From today’s Red Sox season preview…
Will the back-end of Boston’s rotation be adequate enough to hang on in the AL East? This would be a fantastic rotation with Matsuzaka and Lackey filling the final two slots, but based on the crop of starter vying for the four and five positions right now, things could get substantially sticky for the Red Sox.
Boston’s top three pitchers are set: Josh Beckett, Jon Lester, and Clay Buchholz. We’re not talking about them. We’re talking about the guys that FOLLOW them in the rotation. Right now, converted reliever Daniel Bard and former top Tigers and Marlins top prospect Andrew Miller are slotted into the final two slots. But Boston has brought in a ton of veterans to compete with those two. Those veterans consist of Aaron Cook, Ross Ohlendorf, Vicente Padilla, Brandon Duckworth, and Carlos Silva.
None of those seven names strike fear into my heart. Duckworth didn’t pitch in the majors at all in 2011, and actually hasn’t been there since 2008 when he had a stint with the Royals. Last year, he spent the season at AAA Pawtucket for the Red Sox, and in 118 innings, he had a 3.97 ERA with a 2.10 strikeout to walk ratio. But at 36, his best days are clealry behind him. Silva also didn’t see any time in the majors in 2011, and only threw 36 innings in the minors for the Yankees. In 23 AAA innings, he had a 3.52 ERA. I think you can cross both of these guys off of the list of possible rotation candidates for Boston.
Out of the other five contenders, Cook threw the most innings out of the bunch…with 97. Seriously? Cook looks done, though. In those 97 innings, he had a 6.03 ERA while striking out 48 and walking 37. Cook has never been much of a strikeout artist, but this is just getting out of hand. Plus, his average fastball velocity has been dipping consistently, down to 88 miles per hour last season. That won’t cut it in the AL East.
What about Padilla? He only threw 8 2/3 innings in 2011 after battling neck injuries, but was shocking effective in 2010 for the Dodgers, starting 16 games while striking out 84 and walking 24. Padilla’s major problem that year is one that’s plagued him his entire career: home runs. He allowed a whopping 14 homers in those 95 innings. However, if healthy, Padilla might not be so bad for the Red Sox.
Ohlendorf fell out of favor with the Pirates of all teams after an 8.15 ERA in 38 2/3 innings in 2011. He couldn’t hack it in the NL Central, and would get annihilated in the AL East.
That brings us to the two favorites right now, Bard and Miller. Bard has impressive peripherals as the primary setup man for Jonathan Papelbon last season, striking out 74 and walking 24 in 73 innings. But here’s the thing about Bard: he hasn’t started since 2007 in the low minors. His statline that season? 75 innings, 47 strikeouts, 78 walks, and a 7.08 ERA. And the Red Sox think this guy can slide right into the rotation without missing a beat?
Then, there’s Miller. He’s battled with control for his entire career, and last year wasn’t excluded from that sample. He threw 65 innings, struck out 50, and walked 41. Oh, and he allowed eight homers. A contender is going to give this guy a shot in their rotation? Seriously?
Boston’s best option is to probably roll the dice with Padilla and Miller, and to keep Bard as an ace setup man. It’s a pretty bad sign for the franchise that the normally buy happy Red Sox stood pat after the injuries to Daisuke Matsuzaka and John Lackey. But then again, Boston could just be using 2012 as a standby year while waiting for their pitchers to get healthy.