One area where the Boston Red Sox have plenty of depth for this season and the future is starting pitching. Despite Ryan Dempster deciding to sit this campaign out, John Farrell may have some tough decisions to make as the season goes on, as plenty of young guns will be pushing for their shot at the rotation.
Jon Lester will most likely get the ball on opening day, which would mark the fourth straight time for the lefty. Lester posted 15 wins last season with a 3.75 ERA, and was the only Boston pitcher with over 200 innings pitched. However, his solid regular season pales in comparison to his postseason numbers, where he had a 1.56 ERA and won both games he pitched against the Cardinals in the World Series.
Clay Buchholz is coming off a season that could have been Cy Young worthy if he had stayed healthy, which should be his goal this upcoming year. A strained neck was the main cause of a three month stint on the disabled list, limiting him to only 16 starts on the year. Many questioned the 29-year-old’s toughness for taking off as much time as he did, so it will be interesting how he handles any injuries in 2014.
John Lackey will most likely be back in his number three role after a great bounceback season in 2013. Lackey, who was highly criticized during the 2012 locker room disaster, a year in which he did not pitch due to Tommy John surgery, showed up at spring training last year in terrific shape. The thinner Lackey had a very solid return, posting a 3.52 ERA and a 4.03 strikeout to walk ratio, which was sixth highest in the American League.
Jake Peavy, who was acquired by the Red Sox in exchange for Jose Iglesias in a three-team trade on July 30th, is past his prime, but has the ability to be a top of the rotation quality pitcher. The former Cy Young Award winner for San Diego was inconsistent during his stay in Boston, posting a 4.04 ERA in ten regular season games along with an unimpressive postseason, which included a loss to Detroit where he allowed seven runs over three innings. Peavy turns 33 in May, so he should still have plenty left in the tank despite declining numbers over the past few years.
Felix Doubront will also be looking to solidify a starting job after a shaky end last year. The 26-year-old lefty was very reliable for much of the season, including a stretch of 16 starts in which he did not allow more than three earned runs. However, the Venezuelan had a tough go of things in September, allowing 17 earned runs in 15.2 innings, ballooning his season’s ERA from 3.74 to 4.32. Doubront was a very critical asset during the ALCS and World Series, however, coming out of the bullpen four times and only allowing one run. Perhaps he is more suited for a long relief role, but Farrell could very well want a second lefty in his rotation to supplement Lester.
Veteran lefty and Massachusetts native Chris Capuano was recently signed after news of Dempster’s decision broke. The 35-year-old has been a starter his whole career, but might have to settle for the long relief role to start the season. He was in a similar situation last year with the Dodgers, but ended up making 20 starts and posted a 4.26 ERA.
Several younger players and prospects will be trying to earn the occasional spot start and establish themselves in the big leagues. Brendan Workman did just that last year, making three starts and several relief appearances after being called up in July. Workman was his best in the playoffs, making seven appearances and allowing no earned runs.
Two prospects the Red Sox received from the Dodgers in the blockbuster trade two seasons ago will be looking for more regular playing time in Boston after having cups of coffee last year. Allen Webster wasn’t great in his seven starts at the MLB level, but the 24 year old still has plenty of time to improve and should be more comfortable this year. Rubby De La Rosa, who saw bullpen work late last season, will be making starts during the spring and could also see starts later in the year if he can perform well in Pawtucket.
Other prospects include the highly touted Anthony Ranaudo, Henry Owens, and Matt Barnes. While we may not see all of them this season, these three youngsters all have bright futures and should be exciting to watch at Fort Myers.