“No … the Red Sox need a true No. 1 starter at the top of the rotation. Without one, I don’t like their chances in 2015.” So say 57% in yesterday’s ESPN poll.
Ben Cherrington sounds like he believes the pitching staff he’s assembled is the real deal. Maybe he has prophetic vision the rest of us lack, but a staff without a stopper is a staff that can plunge into depression at intervals of the long season. There is no one in the proposed rotation that can step in to stop a slump.
A year ago I was arguing Clay Bucholz was the stopper, even with Lester in the rotation. Now I feel less confident. No one knows what Bucholz will bring in the spring–Cy Young apparent or a half-vast command of his pitches. No one can say he will live up to the promise of 2012, when, for a few months, he was the best pitcher in baseball.
It is not enough to hope for an ace to emerge from the pack, as Justin Masterson suggested yesterday. Masterson, himself, could assume that role, but so much depends on his health and getting his control back. Another wild card. The Red Sox have rolled the dice on their pitching staff before and come up empty.
We don’t want to rely on “maybe-his-sinker-will-sink” stuff. It’s clear the Red Sox are interested in the low-ball pitcher who throws strikes. We love them on their good days. On the days when the ball gets up in the strike zone, you are looking at 5-0 before you get to the third inning.
So we need a shutdown pitcher. Someone who dominates and sends the hitters back to the dugout shaking their heads. Jon Lester was like that many times last year, but that was yesterday and yesterday’s gone. We need a Cole Hamels or Johnny Cueto who can lead the struggling sinker-ballers out of the wilderness.
Your work is not done, Mr. Cherrington. Get in the top pitcher sweepstakes. If you can do it without sacrificing Mookie Betts or Blake Swihart, that would be great, but make the deal or sign the free agent. Boston wants an ace.