Your guide to the new Red Sox season

Opening Day
Opening Day at Fenway Park in 2017. –John Tlumacki/Globe staff

The Red Sox will open the 2018 regular season as the two-time defending American League East champion, but there will be plenty of obstacles as they try for a three-peat.

Here’s an Opening Day overview of the Red Sox to get you up to speed fast on the team and the season ahead.

New faces

Manager Alex Cora

Stop me if you heard this before. The Red Sox have captured the AL East each of the last two seasons after posting a record of 93-69 in both 2016 and 2017. Yet the organization decided to part ways with manager John Farrell after getting bounced in the first round of the playoffs for the second straight year.

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Enter Alex Cora. The 2017 season felt like a grind, with the players wilting in a joyless pursuit of excellence. Alex Speier writes that Cora was able to forge wide-ranging connections and to invigorate his team’s culture in camp. Still, the pressure will be on to get back to the postseason and advance to the ALCS.

J.D. Martinez, DH-outfielder

For all of their success, the Red Sox finished last in the AL in homers in 2017. They have attempted to remedy that situation by signing Martinez to a five-year, $110 million contract. Last season, Martinez belted 45 home runs and drove in 104 runs in 119 games with the Detroit Tigers and Arizona Diamondbacks.

While having his bat in the lineup should help boost the club’s power numbers, the team is also hoping to embrace Martinez’s hitting philosophy. Speier looked at how Martinez’s production increased when he changed his launch angle, and how his new teammates are attempting to do the same.

Bobby Poyner, LHP

Poyner is not new to the organization, having been drafted by the Red Sox in the 14th round in 2015. But prior to this season, he has never played above Double A.

He played college ball with the Florida Gators, going 14-10 with a 3.10 ERA. He also played for Orleans in the Cape Cod League for two summers. While pitching for the Portland Sea Dogs, he compiled a 0.94 ERA with 52 strikeouts in 38 1/3 innings. Nick Cafardo has a look at the surprise addition of the camp.

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Related: What is launch angle, and how are the Red Sox using it?

Marcus Walden, RHP

Walden, 29, had a good camp, amassing a 0.69 ERA and limiting opponents to a .143 average in seven Grapefruit League games with 15 strikeouts in 13 innings.

He made 29 appearances for the Pawtucket Red Sox in 2017, making 15 starts. He threw 105 2/3 innings with a 3.92 ERA. Originally drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays in 2007, Walden has never pitched in the big leagues. Peter Abraham has more on Walden’s journey.

Key dates

Thursday, March 29: Season opener at Tampa Bay, 4:10 p.m.

Chris Sale will be on the hill when the Red Sox begin the season with a four-game series with the Rays.

Thursday, April 5: Home opener vs. Tampa Bay, 2:05 p.m.

After opening the season with six games in Florida, the Red Sox head home to Fenway Park. David Price is scheduled to be on the mound for the Sox, making his first start at Fenway since July. It will be the first of a 10-game homestand.

Tuesday, April 10: vs. Yankees, 7:10 p.m.

The Yankees added Giancarlo Stanton to an already impressive lineup. —Lynne Sladky/AP Photo

The Fenway faithful will get their first look at Giancarlo Stanton in pinstripes when the Yankees roll into town for a three-game series. The Bronx Bombers already had a potent lineup, yet still managed to pluck Stanton, who belted 59 home runs and drove in 132 RBIs last season, from the Miami Marlins in a trade. It will be the first of 19 meetings between the two AL East foes.

Monday, April 16: vs. Baltimore, 11:05 a.m.

The Red Sox will face the Orioles in the annual Patriots Day matinee. The game will also serve as the conclusion to their homestand.

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Tuesday, April 17: at Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, 10:07 p.m.

The Red Sox could get their first look at Shohei Ohtani, the two-way prospect for the Angels, as well as two-time MVP Mike Trout. It will be the first of a nine-game road trip that will also include games at Oakland and Toronto.

Tuesday, May 8: at Yankees, 7:05 p.m.

J.D. Martinez has played at Yankees Stadium before, but this would mark his first time in the Bronx as a member of the Red Sox. The first series in New York for the two teams will be for three games, and comes in the middle of a 10-game road trip for the Red Sox.

Thursday, May 31: at Houston, 8:10 p.m.

Houston second baseman Jose Altuve batted .346 and belted 24 home runs in leading the Astros to the World Series last season. —John Bazemore/AP photo

The Red Sox will open a four-game series against 2017 MVP Jose Altuve and the defending World Series champion Astros. It will mark the first time the two teams meet since Houston sent the Red Sox packing with a 3-1 ALDS win last October.

Monday, June 4: MLB Draft

It will be an off-day for the Red Sox, but it will still be an important day for the club. With a dearth of top-level depth position options in their minor league system, the Red Sox will look to re-stock the farm system.

Friday, June 29: at Yankees, 7:05 p.m.

The Red Sox return to New York for a three-game series, opening a nine-game road trip that will include stops in Washington and Kansas City.

Tuesday, July 17: 89th All-Star Game, 8 p.m.

The midsummer classic returns to Washington D.C. for the first time in nearly 50 years.

Tuesday, July 31: Trade deadline

The Red Sox will be wrapping up a two-game series at home against the Philadelphia Phillies, now managed by former Red Sox Gabe Kapler. The more important work will likely be done off the field, as the front office will be expected to bolster the team for the final two months of the regular season.

Thursday, Aug. 2: vs. Yankees, 7:10 p.m.

New York Yankees right fielder Aaron Judge ran away with American League Rookie of the Year honors in 2017 after hitting 52 home runs and driving in 114. —Lynne Sladky/AP Photo

The two teams will square off for a four-game series at Fenway Park, presumably after both upgraded their rosters earlier in the week.

Monday, Aug. 20: vs. Cleveland, 7:10 p.m.

Former Red Sox manager Terry Francona and the Indians come to town for a four-game series. Cleveland has reached the postseason each of the last two seasons and swept the Red Sox in the 2016 ALDS.

Saturday, Sept. 1: Major League rosters expand

While each team has a 25-man active roster, on Sept. 1 they are allowed to call up and use any of the players on the 40-man roster for the remainder of the regular season.

Friday, Sept. 7: vs. Houston, 7:10 p.m.

The defending World Series champions come to Fenway Park for the first time since eliminating the Red Sox last October.

Friday, Sept. 21: at Cleveland, 7:10 p.m.

The Red Sox finish their final road trip of the season against Terry Francona and the Indians. —Ross D. Franklin/AP Photo

The Red Sox will embark on what could be a crucial six-game road trip, beginning with a matinee at Yankee Stadium on Tuesday, Sept. 18 and concluding with a three-game series at Cleveland on Sept. 23.

Sunday, Sept. 30: vs. Yankees, 3:05 p.m.

The Red Sox close out the season with a three-game series with New York.

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