New year, new faces . . . even for Red Sox and Cardinals

New year, new faces . . . even for Red Sox and Cardinals
March 17, 2014, 2:30 pm
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FORT MYERS, Fla. -- It was, nominally, a rematch of last year's two World Series teams. But even allowing for the three-hour bus ride that the defending N.L. champs made, there were a lot of faces missing from last October's Red Sox-Cardinals matchup.

The Cards, who tied the Sox for the most number of wins last season, will start new players at third base, shortstop, second base, center field and right field compared to their World Series lineup. The Red Sox will have a competely different look up the middle, with new starters at shortstop, catcher and center field.

That's not unsual, of course. In fact, roster churn is a given, even for the best teams.

"After the season is over,'' said John Farrell, "despite how far deep you go into the postseason, there's still objectivity that's given to reviewing the roster. There might be examples out there that, after you win, you're so attached to players who won for you that they're given a 'reward,' so to speak. I think, in our case, it's [general manager Ben Cherington's] view of the roster and how do we improve upon it? Not standing pat.

"[The Red Sox and Cardinals] are two examples of it. There's the view of, 'Okay, we've done what we can to win today, but how do we prolong that? How do we put ourselves in the best position to win going forward?' As we're seeing, that requires changes to the roster.''

The Sox have replaced Jarrod Saltalamacchia with A.J. Pierzynski. At short, the Sox have opted to go with Xander Bogaerts over Stephen Drew, who remains a free agent. And either Jackie Bradley Jr. or Grady Sizemore -- or some combination therein -- will play center with Jacoby Ellsbury having departed for New York.

The Cardinals have undergone wholesale changes to their everyday lineup. It's likely that on Opening Day, the Cards will have just three positions -- catcher, left field and starting pitcher -- the same as they were Opening Day of 2013.

(Elsewhere, the Sox are remarkably familiar, particularly with their pitching staff, where nine of the 10 pitchers who threw the most innings in 2013 returning for 2014. Only Ryan Dempster, who retired, will be missing.)

The Sox' changes -- at such critical defensive positions as shortstop, center field and catcher -- only highlight the turnover.

"That brings a different focus to it,'' said Farrell.

As part of their offseason review, the Red Sox looked at data to find the optimum amount of turnover from year-to-year for successful teams.

"We looked at what history has shown,'' said Farrell, "and teams that win regularly, how many [everyday position] players do they transition every year? It's roughly two a year, to maintain youth, to maintain talent and to continue that building over the long haul.''