Raring to rebound, Red Sox face spring questions

How will outfield shake out? Who's the ace?

Raring to rebound, Red Sox face spring questions

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- The official reporting date for Red Sox pitchers and catchers is Friday, giving snow-weary New Englanders the comforting sign that baseball is near. But most of the pitchers and catchers -- and in fact even a large portion of the position players -- didn't wait until Friday to arrive.

Camp has been packed all week, as the Red Sox can't wait to get started.

The offense is positioned to rebound in dramatic fashion, backed by the additions of Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval, and the continued development of Mookie Betts and Rusney Castillo.

Outlook: Ramirez, LF, BOS

The rotation has added three new pieces in Rick Porcello, Justin Masterson and Wade Miley. The bullpen still has Koji Uehara and Junichi Tazawa, but also new arms Alexei Ogando and Anthony Varvaro.

"Everybody here wants to win," said righty Joe Kelly. "There's nothing better than winning. There's nothing better than when an organization top to bottom wants to win."

Here are some key questions the Red Sox face as they try to rebound from a 69-91 season.

1. How will the outfield shake out?
Ramirez will play left field, that much is certain. But who will patrol center and right?

Outlook: Betts, OF/IF, BOS

The top three candidates for those two spots are Betts, Castillo and Shane Victorino. Are there enough at-bats to go around?

And that is without even mentioning Allen Craig and Daniel Nava, two players who are used to playing on a fairly regular basis.

If everyone makes it through camp healthy, general manager Ben Cherington will probably have to make a trade.

2. Who is the ace?
From Roger Clemens to Pedro Martinez to Curt Schilling to Josh Beckett to Jon Lester, it seems like the Red Sox have just about always had a bona-fide ace in recent decades. But who will claim that role in 2015?

Outlook: Buchholz, SP, BOS

The Red Sox would love to see Clay Buchholz take the top spot in the rotation and run with it, but his career has been erratic to date. Kelly has a strong arsenal, and hopes to prove he can put it together for a full season. Porcello emerged last year in Detroit, and could take another step forward this year.

3. How good are the young guys?
Last year, the Red Sox perhaps banked too much on young position players, and the result was one of the worst offensive seasons in club history. With veteran talent like Sandoval and Ramirez on board, the young players will have less pressure on them this year.

But perhaps the "X" factor in how good the Red Sox can be has to do with how much some of the homegrown talent can emerge. Shortstop Xander Bogaerts tops that list, and a year of growing pains could set him up for a strong '15 season.

Outlook: Bogaerts, SS, BOS

Cannon-armed Christian Vazquez will be the starting catcher, and the hope is that he can hit enough to avoid being a liability at the bottom of the lineup. Betts answered every test in August and September, but teams now have a scouting report on him.

Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brownie Points, and follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.