Manny Ramirez is still being Manny with the Dodgers, after Boston traded him in July of 2008.

Ramirez’s replacement in Boston, Jason Bay, is now with the New York Mets.

Other big bats remain with Boston, but who knows if David Ortiz will be a consistent slugger again. And will Mike Lowell even crack the lineup?

So what are the buzzwords for the Red Sox 2010 season?

Run prevention.

With seemingly less pop in the offense, Boston has made a concentrated effort on pitching and defense. Free-agent pitcher John Lackey was signed. And the three free-agent signings in the field – outfielder Mike Cameron, third baseman Adrian Beltre and shortstop Marco Scutaro – are considered significant upgrades defensively.

We don’t know if the Fenway Park crowd will resort to chanting: “Defense, defense ” but the Red Sox should remain a contender.

But how good will Boston be?

The Baseball Prospectus publication predicts Boston to finish at the top, while Sports Illustrated’s Tom Verducci sees both the Yankees and Rays beating out the Red Sox.

Everyone’s got an opinion.

When it comes to the Boston Red Sox, is the glass half full? Or half empty?

Our answer: Yes.

How’s that for going out on a limb? There are two sides to every story and here is a look at the 2010 Boston Red Sox: the possible good, the potential bad.

THE LINEUP

Catcher

Half full: Victor Martinez is a clutch, switch-hitting machine who will provide pop and RBI.

HALF EMPTY: Martinez rarely throws out base-stealers (2 of 17 last year) and his backup, Jason Varitek, appears beyond the twilight of his career, hitting .209 last year.

First base

Half full: Kevin Youkilis with his fielding, on-base ability (.413) and slugging (.548) is one of the premier (and underrated) players in the game.

Half empty: Not much to complain about here, unless Mike Lowell doesn’t work out as a backup.

Second base

Half full: With a .307 career average and wide-ranging defense, Dustin Pedroia has few equals at second.

Half empty: Like first base, this is a strong point for the Red Sox.

Shortstop

Half full: Marco Scutaro is solid defensively and batted .282 last year.

Half empty: Scutaro is getting older (34) and his career average (.265) suggests last year was a fluke.

Third base

Half full: Adrian Beltre is superb defensively and hit .277 away from Seattle’s Safeco Field the past five years, with 51 more extra-base hits on the road.

Half empty: There is no guarantee that Fenway Park will turn Beltre into a feared slugger again.

Outfield

Half full: The exciting Jacoby Ellsbury and the steady J.D. Drew return, making a solid defense with a new center fielder, Mike Cameron. Plus, Cameron hit 32 home runs last year.

Half empty: Cameron is 37 and can be a black hole in the lineup (career .250 hitter with 156 strikeouts last year).

Designated hitter

Half full: David Ortiz batted .264 in the last four months of the season with 27 home runs and 81 RBI. And the right-handed Mike Lowell can help him out.

Half empty: But are Ortiz’s first two months of 2009 (.185, one home run, 18 RBI) more indicative of what to expect in 2010?

Starting pitching

Half full:Josh Beckett, Jon Lester and John Lackey may be the best 1-2-3 in baseball. Tim Wakefield, Clay Buchholz and Daisuke Matsuzaka provide depth and may have standout seasons.

Half empty: Beckett can be inconsistent in spurts; Lester is 0-3 in his last three postseason starts; Lackey’s ERA at Fenway Park is 5.75; Wakefield isn’t dependable in the playoffs; Buchholz hasn’t proven himself; and Matsuzaka remains a mystery.

Relief pitching

Half full: Jonathan Papelbon is a premier closer (1.84 career ERA), and both Daniel Bard and Hideki Okajima will be dependable set-up men.

Half empty: Middle relief is iffy, if Manny Delcarmen and Ramon Ramirez don’t improve over the second half of last year. Papelbon needs more than a fastball and has gotten himself into more trouble, going from a 0.771 WHIP (walks/hits per inning) in 2007 to 1.147 last year.

 

Staff Writer Kevin Thomas can be reached at 791-6411 or at:

[email protected]