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Title-hungry Red Sox want to repeat history

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FORT MYERS, Fla. -- For the Red Sox, the quest to become baseball's first repeat World Series champion since 2000 began with a text-message chain that offered frequent reminders of not skipping any step in the process to be the last team standing.

"I'm aware of some of the ongoing text messaging that went on after Game 6 of the World Series and [it] didn't stop," said manager John Farrell. "I think they looked at their situation and our situation as a chance to do something special."

So maybe, just maybe, the Red Sox can be that team special enough to repeat.

"It's always nice to have that experience to win the last game that was played in baseball for that season," said righty Jake Peavy. "It's something I'll never forget. At the same time, I think everybody here is ready to turn the page and talk about 2014. It's a new year. That's been a slogan of ours in the text messages we've been exchanging with the guys. 'Hey, let's turn the page. It's a new year. It's 2014, and we haven't done anything.'

"Obviously, some teams in our division have gotten better. We feel like we have a good team, and we're looking forward to hopefully doing the exact same we did in 2013."

You'd be hard-pressed to find even one conversation between the players in Boston's clubhouse this spring that included anything about the memorable October of 2013.

It became clear from the contents of the text messages that such talk would be frowned upon.

"If somebody brings up last year, five guys were texting back, 'Turn the page,'" said catcher David Ross.

The core of last year's team remains mostly intact, though four important players departed in Jacoby Ellsbury, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Ryan Dempster, who is semi-retired, and Stephen Drew, the latter of whom remains a free agent.

With a nice mix of veterans and young players and depth on both the pitching staff and with the position players, the Red Sox have the pieces in place to make another run.

"That was then, this is now," club president/CEO Larry Lucchino said of 2013. "And we are still hungry. Make no mistake, the players, the front office, John [Henry], Tom [Werner] and ownership, we got into this to win and win with some frequency. We are hungry to do it, but we recognize how hard it will be when 29 teams are aiming to knock your head off."

The quest officially starts against the Orioles on Monday afternoon at Camden Yards, when Boston's 2014 edition takes the field for the first time.

The notion that complacency might creep in after the accomplishments of last year is something that is almost laughable to Boston's core veterans.

"That's why you play," said Dustin Pedroia. "I love competing and winning as a team. That's the most enjoyable part for me is seeing the look on the guys' faces when we win and stuff like that. That's what makes it special."

In 2005, the Red Sox didn't really come close to repeating as their lack of pitching depth was exposed in an American League Division Series sweep by the White Sox. Three years later, they were right in the mix for a repeat, but they lost a heartbreaking Game 7 of the AL Championship Series at Tropicana Field.

"I remember that was a huge letdown," Pedroia said. "Really disappointed, shoot, I think we were four or five innings away, winning in the fourth or fifth. You don't want that feeling. Once you win, you want to stay there and be on top all the time. That just gives us something extra to push for to always stay there."

Though the Red Sox should have an advantage with their attitude, pitching is probably going to be the biggest deciding factor in how successful their season is.

The rotation contains four former All-Stars in Jon Lester, John Lackey, Clay Buchholz and Peavy, plus a lefty with the talent to one day get to that stage in Felix Doubront.

In the bullpen, Koji Uehara is back as the closer, coming off a spectacular 2013 season.

And Uehara has a talented group of setup men in front of him led by Junichi Tazawa, Edward Mujica and Andrew Miller.

The lineup should have plenty of production from Pedroia, David Ortiz, Mike Napoli and perhaps a comeback season from Will Middlebrooks. And all eyes will be on ultra-talented rookie shortstop Xander Bogaerts.

Again, Boston looks strong off the bench with Jonny Gomes, Mike Carp and Ross.

"Any time you come in with the target on your back, it's going to be tough," said Lester. "But we're all ready, we're all prepared. Guys are excited about it. Guys are excited about being world champs and excited about taking the field with a target on our backs this year. We've got a lot of work to do still."

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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{"event":["opening_day" ] }
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