World Series champion Red Sox relying on youth

Wed Mar 26, 2014 3:36pm EDT
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By Larry Fine

(Reuters) - The Boston Red Sox are sticking to a long-range blueprint for success and relying on 21-year-old shortstop Xander Bogaerts as a critical cog in defense of their World Series crown.

No less an authority than Boston second baseman Dustin Pedroia welcomes the prospect of entering the 2014 campaign with rookie Bogaerts as his double-play partner.

"His ability is unbelievable," Pedroia told reporters at the Red Sox spring training headquarters in Fort Myers, Florida. "He has the willingness to learn and get better every day. He wants to be great, too."

The Red Sox were unexpected champions last season, capping a brilliant decade of baseball with their third World Series title in 10 years after going 86 years without one.

That Boston team was built on a transfusion of free agent veterans including Shane Victorino, Mike Napoli and reliever Koji Uehara, who banded together under a battle cry of "Boston Strong" to complete a wild, worst-to-first ride to the title.

Chemistry among the players, and between the team and a city rocked by the fatal bombings at the Boston Marathon, seemed to lift the beard-growing Red Sox to the delight of Fenway Park fans who had endured a last-place 2012 finish in the AL East.

Should Boston prevail again in their highly competitive division, it could be Bogaerts, just starting his career, and Grady Sizemore, striving to revive his, as the new difference-makers.

POISE, PATIENCE   Continued...

Oct 28, 2013; St. Louis, MO, USA; Boston Red Sox third baseman Xander Bogaerts (72) reacts as he runs home on a catcher David Ross (3) ground rule double against the St. Louis Cardinals during the seventh inning of game five of the MLB baseball World Series at Busch Stadium. Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports