It's just so close. With the Red Sox returning to Fenway Park for a workout this afternoon, and the Rays about to take the field now for batting practice, Opening Day can be felt throughout the ballpark. The stands are ready. The new seats are ready.
There's no question the Sox are ready, especially after a spring training that seemed to drag on and on with the time added for the WBC.
Asked for his prediction on how his team might do this year, manager Terry Francona piped up with an optimistic projection: "I think we're going to do great."
"I bet you there's probably 29 other managers sitting right where I'm at today feeling the same way. Confidence, yet anxiety. It's always the same. I think we have reason to be optimistic big picture. It's also hard to look at the big picture because we have a game tomorrow. You get kind of caught up, especially in the first two weeks, when everything's overanalyzed, everything's overblown, over-magnified. That's what we just reminded the players. Just try to have good players trying to do the right thing and then, as you get into the grind of the season, if you're as good as you think you are, it'll show."
Meanwhile, in the clubhouse, there's confidence in the team -- at least from one corner.
Up on the white board near the door to the clubhouse was written, "Only two believe we broke the curse," with an arrow to the Boston Globe predictions. Under certain writers, who shall remain nameless, the word "dork" was written when the writers did not choose the Sox to win the World Series (even those who picked the Sox to go to the World Series). The ones who chose the Sox? They "believe."
Clearly the players think they have a long and fruitful season in store.
Here are some other highlights of Francona's press conference:
"And not just that, I think the organization's healthy. I mean you look at player development and the guys they've signed, I certainly agree with that. That doesn't guarantee we're going to win tomorrow or this year, but I think the organization is certainly healthy."
"Yeah I think so. And again we would be crazy not to check with him. I mean we do that anyway. But you know we'll check with him more often, after the first trip out to Anaheim. We're certainly going to check in with him. He did a pretty good job in spring training, and again he doesn't need to steal bases. That's not part of his game. He knows how to play third. If you hit it to him you're out. I think he's going to be OK."
"Well he swung the bat so well that it would have been hard to keep him off the team. We kind of felt that way about [Jeff] Bailey, too. They both had about as good a spring as you can offensively. Carter being lefthanded certainly had something to do with it. But during the course our meetings, We just felt like he was the right guy right now."
"Sometimes it goes quickly, sometimes it doesn't. I think that's the nature of probably everything you guys do too. It's hard to imagine. Six years is kind of a long time in this game. Sometimes it feels like yesterday, sometimes it doesn't.