that position for awhile. Justin Masterson, Hideki Okajima, and even Javier Lopez will have an easier season than last due to the signing of pitchers like Smoltz, who have many experienced years under their belts' with other organizations in the post season.

Last season's starting rotation was next to none. However, the 2008 post season was a rough one for the pitchers. Jon Lester, who could not lose at Fenway, had a tough time shutting down the A.L. Champion Rays. Josh Beckett, Daisuke Matsuzaka, and re-signed Tim Wakefield will have yet another great season and can look forward a comptetitive A.L. East. Tampa Bay will come out strong, after their loss to Philadelphia in the World Series, the Yankees have picked up studs A.J. Burnett and C.C. Sabathia to try and over power the offensive-driven East.

For now, we can all sit and wait for Spring Training to begin. When April hits, the Boston Red Sox lineup, new faces and old ones, will bring the competitive nature and make another run for the title, defining Red Sox baseball.

-Ricky Campbell

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