As Spring Training winds down, we see a more competitive American League, with the usual suspects in the AL East, the power struggle between Cleveland, Detroit, and improving Chicago in the Central, and the Angels and the Mariners improved in the West.
The Red Sox concern currently reflects the Far East trip and the health of Josh Beckett's back, making the starting rotation shakier NOW. Let's presume that Daisuke Matsuzaka is good for at least another 15 wins, that Tim Wakefield can stay healthy (and .500), and we expect Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz to be very serviceable starters in the four and five (or three and five) spots.
To quote Billy Beane, "we're not selling jeans here." Bartolo Colon, when healthy, can throw strikes with something on them. He hasn't been consistent the past couple of seasons because of health, but he hasn't been thin for as long as I can remember. If he can't go, I believe Kyle Snyder has value for five innings as he has recovered from his health problems. He could be the sleeper of the staff.
The biggest part of the bullpen, Papelbon, Okajima, and Delcarmen all should remain productive. Mike Timlin has proven his worth, although seems better starting innings clean.
The lineup returns basically intact, with the presumption that Ellsbury will be solid if not spectacular. It won't be easy for Pedroia and Lowell to duplicate their seasons. It shouldn't be hard for Manny, Lugo, and Drew to exceed their prior production. Ortiz, Youkilis, and Varitek should be able to duplicate their output.
As for newcomers, who's left. Kevin Cash presumby is the number two catcher, which is a good argument for keeping Varitek healthy. Brandon Moss has the potential to be a valuable outfield backup, with or without Coco Crisp.
So who's on the Opening Day Roster:
Lopez (first cut)
Kielty (safe or out?)
Crisp(? DL, ?trade)