From 3rd To 1st, Sox Among Series Favorites

Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia rounds the bases in a spring training game -- a good sign for Sox fans. (AP)

Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia rounds the bases in a spring training game -- a good sign for Sox fans. (AP)

When last we heard from them, the Red Sox were limping to a 89-73 record and a third-place finish in the American League East. Now, they’re among World Series favorites. What happened?

The Red Sox’ expected resurgence centers on two things: getting rid of that limp and adding new blood.

Everyone is talking about the additions of all-world players Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford, and rightfully so. But just as big as Gonzalez’s bat and Crawford’s fleet feet is the expected recovery of the team’s legion of injured players.

Dustin Pedroia and Kevin Youkilis, half of the Sox’ backbone with Jon Lester and David Ortiz, spent significant time on the DL last year.

Youkilis’ torn thumb kept him out of the lineup for the final two months of the season. Center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury basically missed the entire 2010 season with broken ribs. Pedroia’s healed broken foot should allow him to fill the significant shoes he left after his 2007 Rookie of the Year and 2009 MVP awards.

Last year, even with the significant injuries, the Sox were only eliminated from playoff contention in the season’s final week. That’s a solid starting block for the 2011 squad.

In October, General Manager Theo Epstein told the Portland Press Herald that he felt good about the team — before the big-time additions of Gonzalez and Crawford.

“We did feel pretty good coming out of spring training,” Epstein said. “We’d like to rewind and start over and do 162 [games] over again, see how it turns out with maybe some different breaks and some different health. We’d feel pretty good about our chances, but that’s not the way you get to do it.”

On Opening Day, every team gets a fresh start. Red Sox fans hope that comes with fresh legs.