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Title in the past, Farrell focused on the future

Title in the past, Farrell focused on the future

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Title in the past, Farrell focused on the future

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Has the euphoria worn off yet?

That was the first question posted to manager John Farrell at the beginning of his media session at the Winter Meetings on Monday, and it didn't even make him blink.

"I think it definitely has," Farrell said. "We're deep into free agency. We're deep into getting a better look at what our roster is going to be. It's going to be an important couple of months. The euphoria has definitely worn off."

Rather than spending his time watching World Series highlights, Farrell has been focusing on finding a leadoff hitter to replace Jacoby Ellsbury, who will be taking his talents to the Bronx.

"We're probably looking at a couple of guys that quickly come to mind," Farrell said. "Obviously, it's [Shane Victorino] and it's Daniel Nava -- both guys hit in the leadoff spot sparingly this past year. But I think the most important thing is, we're not going to replace 50-something stolen bases by Jacoby. The biggest thing would be [identifying] our best on-base-percentage guys, to keep them or keep that individual in front of [Dustin Pedroia], [David Ortiz] and [Mike Napoli]. Those are the two guys that quickly come to mind right now."

Instead of putting Ellsbury in his leadoff spot every night, Farrell will have to plot against him for 19 regular-season meetings against the Yankees.

"Well, he's a darn good player," said Farrell. "He played with a broken foot. He played with a beat-up left thumb, and I think he proved to a lot of people, including himself, that he's very capable and certainly a dynamic player. He's disruptive on the basepaths.

"I mentioned this last week: How we replace him is more about what our team's capability of scoring runs is rather than one individual player coming in to compare directly against Jacoby. I know that's a natural comparison, but we're going to miss Jacoby. He's a very good player."

In other words, if prospect Jackie Bradley Jr. does indeed wind up being the choice to replace Ellsbury in center field, he isn't going to replace Ellsbury's production by himself.

"Defensively, no question," Farrell said of Bradley's readiness. "He showed us that each time he was on the field. And I think through this past year and the transition he went through and the challenges he faced and the way he faced Major League pitching and swung the bat, I think, with a little more productivity late in the season in September, [was a good sign]. And if that's the way we go, you know, we're more than willing to have him in center field. He's a good player."

The Red Sox have already made some moves to counter the loss of Ellsbury and catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, signing A.J. Pierzynski and right-handed reliever Edward Mujica.

And, perhaps most important, they re-signed Napoli.

"I think bringing Mike back certainly keeps a mainstay in the middle of our lineup," said Farrell. "Edward Mujica, as an addition into the back of our bullpen, is a guy with good experience. He is a good addition and a very good strike-thrower. With all things considered on the catching side of it, I thought with some young guys coming, some talented young guys, A.J.'s selection and him joining us is a really good fit, for multiple reasons. More than anything, it's his overall desire to win, which I think will really fit in."

And Farrell has no doubt that his returning players will maintain their desire to win again, though he cautions against looking at the obvious end goal -- repeating as World Series champs -- ahead of the steps it will take to get there.

"I don't think our focus should ever change -- that is to make tonight's game the most important thing, regardless of what's happened in the past," he said. "We've talked so many times about this team's ability to put yesterday behind them. I would hope and expect that last year would be put behind us as well as we start camp."

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.

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