On Monday, the Red Sox will go through their first full-squad workout in Fort Myers, officially kicking off the start of spring training.
The Red Sox have a new (old) manager, a roster full of new players, and, unsurprisingly for a team coming off a last-place finish, innumerable questions.
Here are 10 of them:
1. What sort of impact will be made by the return of Alex Cora?
This sort of thing will be hard to quantify with precision. For all the advanced metrics and data flooding the game, there's nothing to measure the additional wins attributable to a different manager.
But there's little doubt Cora's return will result in a net positive, especially for those players who had played for him in his previous time in the dugout. Already, a number of veterans have spoken glowingly about him.
"Camaraderie, trust, passion...'' said Chris Sale when asked what Cora brings to the team. "There's no question he brings it on a daily basis. He wants to win. Everything he does is to better either himself, the coaching staff, the team or the organization. Being able to have that trust in the captain -- he's the guy that's running the show.''
Cora has already stressed the need for the team to be more athletic and aggressive and is placing a renewed emphasis on defense in the first few days of camp. He'll communicate naturally with the team's Latino players, and to those who are new to the organization, help them deal with the pitfalls that can come from playing in a market like Boston.
Look for Cora to have the biggest influence on Rafael Devers and Eduardo Rodriguez -- two players whom the Sox will need to have bounce-back seasons -- the first from underperformance, the second from injury -- for the Sox to be successful.
2. Do they have enough pitching?
Well, this one's easy: No. But that can be said of 29 other teams, right up to and including the defending world champion Los Angeles Dodgers. Because of course ... (all together now) ... you can never have enough pitching.
But the Red Sox have taken steps to greatly improve their depth. True, there will be questions about the durability of Eduardo Rodriguez and Nathan Eovaldi. And Chris Sale won't be back until, probably, July. But at the very least, the Sox have many more options for their rotation than only a season ago.
Last summer, the Red Sox started Ryan Weber, Josh Osich and Matt Hall in their third, fourth and fifth games of the season. Rest assured: that won't happen again.
A rotation of Rodriguez, Eovaldi, Garrett Richards, Martin Perez and, eventually, Sale, will be far more competitive than last year's rotation, which featured only Eovaldi and Perez from this season's group. But beyond that, the Red Sox will have depth pieces like Tanner Houck, Garrett Whitlock, Matt Andriese and Nick Pivetta, which will be a vast improvement over the parade of 4A journeyman that took the mound last year.
3. Who's the closer?