The wait is over. Spring training is finally here. Pitchers and catchers officially report to Boston Red Sox training camp in Fort Myers, Florida on Sunday afternoon, marking the official beginning of the 2012 baseball season. The first workout will be held on Tuesday and the first full team workout will take place next Saturday.
Plenty of controversy surrounded the end of the season just five months ago. Blown leads, out of shape players, rats in the clubhouse -- it couldn't have been much worse for the Sox. Now that spring training is here, we can finally move on.
The pitching staff is still mostly intact, with the dominant trio of Jon Lester, Josh Beckett and Clay Buchholz all expected to be on top of their game, especially considering the way last season ended. The bottom of the rotation is a little shakier, as Daniel Bard and Alfredo Aceves are slated to make the jump from the bullpen to the starting five.
In the bullpen, the Sox have added closer Andrew Bailey (who takes the reigns at the back end of the bullpen with the departure of Jonathan Papelbon) and other relievers such as Mark Melancon and Clayton Mortensen. The team also welcomes back Franklin Morales, Matt Albers, Bobby Jenks and Andrew Miller to the pen, among others.
Speaking of the battery, the Sox also bring back their starting catcher in Jarrod Saltalamacchia. Kelly Shoppach was brought back by the team via free agency and both Ryan Lavarnway and Luis Expostio are invited to camp. Jason Varitek, the team's captain and longtime backstop, received an invite to spring training, but he still may retire.
Are you ready, Red Sox fans? All things considered, we're in for another good season.