The flocks have gathered for Spring Training, and it looks like the Red Sox are happy with the pitching staff and pitching prospects they have. Ubaldo Jimenez has signed with the Orioles, and the Yankees captured the pitching prize of the season in Tanaka. The Sox will match up with them with John Lester, Clay Bucholz, John Lackey, Jake Peavy and Felix Dubront and a cast of young, hopeful candidates.
No one in the rotation could be defined as a workhorse, with the possible exclusion of John Lester. They are not unfamiliar with the disabled list, especially Bucholz, who has yet to prove his arm has a full season in it. In spite of these questions the Red Sox seem to have a personnel strategy that runs counter to the American League East— bring on the youngsters!
The Red Sox have stocked their pitching staff with a number of home grown starters, considering Lester, Bucholz and Dubront, and they appear to have faith in the starters of the future in Brandon Workman, Allen Webster, Drake Britton, Rubby DeLaRosa, Anthony Renaudo, and Matt Barnes. Workman has already proven he can start in the Majors. He is good enough to replace anyone at the bottom of the rotation. And Webster seems to be on the brink of gaining some composure to go with this astounding curve ball. And the others appear to be bonafide contenders. So the odds of coming up with two more starters out of Spring Training are good.
The exit of Ryan Dempster is a signal to all of these prospects that arms are for hire in Fort Myers this spring. That is a good signal to send to young pitchers, who need to feel that their time is now. They have the opportunity to join the staff of World Champions and a manager who knows pitching talent. A vacancy is just what the Red Sox needed to get their attention and get them on the fast track to the Major Leagues.
I was perturbed by the Red Sox’ inaction in the pitching market over the winter, and I think they are taking a risk now by depending on unproven pitchers. But I like the risk and I like a pitching staff that has roots in the farm system. It shows confidence in the drafted talent, the coaching in the system, and in the principle of loyalty. The Red Sox may yet prove that team loyalty is not an outmoded concept and that the young arms have realistic hopes of throwing for the parent team as soon as 2014.
If the President needed evidence that everyone needs medical care eventually, he could exhibit the Boston Red Sox, with a Disabled List long enough to field a new team. O.K., so we might have some peculiar health at shortstop and catcher, but the rest of the line-up is intact or, I should say, infirm.
First, every member of the pitching staff, except John Lester, has been on the disabled list this year, and Lester has visited within the past twelve months. Their ailments range from the usual neck, elbow and shoulder complaints to esophagitis (Clay Bucholz). A full-time orthopedist would have more activity on this staff than the pitching coach.
The outfield has rotated through the disabled list from Spring Training on, with Carl Crawford a charter member and Jacoby Ellsbury an annual candidate for long-term rehabilitation. But the Sox were prepared. They acquired Ryan Sweeney, Cody Ross, and Scott Posednik as capable replacements, but they have all had fifteen days or more among the lame, the halt, and the blind. Add the benighted Darnell McDonald and you have two complete outfields who required affordable health care this year.
The infield has been more stable, but only because Pedroia and Youkilis played hurt the entire first half of the year. Both of these soldiers deserve honors for grit and refuse-to-excuse determination. Unfortunately Youkilis’ heroism could not overcome his encounters of the wrong kind with pitched balls. His injuries added a new page to the Merck Manual.
Will Middlebrooks could be the latest cursed third baseman, as he nurses a hamstring pull that could lead to the DL. Perhaps it is only a rite of passage, and Middlebrooks will return stronger after the All-Star game.
To be fair, the Red Sox have reclaimed some pitching from the chronically disabled list this year, including Vicente Padilla, Aaron Cook, and Franklin Morales. The rejuvenation of abandoned arms gives hope that an intact pitching staff might still be assembled. The challenge for the Sox has been to maintain a starting rotation with less than eight pitchers. Even six would be a good number of starters to carry into the fall.
The All-Star Break will be welcome relief for the walking and sitting wounded. If the Sox can arrive at mid-season still above .500, they should thank their deep Farm system and capable medical team. The heck with a deep bullpen; let’s stock up on trainers.