A couple of weeks ago on the "Downtown with Rich Kimball Show", Chris Bahr of the Sporting News was interviewed and the subject of the AL East arose. Bahr gave a one or two line synopsis of each team in the division. His comment for Boston was "other than adding Dempster they have not addressed the rotation woes." This for one thing drove me nuts and secondly is factually wrong.
Now if Bahr had said that he thought their rotation was still the Sox weakest link or it needed a bigger name added over the winter, I would still disagree, but that would be an opinion that may turn out to be true. But Boston has most certainly "addressed" the starting pitching rotation. They have done so in the following ways:
1. Hiring John Farrell. Among the attributes Farrell will bring to his job is a deep knowledge of pitching and this pitching staff in particular. He also commands the respect of the holdovers on this staff from his pitching coach stint.
1A. Sticking with and counting heavily on Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz as aces. I list this as 1A because this reason is intertwined with Farrell's return. If the Sox had decided to dump this duo and tried to trade or sign two pitchers capable of heading a rotation, it would have been nearly impossible, completely impossible without dealing the top kids which Cherington was determined not to do. Counting on Lester and Buch to return to the results of past seasons with Farrell in charge is a completely reasonable assumption to make. It is not like these two have not produced before, they have and are both young enough to do it for years to come.
2. Dempster is not the only veteran innings eating starter added to the 2012 starters. Welcome back, John Lackey! (OK, I know, I know). But it is a fact that Lackey as well as Dempster have produced season after season of 200 or so innings ( Lackey's career average is 187.5 IP), and despite Lackey's two mediocre seasons in Boston before his Tommy John surgery, he won 14 games in 2010 and 12 in 2011. And with Lester and Buchholz fronting the staff, Dempster and Lackey only need to be innings eaters in the 3/4 spots. Anything better from the two vets is gravy. ( but not chicken gravy, please).
3. Felix Doubront. It is nearly lost in 2012's debacle that the Red Sox had a rookie lefty starter win 11 games while making 29 starts, with a 2.35 K/BB rate. There were some bumps, an ERA of nearly 5 for example. Pencilling Felix into the five hole while looking for progression in his career is the plan, but if he hits a bump in the road, the Sox have....
4. Veteran depth in Franklin Morales and Alfredo Aceves. Aceves lusts to be a starter, but his versatility in the pen suits the Sox needs more, but he could be stretched out to start in a hurry if needed ( if he doesn't crazy himself outta town.) Morales could conceivably beat out Doubront for the fifth spot with a strong spring. Just a few years ago he was a major big time starter prospect for the Rockies. If he could grab the job and run with it, he could be the only positive to come out of the Bobby Valentine error.
5. Young starting depth acquired last summer. In the blockbuster Nick Punto trade with the Dodgers the Red Sox not only famously unloaded all that payroll, but also took two kid pitchers who could both be top notch big league starters and soon! They are Rubby de la Rosa and Allen Webster. De la Rosa actually started 10 games or so with LA in 2011 before having TJ surgery which he has recovered from. He throws up around 97 mph and some scouts have compared him to Pedro ( more there in a moment). Webster, who has two complete years at AA, has a hard sinking fastball which has him compared to Derek Lowe. Slated to begin 2013 at Pawtucket, he could help in Boston this year if needed.
6. Steven Wright. Another "young" pitcher acquired last summer, with much less fanfare from Cleveland for Lars Anderson. Wright is a 28 year old knuckleballer who has some people( including John Farrell) mentioning him as a possible starter for Boston during 2013. He will begin at AAA, and as with most knuckleballers is a crap shoot.
7. Improved bullpen depth--one way to improve the rotation is to take the pressure off them and to reduce some innings here and there by using a strong bullpen. The Sox have added new closer Joel Hanrahan plus strong veteran set up specialist Koji Uehara. Plus back to the Farrell Factor, can he rejuvenate Daniel Bard to his former lights out eighth inning ace??
8. Addition by subtraction. There will be no games started by Aaron Cook, Zach Stewart, and the always lovable Daisuke Matsuzaka. ( ok, I admit I will miss Dice, but I suspect no one else in the Nation will.)
9. The Red Sox have brought back Pedro! Alas, Larry Lucchino has not found a time machine or a cloning device to add a Pedro in his prime to the rotation ( but he is still digging around in some old Fenway storage areas for that time machine). But hiring Pedro as a special assistant to the GM is a great move by the Red Sox. In the long term, his presence will likely encourage young Dominicans to sign with the Sox. But first and foremost Rubby de la Rosa should become his special project ( the other kid pitchers could watch and learn also). But bringing out the best in Rubby would be a great Pedro starting point and possibly a huge boon to this year's team.
So to Chris Bahr and others, there are 10 ways the Red Sox have "addressed" the 2013 rotation. They most certainly have addressed it, but now as the next several months go by we will get the answer to the question: Have the Red Sox addressed their starting rotation correctly?? That is the question.