2 Boston Red Sox In the eyes of the new G.M., the supporting cast will star if it is patient at the plate

March 31, 2003

Growing up in Covina, Calif., the brothers Giambi learned to hit
in a backyard batting cage, where on Sunday afternoons their
father, John, preached the gospel of strike-zone discipline using
a chart from Ted Williams's The Science of Hitting. The chart
subdivided the strike zone into 77 pitch locations and noted
Williams's corresponding batting average when swinging at a pitch
in each of those areas. John lectured his boys on waiting for
pitches in the "happy zone"--down the middle, between the belt
and letters--where Williams typically had the most success. Says
Jeremy Giambi, three years younger than his Bash Brother, Jason,
"That's why we're such patient hitters."

It's fitting that a Williams disciple has finally found his muse
in Boston. Giambi's exceptional choosiness (he saw a
major-league-high 4.52 pitches per plate appearance last season
with the A's and the Phillies) and .919 OPS (on-base plus
slugging) made him a stathead's darling. New general manager Theo
Epstein, who treasures players who get on base, made Giambi one
of his first pickups. Along with new acquisitions Kevin Millar
(3.99 pitches per plate appearance, .875 OPS) and David Ortiz
(4.13, .839), first-baseman-DH-outfielder Giambi will fill one of
the utility roles that figure to be a wellspring of run
production. "The common characteristic of the position players we
acquired was, I hope, that they're undervalued," says Epstein,
who will pay that trio $5.25 million combined in 2003. "They're
guys who for different reasons weren't appreciated for the
hitters they are."

Giambi was underappreciated by two organizations last season: He
was shipped out of Oakland in a clubhouse purge following the
team's poor start; then in Philadelphia, he languished behind
Travis Lee at first base because of his suspect defense. In
December, while taking a golf lesson with instructor Butch Harmon
in Las Vegas, Giambi learned that he had been traded to Boston
and immediately started celebrating. "When the Phils signed Jim
Thome, I knew my time in Philadelphia was done," he says.

After Red Sox first basemen hit a league-worst .237 with 13
homers last season, Epstein stressed offensive punch over slick
glovework. What the infield replacements lack in defensive grace,
they make up for in versatility. Millar, for instance, brought
four position gloves (first base, third base, leftfield,
rightfield) to camp. Thus, filling out the lineup card has become
a high-maintenance job for manager Grady Little. Against a tough
lefthander, Millar might start instead of regular rightfielder
Trot Nixon; behind sinkerballer Derek Lowe, utilitymen Bill
Mueller and Damian Jackson may draw infield assignments. Says
Epstein, "We wanted to give Grady different ways to attack an
opposing pitcher and adjust to game situations."

Even Shea Hillenbrand, a starter at third base in last year's
All-Star Game, is being asked to play a little first base. After
walking just 25 times in 676 plate appearances, Hillenbrand's
name was kicked around in trade rumors all winter. When the
market dried up, he was urged to tame his free-swinging ways.
Epstein wants everyone in the lineup focused on getting aboard
and giving the Boston pitchers a lead to work with.

The top of the rotation, Lowe and Pedro Martinez, is as good as
anybody's in the AL, but the Red Sox are looking for development
on the back end, particularly in Casey Fossum at the No. 5 spot.
Equipped with a low-90s fastball and a sweeping curve, Fossum,
25, spent the spring refining a downward-action changeup that he
grips with his index and middle fingers spread, as he would a
splitter. But there are questions about how the slight 6foot,
160pound Fossum will hold up in the rotation for a full season.

Provided its closer-by-committee experiment (SI, March 17)
doesn't blow up, Boston is a deep and well-rounded club. "By no
means are we going in thinking we're perfect," Little says, "but
I don't have any doubts we'll drive in more runs than we let in,
no matter who's out there." --D.G.H.

