Thursday, July 7, 2011

Pitching Depth Will be Tested

Sports Illustrated

The Red Sox starting rotation was supposed to be one of the better ones in baseball. With Jon Lester, and Clay Buchholz at the top, Josh Beckett as the biggest question mark in the middle, and John Lackey and Dice-K rounding it out, they were supposed to have solid pitchers in all five spots. Fast forward to July, and it all looks differently now. First, Dice-K got hurt and underwent Tommy John, putting him out until next season. Clay Buchholz hasn't thrown a pitch since June 16th, and looks to be out for even longer. He has been complaining of back troubles every time he throws, and just sought a second opinion from a back specialist. Then, two days ago, Lester went down with a strained lat, and was placed on the disabled list. On top of all of that, John Lackey, who has had a stint on the DL earlier in the year, has probably been the worst starting pitcher in baseball this year. The rotation has not been the strength many were expecting in March.

The good news is that Lester's injury is not serious. In fact, since it happened right around the All Star break, Francona can manage the pitching staff in such a way that he should only miss two starts. However, they still need to figure out how to manage these tough times. Right now, Beckett is the number one guy in the rotation, and he has been spectacular this year. After him, though, there are a low of question marks. Andrew Miller was signed in the offseason as a complete flier. He was once a top prospect in all of baseball, he didn't work out in Florida or Detroit. He has looked very solid in three starts in Boston, but has not faced a great lineup yet. He still counts as a question mark. Tim Wakefield has looked good too, but with the knuckle ball, you just never know what you're going to get.

The bottom line is, the Red Sox are going to need a couple of guys to step up in this time, and the offense needs to come through. Firstly, John Lackey needs to start pitching at a mediocre level. At this point, I will take that. Miller needs to pitch like a number three guy, which he has shown he can. As long as he continues to hit his spots, he will do just that. Finally, I'd like to see Felix Doubront take a turn in the rotation. It won't happen, because Aceves will be starting, but I don't see why the team doesn't give Doubront a chance.

As for the offense, it seems to be clicking right now. With Carl Crawford set to return sometime in the near future, the runs should score. As long as the starters can keep the team in the games, there is no reason to expect the Red Sox will lose a ton of ground in the playoff chase.

So, keeping all of the injuries in mind, Theo shouldn't change his deadline strategy because of this. It is something they can get through. In my mind, a right handed bat in the outfield is still target number one. I know the rotation looks weak now, but it is no time to panic just yet.

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