The 2004 Red Sox team was as lovable a team that has ever played at Fenway Park. In the years since that first championship, various members have been welcomed back to Boston, some with massive ovations (Dave Roberts, Orlando Cabrera), some with resounding boos (Johnny Damon, you're all alone in that category).
This season, one of the most important figures in Red Sox history returns to Fenway Park … unless he's got a tight hamstring. Manny Ramirez and his Los Angeles Dodgers will make a trip to Fenway Park for the first time since — coincidentally — 2004.
That three-game set in June is just one that provides some added interest. Below are some more.
April 12-15 at Minnesota Twins
It's not every day you get to open up a new stadium, but the Red Sox get to be a part of that next week in Minneapolis. The crowd will be spirited, and there's likely to be a lengthy pregame ceremony, but don't expect Joshua Sacco to change his alliances.
May 3-6 vs. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
It's obviously fairly difficult to try to project a pitching rotation a month in advance, but given that this one's a four-game series at Fenway, there's a good chance that John Lackey will get to pitch against his former team for the first time. Lackey only wore one uniform (well, two, if you count that whole change to "Los Angeles of Anaheim") in his career, so it should be a surreal moment for him to be on the other side of the field.
May 7-9 vs. New York Yankees
The Red Sox look for a little payback after dropping the opening series.
May 17-18 at New York Yankees
The third meeting with the pinstripes already has to be on the minds of Red Sox fans. It's just a two-game set in the Bronx, so a quick sweep one way or the other could provide either team with a jolt of confidence in mid-May.
May 21-23 at Philadelphia Phillies
The Phillies have been one of the best teams in the National League for a while, but for whatever reason, they can't beat the Red Sox, who have also been beasts in general when it comes to interleague play. The Sox are 14-4 against the Phillies since 2004, so this weekend series in Philly could get something rolling for Boston.
June 18-20 vs. Los Angeles Dodgers
The return of Manny. Will he be cheered or booed? Will he even care? Whatever happens, it will be a momentuous moment in Red Sox history … and if he belts a fastball 50 feet over the Monster, you might be a little misty-eyed by the end of that Friday night.
June 22-24 at Colorado Rockies
The Red Sox return to the scene of their 2007 World Series championship. Daisuke Matsuzaka and Jon Lester were the starters in Games 3 and 4 of that series, and you might see them again. You probably won't see Bobby Kielty hitting any home runs though.
July 19-28 at Oakland A's, Seattle Mariners and Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
These 10 games could be a major swinging point for the season. A successful West Coast trip could prove to be important in the AL East standings for the Red Sox. An unsuccessful one could be equally as devastating.
Oct. 1-3 vs. New York Yankees
October baseball is a guarantee this season for the Red Sox, as they close out the season the same way it started, with a three-game set at Fenway against the Yankees.
All offseason, people complained that it made no sense to have the Red Sox open the season with the Yankees. Many believed it was "a waste" or unnecessary, but those three games provided a playoff-like intensity in early April. Likewise, closing the season out against New York could do the same. Many have said it could very well be a useless series, with playoff spots determined before the Yankees even board the plane for Boston. That may be so, but if those games have playoff implications, they could prove to be the best games of the year.
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