COLOR PHOTO: CHUCK SOLOMON IT'S A DIRTY JOB Hillenbrand and the rest of the Red Sox are getting the message to get aboard and get home. COLOR PHOTO: CRAIG JONES/GETTY IMAGES

IN FACT
Derek Lowe and Pedro Martinez became the first Red Sox teammates
to win 20 games in the same season since Mel Parnell (25) and
Ellis Kinder (23) pulled off the feat in
1949.

ENEMY LINES
an opposing team's scout sizes up the Red Sox

"THEY MAY have to out-thunder people to win. This is the AL,
where good offensive teams can maul their way through the
division.... None of the first basemen are good fielders, so
it'll be interesting to see if Nomar Garciaparra's errors go
up. He makes 20 to 25 errors with a competent first baseman
handling his throws.... Trot Nixon gained 30 pounds in the
off-season. It's all muscle, but how will it translate? ... I
don't see how they can get the same production out of Pedro
Martinez and Derek Lowe. The big if is number 45--if Martinez
is healthy, he toys with people, but wear and tear is an issue
with him.... Casey Fossum has to prove himself. His changeup
will be key, but I haven't seen that much improvement in it....
Closers by committee don't work that often for contenders, at
least not in the AL. Tony La Russa can do it in St. Louis, but
he's not seeing .300 hitters in the eight and nine holes. If
Chad Fox is healthy, he's got the best chance to be the
ninth-inning guy. He's aggressive with his fastball and slider,
and his M.O. has always been, Go right at you.... They'll have
the money to go fishing for an arm in July, and they'll pick
one up down the stretch."

THE LINEUP
projected roster with 2002 statistics

BATTING ORDER

CF Damon
2B Walker
SS Garciaparra
LF Ramirez
DH Ortiz
1B Millar
RF Nixon
3B Hillenbrand
C Varitek

JOHNNY DAMON

B-T PVR BA HR RBI SB

L 82 .286 14 63 31

TODD WALKER [#]

B-T PVR BA HR RBI SB

L-R 133 .299 11 64 8

NOMAR GARCIAPARRA

B-T PVR BA HR RBI SB

R 15 .310 24 120 5

MANNY RAMIREZ

B-T PVR BA HR RBI SB

R 5 .349 33 107 0

KEVIN MILLAR [#]

B-T PVR BA HR RBI SB

R 90 .306 16 57 0

TROT NIXON

B-T PVR BA HR RBI SB

L 108 .256 24 94 4

SHEA HILLENBRAND

B-T PVR BA HR RBI SB

R 91 .293 18 83 4

JASON VARITEK

B-T PVR BA HR RBI SB

S-R 142 .266 10 61 4

BENCH

JEREMY GIAMBI* [#]

B-T PVR BA HR RBI SB

L 185 .259 20 45 0

DAMIAN JACKSON [#]

B-T PVR BA HR RBI SB

R 321 .257 1 25 12

DESIGNATED HITTER

DAVID ORTIZ [#]

B-T PVR BA HR RBI SB

L 122 .272 20 75 1

ROTATION

PITCHER PVR W L IPS WHIP ERA

RH Pedro Martinez 4 20 4 6.6 0.92 2.26
RH Tim Wakefield 89 11 5 6.5 1.05 2.81
RH Derek Lowe 7 21 8 6.9 0.97 2.58
RH John Burkett 117 13 8 6.0 1.44 4.53
LH Casey Fossum 140 5 4 5.6 1.34 3.46

BULLPEN

PITCHER PVR W L S WHIP ERA

LH Alan Embree* 103 4 6 2 1.08 2.18
RH Ramiro Mendoza [#] 107 8 4 4 1.29 3.44
RH Chad Fox** [#] 138 5 2 2 1.20 1.89

[#] New acquisition
(R) Rookie
B-T: Bats-throws
IPS: Innings pitched per start
WHIP: Walks plus hits per inning pitched
*Combined AL and NL stats
PVR: Player Value Ranking (explanation on page 157)
**2001 stats

2002 RECORD

93--69
second in AL East

MANAGER

Grady Little
second season with Boston

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)