FORT MYERS, Fla. (AP) — As soon as Giancarlo Stanton touched down with their main rivals, the Boston Red Sox were eager to take on New York — the Yankees, or maybe even the Jets and Giants.
“They’re fielding a football team out there is kind of what I was thinking,” Red Sox first baseman Mitch Moreland said. “They’re running a two tight-end set. They’ve got some big boys over there.”
The 6-foot-6 Stanton, who topped the majors in home runs and was the NL MVP last team, joins a lineup with 6-7 Aaron Judge, the AL homer leader. The Yankees got Stanton in a trade with the Miami Marlins in December.
“Job well done,” Red Sox owner John Henry said Monday on the first day of full-squad workouts.
Entering last season’s camp, Boston was tabbed as the AL East favorite after landing one of the biggest prizes in ace lefty Chris Sale during the winter meetings. That prompted Yankees general manager Brian Cashman to reference another sport: “Boston’s like the Golden State Warriors now in baseball,” he said.
The Red Sox went on to win their second straight division title. A year later, they find themselves somewhat in the underdog role following New York’s big splash of getting Stanton.
“We’re not conceding first place to anybody,” chairman Tom Werner said.
“I think it’s good for the rivalry. The Yankees have a very strong team and we have a very strong team, too,” he said. “If we’re healthy, I think we have the best pitching staff; starting pitching, ending with (Craig) Kimbrel. I think we’ve got the best pitching staff in the American League.”
Some players say they’re looking forward to the challenge that might spice up the rivalry.
“It doesn’t matter who you’re facing,” reliever Matt Barnes said. “You’ve got a guy who was the MVP and a guy that hit 50 home runs or however many Judge hit. You start throwing balls … and missing spots, it doesn’t matter, it’s the big leagues. They’re going to hit balls in the gap and balls over the fence.”
But the right-hander paused, glanced a few lockers to his right and offered what defense the Red Sox might have against the Yankees’ added power. Boston is counting on strong pitching in Sale and two former AL Cy Young winners — David Price and Rick Porcello, and solid closer work from Kimbrel to go along with a bounce-back year by knuckleballer Steven Wright, a 2016 All-Star.
“This starting staff is two Cy Young winners and Chris Sale, and two more All-Stars,” Barnes said.
Center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. said the Yankees’ addition brings another test.
“I’m always excited to compete against some of the best players in the world. That’s what we all signed up for,’ he said. “Is this team good enough? Only time will tell.”
Said Henry: “We’re defending American League East champions and I feel like we’ve done what we needed to do to improve this team,” Henry said. “I think we have the right team.”
Notes: Former Red Sox players Pedro Martinez, Derek Lowe and Mike Lowell were all working with players. “The main thing is you learn from them,” Ramirez said. “Those guys are champions. We want to talk to them and see what their mentality is.” . Rookie manager Alex Cora said Mookie Betts will be batting leadoff again. “I’ve been doing it my whole life, so it’s nothing new,” Betts said. . Moreland joked that it was like the first day of school.