Pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez throws as Boston Manager Alex Cora looks on during a Red Sox workout Sunday in Fort Myers, Florida. Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images

Baseball players hate team meetings. It’s an individual sport, and the individuals who play it want to be left alone to prepare for the work ahead.

The exception to that rule is the meeting an organization holds at the start of the season. That’s the one that sets the expectations for the weeks and months to come, and gives newcomers a better feel for what their employer is all about.

The 2021 Boston Red Sox held their introductory meeting at JetBlue Park in Fort Myers, Florida, on Monday. Owners, front office members and field personnel laid out their vision for the season.

Manager Alex Cora reintroduced himself to much of the team. He’s back after serving a one-year suspension for his involvement in the 2017 Houston Astros sign-stealing scandal.

Some of these players won a championship under Cora in 2018. Many did not. Cora didn’t think he needed to address his time away with the team.

“I think little by little they know,” Cora said on Sunday. “During the recruiting process I talked to the guys. I don’t think there’s a need for me to address that as a group. Like I’ve been telling them, if they want to know more or if they have something to tell me my office is open. … I’ve been open with them about what happened.”


Cora will face more questions about 2017 as the season progresses, but the more important questions right now concern his 2021 team. There is certainly more depth across the boards, but will the top-line pitchers be able to stay healthy and stay on the field?

Chris Sale is recovering from Tommy John surgery and won’t be ready for months. Eduardo Rodriguez didn’t throw a pitch last season as he dealt with a COVID-19 infection and resulting myocarditis. Nathan Eovaldi hasn’t thrown 125 innings in a season since 2015. Newcomer Garrett Richards, once a workhorse for the Angels, has dealt with injuries on and off for the past five seasons.

“I feel like we have a really good rotation and when (Chris) Sale gets back here it’s going to be way better,” said Rodriguez. “I’m just going to say don’t sleep on us.”

Rodriguez would’ve been the Opening Day starter last year but was sidelined. He is ready to go this season and represents a rotation that is drastically improved from a year ago.

After Eovaldi and Martin Perez last year, the Sox got starts from Ryan Webber, Josh Osich and Matt Hall to finish off the first turn of the rotation. They should be replaced by Rodriguez, Richards and Nick Pivetta. Tanner Houck, who had an eye-opening run with the Sox after his MLB debut in September, will be next in line.

In the front office, Chief Baseball Officer Chaim Bloom has been criticized for blowing up the Red Sox and starting a rebuild that will take years.


While he won’t deny that this team needs rebuilding, he doesn’t believe it has to come at the expense of an improved season now.

“I don’t want the stain of last year to have people look past the talent that we have,” Bloom told reporters via Zoom on Sunday. “We’re here in spring training. This is a time for hope, for renewal. Last year was what it was. … I know that we’ve just been through a long, cold winter. But I think it’s important for us to take the time to take a breath, feel lucky that we get to do this and see all the possibilities.”

They say hope springs eternal on Opening Day. Yet the real optimism could be found outside the clubhouse on Monday. The Red Sox meeting, held in the open air as part of the team’s COVID-19 protocols, was a good time to dream about what could be this summer.

Tom Caron is a studio host for Red Sox broadcasts on NESN. His column runs on Tuesdays in the Portland Press Herald.

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