KO: I lied. When Johnny Damon morphed from Jesus into Satan, I said anybody affiliated with the Red Sox exorcism of 2004 earned a lifetime get-out-of-hell-free pass. Theo Epstein’s pass is hereby revoked. Boy Genius’ idea of a pitching staff: A 300-pound, self-proclaimed ace who should be celebrating his third season of retirement; Hype-K, who’s still two no-hitters behind Hideo Nomo; a one-October wonder with National League stuff; a cancer patient; oh, and Whiplash Wakefield. Dude, please tell me I’m panicking.

RW: What, a Red Sox fan panic? Never. Sure, the Sox mound corps has questions. Name me one team that doesn’t. The starting rotation is the least of Boston’s worries. Otherwise, they wouldn’t have moved Papelbon back to the ‘pen so early. Schilling’s in a contract year and has been lights out this spring. Beckett’s got a year in the AL under his belt and has already admitted he’ll be less stubborn this year. Despite the hype, everyone is still underestimating Dice-K. Most teams would kill to have a steady vet like Wakefield as their No. 4. And if you take another shot at Jon Lester, I’m going to round up a posse of Maineiacs fans.

KO: Trust me, the kid has broad shoulders. When your name’s Lester, you’ve endured a lifetime of so-called friends calling you Mo. And cancer runs so deep in my family that life insurance salesmen won’t even knock on my door. Making jokes is how I mask my fears. Kind of like being a Red Sox fan. You really believe Round 2 of Papelbon’s road to Tommy John surgery reflects a killer rotation? I hear Ugie Urbina wasn’t available.

RW: If they weren’t comfortable taking Papelbon out of the rotation, they would have given someone else a couple of shots at closing before making a move. They saw an opportunity to upgrade the bullpen and did it. The lefty-righty combinations combined with fireballing short men and dependable middle and long guys make it the best ‘pen in the division. I hope Bill Belichick is taking notes this summer, because these guys actually know how to protect a lead.

KO: Good luck getting a lead. How many walks do you think Papi and Manny will draw again this summer with J.D. Drew (did they finally sign him, already?) and Wily “I Oughtta Be In The Lineup” Mo Pena in the five hole? Hey, at least with Drew, Mike Lowell and Kevin Youkilis we already have one-third of the All-Potential Team in the fold. And Jason Varitek, Rich Gedman just called. He wants his offensive numbers back.

RW: So you think Papi and Manny are going to miss Trot Nixon batting behind them? He makes Drew look like Cal Ripken in the durability department. And Willie Harris hit for more power last year. Look, with their 1-5, the Sox don’t need Lowell and Varitek to knock in 100 runs apiece. We’ll gladly take another 20-80 from Lowell. Coco Crisp is healthy and ready to be a catalyst for the bottom third of the lineup. As for Varitek, the World Baseball Classic took a lot out of him last year. Let me guess. You’re working your way up to ripping Pat Tillman next.

KO: Yeah, World Baseball Classic, War on Terror … I see that parallel clearly. Coco better be a catalyst when Dustin Pedroia is hitting .136 on May 15.

RW: Pedroia’s going to be fine. Didn’t you see Sports Illustrated tout him as the “Little Big Man”? And even if he doesn’t work out, they’ve got Alex Cora. And if he can’t hit his weight, they’ll go get somebody.

KO: Ah, that’s true. If you’re the Yankees, Red Sox, Mets or Dodgers, you can always “go get somebody.” I still envision 86-76 and an October of watching the Tigers, Yanks, Angels and Indians in our future.

RW: Barring some bad sushi in the clubhouse spread, this team wins 86 in its sleep. They’re 97-65 when all is said and done, with home field advantage throughout the post-season. This is da yeaaah, again!!!


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