BOSTON -- The Red Sox never truly hit their stride in the first month of the season, but they came out of it with a respectable record (12-10) and just a one-game deficit behind the Yankees in the American League East.
"You've just got to keep winning series," said Hanley Ramirez. "It's six months, then you go to the playoffs. First thing you do is go to the playoffs. That's the first thing we're trying to do right now, is just get to October. It doesn't matter how you get there. We've just got to go there."
For the Red Sox, some themes have emerged -- both good and bad -- as well as some question marks, as they work toward their goal.
Hanley swinging like MVP candidate
Playing half of his games at Fenway Park, and set in the middle of a veteran-laden batting order, Ramirez has come out swinging in his return to Boston. The cleanup man belted 10 homers, tying David Ortiz for the most in club history before May 1. Every time Ramirez makes contact, he seems to square the ball up.
Pedroia's got his pop back
With healthy hands, it's clear that Dustin Pedroia is once again getting the extension on his swing that he lacked in recent years. He has four homers, four doubles and an OPS of .844.
Panda fitting like a glove
Any time someone has played their entire career for one team and then goes somewhere else -- particularly to a market like Boston -- it's fair to wonder how they'll fit. Pablo Sandoval has answered those questions offensively, defensively and in the clubhouse. Panda is quickly becoming a fan favorite with his belly flops and hard hits. It is clear watching Sandoval interact in the clubhouse that he feels at home.
There's been hardly any consistency from the starting rotation. A strong performance has too often been followed by a subpar and abbreviated start the next game. The Red Sox know that it is crucial for their starting pitchers to start being tone-setters.
Buchholz unpredictable Clay Buchholz's April has, in many ways, mirrored his career. There has been dominance in some starts; there has been the inability to even get to the middle innings in others. Now the elder statesman in the revamped rotation, it is crucial for Buchholz to get into a groove and stay in it. The big innings that have piled up on the righty early in the season have been alarming. It's doubtful that Boston can get to where it wants to go without a solid season from Buchholz.
Craig's bat on ice
The Red Sox hoped to have a big weapon off the bench in Allen Craig. But the right-handed hitter is putting up similar numbers to a year ago, hitting .118 with one RBI in 34 at-bats.
To Craig's credit, he has not complained about his role. If he can get hot, perhaps Boston can either slot him into its own lineup more or use him in a trade package to upgrade the team's pitching.
Will Victorino right himself?
The Red Sox don't yet know what they have with Shane Victorino, who underwent back surgery last August. The right fielder warned that it might take him a while to get his timing back at the plate, and that has been apparent, as he hit .143 through 12 games. Victorino still looks like a plus defender in right, but he recently experienced right hamstring woes and finished the month on the disabled list. When Victorino returns in mid-May, when the weather will be warmer, perhaps he will regain his production at the plate.
Can Koji still get it done?
For the most part, Koji Uehara has done his job after spending the first six games of the season on the disabled list. But there was the blown save in Baltimore last weekend, when his fastball was in the low- to mid-80s. The Red Sox think it's just a matter of Uehara regaining his arm strength, and he did respond with two solid outings after the rough one in Baltimore. There will always be questions about a 40-year-old closer, and Uehara will do his best to answer them in the coming weeks.
How good is Mookie?
Who can forget the clinic Mookie Betts put together in the home opener? The was just one of many memorable moments he's already provided. That said, Betts finished the month with a .230 average and a .658 OPS from the leadoff spot, and he will be challenged this season by pitchers who now have a full book on him. Betts has the work ethic and the athleticism to succeed, it's just a matter of when it all clicks. If Betts can have a big year, Boston's offense could be downright dangerous.
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.