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In February the Red Sox discussed a trade with the Hiroshima
Toyo Carp that would bring highly touted Dominican Republic-born
righthander Robinson Checo to Boston for a player to be named
later. Such a transaction would be the first of its kind between
the majors and the Japanese Baseball League. The fact that
Boston general manager Dan Duquette's search for talent has
taken him all the way to the Pacific Rim comes as little
surprise: Since joining the Sox front office two years ago, the
native New Englander has scoured far more unlikely outposts
while cobbling together the roster of the Old Towne Team.

A franchise-record 53 players, including 26 pitchers, wore the
Red Sox uniform last year as Boston won the AL East. Former
Orioles minor leaguer Vaughn Eshelman, a lefthander picked up by
the Sox in the December 1994 Rule V draft, won three starts in
May while staff ace Roger Clemens was on the disabled list with
a strained right shoulder. Outfielder Troy O'Leary was claimed
off the waiver wire 12 days before the start of the season and
hobnobbed with the AL's Top 10 in batting until the season's
final month. Fresh from a disastrous year at Triple A Buffalo,
knuckleballer Tim Wakefield was seemingly picked off the compost
heap--i.e., the Pirates organization. By winning 14 of his first
15 decisions, the righthander almost single-handedly captured
the division flag for Boston. With its mass of zany parts, the
1995 Red Sox worked more like a Rube Goldberg contraption than a
baseball team.

During the off-season Duquette made several more transactions
that should keep Boston in contention in 1996. New catcher Mike
Stanley averaged 20 home runs and 75 RBIs over the last three
years for the Yankees. Second baseman Wil Cordero, a former
Expos shortstop, is only 24 and hits with surprising power (35
homers and 170 RBIs in three full major league seasons).
Acquired in a January trade with the Phillies, Heathcliff
Slocumb gives Boston a genuine closer (32 saves in 1995) and
frees up Stan Belinda and Mike Stanton to anchor what it is
arguably the deepest corps of middle relievers and setup men in
the AL.

The Sox will score runs. Stanley, outfielder Jose Canseco,
shortstop John Valentin and first baseman Mo Vaughn should
easily combine for at least 100 taters. After his 0-for-14,
seven-strikeout performance against Cleveland in the playoffs,
Vaughn, the AL's MVP in '95, hit the weight room and the batting
cages, vowing to cut down on his league-high 150 whiffs.
"Winning the MVP was great," says Vaughn, "but I know I'm a much
better hitter than I showed last year."

That's the good news. The better news is that the Hit Dog,
without a doubt the Hub's most popular athlete, was signed to a
three-year, $18 million contract in mid-February. At one point
in the off-season, negotiations between Vaughn and the Sox front
office hit a bitter impasse; Vaughn even made threats to leave
the team as a free agent after the '97 season.

There are still some real, immediate concerns. Defensively,
Boston is, well, offensive. Among the starters, only Stanley,
Valentin and third baseman Tim Naehring can be considered even
average with the glove. Last year the Red Sox committed a
league-high 120 errors. The starting rotation, though
potentially solid, is riddled with question marks. Clemens still
throws hard and, with the recent addition of a change-up, has
become a more complete pitcher. But it has been three years
since he last won more than 11 games in a season. Free-agent
pickup Tom Gordon throws one of the best benders in baseball,
but he hasn't won more than 12 games in a year since going 17-9
for Kansas City in 1989. And guessing whether Wakefield will be
the pitcher he was at the start of last season or the one he was
at the end (he lost seven of his last nine decisions) is as
exact a science as predicting the flight path of his
knuckleball. Strong performances from all three hurlers are
critical, especially if righthander Aaron Sele can't come back
from the tendinitis in his right shoulder that sidelined him for
the final four months of last season.

Boston has enough talent to win now. The front office has even
set aside $2-$3 million to make a deal for an impact player if
the team is in the hunt at midseason. Everyone knows it has been
78 years since the Red Sox won the World Series, but remember
this, too: It has been 80 years since they made back-to-back
appearances in the postseason.




1995 Team Statistics (AL rank in parentheses)

Batting Average .280 (3)
Home Runs 175 (4)
ERA 4.41 (3)
Fielding Pct. .978 (14)

Pressure Performers

Six American League players batted .300 or better with runners
in scoring position (minimum 50 such at bats) in each of the
last three seasons. Four of those six players are expected to be
in Boston's starting lineup this year. Six National
Leaguers--Jeff Conine, Mariano Duncan, Jim Eisenreich, Mark
Grace, Barry Larkin and Mike Piazza--have also accomplished this
feat. Eddie Murray did it while switching leagues, playing for
the Mets in 1993 and the Indians in 1994 and 1995.

Batting Average with Runners in Scoring Position

1993 1994 1995 1993-95

Mike Blowers .311 .347 .319 .323
Jose Canseco .338 .323 .337 .331
Paul Molitor .384 .411 .304 .369
Mike Stanley .308 .308 .320 .312
John Valentin .301 .313 .327 .315
Mo Vaughn .351 .327 .336 .338

COLOR PHOTO: CHUCK SOLOMON COVER PHOTO [Varies by region] Big Hit Beloved in Boston, Mo Vaughn takes aim at another huge season

COLOR PHOTO: CHUCK SOLOMON Vaughn refuses to rest on his laurels; he has vowed to cut down on his K's. [Mo Vaughn]


The Red Sox brass quietly suggest that Reggie Jefferson will
eventually produce offensive numbers similar to those of Atlanta
slugger Fred McGriff. Over the last two years Jefferson's short,
sweet lefthanded swing has yielded an impressive one RBI for
every 4.9 at bats, not to mention a .311 average. Last year
Jefferson, who missed more than two months of action with a
stress fracture in his back, drove in 26 runs in only 121 at
bats. He'll start the season as the team's everyday designated
hitter. Boston manager Kevin Kennedy is loath to use Jefferson
in the field, so the 27-year-old sometime first baseman could
see his playing time cut back if the Jose Canseco-in-rightfield
experiment fails or if the front office brings in another DH
candidate (say, Darryl Strawberry).



CF Dwayne Hosey (R) .338, 3, 7, 6
SS John Valentin .298, 27, 102, 20
1B Mo Vaughn .300, 39, 126, 11
RF Jose Canseco .306, 24, 81, 4
C Mike Stanley .268, 18, 83, 1
2B Wil Cordero[*] .286, 10, 49, 9
LF Mike Greenwell .297, 15, 76, 9
3B Tim Naehring .307, 10, 57, 0
DH Reggie Jefferson .289, 5, 26, 0


IF Luis Alicea .270, 6, 44, 13
OF Troy O'Leary .308, 10, 49, 5


RH Roger Clemens 10-5, 4.18
RH Tim Wakefield 16-8, 2.95
RH Tom Gordon[*] 12-12, 4.43
RH Aaron Sele 3-1, 3.06
LH Jamie Moyer[*] 8-6, 5.21


RH Heathcliff Slocumb[*] 32, 2.89
RH Stan Belinda 10, 3.10
LH Mike Stanton 0, 3.00
RH Joe Hudson 1, 4.11

[*]New acquisition
(R) Rookie