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Greetings from Gate C-2

Posted by Peter Abraham, Globe Staff  April 3, 2012 07:15 AM

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FORT MYERS, Fla. Good morning from the Mike Greenwell International Airport and Waffle House. We're here waiting for a flight to Detroit.

The Sox are in Washington today, but Mike Vega has that game. I'll get to Detroit a little early and be there for the workout at Comerica Park on Wednesday.

(In theory, I could end up at MGM Grand playing blackjack tonight. That, too.)

Ended up spending 54 days in Florida and it was entertaining. JetBlue Park was a great place to work and the Red Sox are certainly an interesting team given all the changes going on. There was plenty to write about and hopefully you enjoyed the coverage.

It's hard to get a real sense of a team in spring training because you so rarely see the starting nine together and the bullpen used in a logical order. But there is reason to be optimistic about the Red Sox. Here's why:

An offense that scored 875 runs is largely intact and could be better. They'll get more out of right field by default and probably more out of left field, whether it's from Carl Crawford once he gets back or others.

The Red Sox used John Lackey, Tim Wakefield, Kyle Weiland, Andrew Miller in their rotation in the second half of last season. Now they'll have Clay Buchholz, Daniel Bard and Felix Doubront. That has to be an upgrade, no?

Andrew Bailey's injury is troubling, no doubt. But the Cardinals won the World Series last season with Jason Motte as their closer. You know how many career saves he had at this point last season? Three.

Just off the top of my head, Mark Melancon, Alfredo Aceves and Franklin Morales have the stuff to close out games. I think that's what the future holds for Alex Wilson, too. Heck, Vicente Padilla could do it. There are always closers, you just need to figure out who they are.

Bobby Valentine will keep this team on its toes. Spring training also provided a glimpse of players like Jon Lester, Jarrod Saltalamacchia and David Ortiz trying to be positive influences in the wake of Jason Varitek retiring. The days of assuming they'll win by showing up are over.

Valentine is a polarizing figure, of that there is no doubt. But I ask you to do this: Watch the team play for a while before you judge him. Don't judge him on his quotes, his past or your preconceived notions. Watch the team play and decide for yourself if they play hard and play the game right. The rest is just fluff.

There's a decent chance the pitching falls apart and the Red Sox spend the summer losing games 7-6. But give this team a shot.

Real baseball is back, it's the best time of the year.

Thanks to everybody at the Fort for their hospitality. The folks working at JetBlue Park were always helpful and it was fun to meet so many readers over the summer, even the guy who said seriously "I usually think everybody in the (expletive) media is a (expletive) but I read your stories once in a while."

Once in a while is better than never. Off to Detroit. Catch you later.

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