17 of the starting 25 Red Sox for 2009 have much to prove this season. Of this number, 15 are rebounding from injuries which plagued 2008.

This is not a bad thing, as the entire team will be extraordinarily motivated to do well, to win, to pull together and help each other succeed, as a team. IMO, assuming health, it gives the Sox a winning edge.
A commenter recently suggested calling this team the JUNKYARD DOGS. How appropriate, five years after the DIRT DOGS broke the Curse, to a group which last year was called the “walking wounded”.

And remember that, even while walking wounded, this team was among the best in most offensive and defensive categories. It is now healthy, and even stronger with key signings.

Only eight starters on the 25 man Roster have little to prove: Youkilis, Pedroia, Papelbon, Delcarmen, Lopez, Matsuzaka, Lester, RRamirez, which makes 2009 their Season of Hope, to maintain their gains and help the team win it all.

Yet, during 2008 Daisuke was not only injured but, with Delcarmen and others, were laid low by the flu pandemic, but they persevered. Jon Lester had been the sickest of all, but 2008 was his Year of Redemption. The farther away he got from chemo, the stronger and better he got. Interestingly, Youk attributes part of his breakout 2008 to freedom from little injuries.

Following are tho “JUNKYARD DOGS” looking for redemption. I wouldn’t bet against any of them:

sp. Josh Beckett. Injured for much of the year is now healthy. Will he approach his 2007 WS season of 200IP, 20W, 3.27era and re-establish himself as the Ace? You know that is his goal.

sp. Tim Wakefield. Injured more than once in 2008 is again healthy. Could he return to his career 4.33era, win another 15-17 games, or will he and Smoltz rotate in and out of the Pen?

sp. John Smoltz. Only 28ip in 2008, but before injury his 3-2, 36K, 2.57era, 1.18whip indicate he should return to form following rehab. If so, he could dominate the division..

sp. Brad Penny. 3rd in Cy Young, 2007. 2x All Star. 16W in both 2006 & 2007, with 4.33 & 3.03era. Kept pitching through a recurrent injury in 2008, now healed. Three Musketeers with Beckett & Lowell from ’03? A one year deal to re-establish his value. Motivated?

rp. David Aardsma. A journeyman at age 26 who couldn’t command his 98mph fastball. With Coach Farrell he was learning, until groin injury and a too early return. 4-2, 5.55, 49K, 35BB in 48.2IP. With control & velocity restored, can he make this dominant Pen out of ST

rp. Takashi Saito. A top MLB closer, finished 2007 with 39sv, 78K in 64ip, 1.40era, 0.72whip. With injured elbow in 2008 still managed 18sv, 69K and 2.49era in 47ip. Recovered, he will be key to a dominant Pen.
Four of our of our starting six, plus Clay Buchholz; and two dominant relievers are in need of redemption.

Seven pitchers putting it all on the line. Good for them, good for the team, good for the fan.
This story line continues deep into the 2009 lineup, 10 players, not including Tek. These guys won’t be Idiots. These are the Junkyard Dogs who will play smart to re-establish their individual careers, by playing as a team, to reach their WS goal.

They are:

Jacoby Ellsbury. Despite wrist injury, managed .280, 97R, 50SB, GG defense, zeroE’s, 3rd in ROY. But is was a disappointing year. James predicts .301. I see a GG, 60SB, 120R, .375obp.

Big Papi Ortiz. In just 109G, his .264, 23, 89,.877ops hurt more than his bad wrist. At age 33 he is healthy and ready. Look out.

J.D.Drew. Despite just 109G, and playing injured, he had a good year w. .280, 19, 64, .927ops. What will he do in 150G?

J.Bay. Manny’s gone, so are his bad knees. This is his year now, his team. Can anyone else say .290,35,100,100r, 20sb, .987?

Mike Lowell. He’s gotta be ticked off, trade talk by fickle FO & fans, after gutting through terrible hip pain for 113G with .274, 17, 73, 58r, .799ops. Will he approach 2007 #’s and shut everyone up about 2010?

Jed Lowrie. Starts his first full year at age 24, after tattoing the Monster with 25doubles, 46RBI, in 81G, with plus range and zero E’s at SS, playing with a fractured and sprained wrist. He really doesn’t need redemption, does he!

Julio Lugo. Had an awful year, then was injured, batting .268/.685ops, with 18E and 12SB in 82G. He is better than that.

Rocco Baldelli. Re-diagnosed, with treatment that will allow him to play more. His one year incentivized deal is all about re-discovering that brilliant 5-tool player that helped beat the Sox in the ALCS.

Josh Bard. The most under-rated catcher in baseball? Good defender, MUCH better hitter than most. 2008 injuries shut him down. Recovered, he will be a plus defender, hit well, and may be, at age 30, the future Sox catcher.

Mark Kotsay. His knees are healed. Athletic defender at four positions, will show he can hit 50+ points better than his .228 this fall.

There they are, The Junkyard Dogs, a powerful team that has been through the grinder, facing a season of Redemption and Hope. Anyone who says this is a group of castoffs would be so incredibly wrong. These are among the finest baseball players in the League, a group of All-Stars who are recovering from injuries that hurt their 2008 seasons, but not their careers.

This is an exciting story, American and universal. It’s time to climb aboard, because this train is leaving the station, with or without Tek. Let him go, Boras, this is also Tek’s year of redemption. Let him go or get run over.