With about 20 days until the regular season starts, John Farrell has set his rotation in place that will likely be through until at least the All-Star break. Jon Lester will got the nod on Monday and will be followed by John Lackey, Felix Doubront, Jake Peavy and then Clay Buchholz. This may surprise some people that Buchholz will not be the No. 2 in the rotation, but, with his recent injury history, the 29-year-old still has a lot to prove as far as his health goes.
Lester is is line to start his fourth straight Opening Day. This is very much deserved for the 30-year-old who proved himself as the ace of the staff with a solid playoff performance and a solid 15-win season after struggling throughout 2012. The lefty still has to show he will be durable for years to come as he is looking for a contract extension with the team before he hits free agency at the end of the 2014 season. The 3.75 ERA he had in 2013 could be better in 2014 and it should be noted that he is looking for a big contract as he has shown time and again that he can get the job done on a regular basis, especially in the postseason.
The No. 2 is slated to be Lackey who finished with his best season as a Red Sox with a 3.52 ERA and 162 strikeouts in 189.1 innings of work. The 10-13 record was due to the fact that the veteran starter did not get much run support and even pitched in six of the contests in which the Red Sox were shutout. The 35-year-old has shown that he has the ability to get the job done in a tough division and with his contract at the veteran minimum in 2015, due to his Tommy John surgery, he is a chip that the Red Sox can trade during this season with the young arms ready to go in the minors. If he can continue to impress with his velocity and command of the strike zone, then the Red Sox should be able to cash in via a trade if the season does not go the way they had planned.
Doubront came into camp out of shape in 2013, but this season he looks fit and almost mid-season form as he has six innings with out a run against him and a 9.00 K/9. The left-handed starter came out of the bullpen in the postseason and proved to be a viable option out of the pen after pitching a career-high with 162.1 innings. Before 2012, the 26-year-old was used as a reliever and had to grow and develop into a starter, which meant the Red Sox had to keep tabs on his innings over the past couple of seasons. With his numbers falling off in September in walks and ERA the last two seasons, the Red Sox have given him some rest by using spot starters and Doubront has received chances out of the pen as the season gets later in the year. With an 11-6 record and a 4.32 ERA, Felix looks to be a solid starter in the middle of the rotation for years to come. If he can stay healthy, then the lefty should excess 180 innings of work in the three spot.
The fourth spot belongs to Peavy, as long as he can stay healthy out of spring training. He is on track to make his first spring start on Thursday. The 32-year-old is a serviceable back-of-the-rotation starter and showed that with a 4-1 record and a 4.04 ERA in 10 starts with the Red Sox after being acquired from the Chicago White Sox last July. Peavy struggled in the postseason, but really bolstered the Red Sox staff with his veteran presence and was mainly used as a replacement starter for Buchholz down the stretch.
Buccholz will be in the final spot due to his recent injuries, but will be a frontline starter come July and the playoffs if necessary. The 29-year-old really came on to the scene in 2013 with a 12-1 record and a 1.74 ERA in 108.1 innings of work. He missed half the season with a shoulder injury and it took him awhile to get back on the field. His fastball was not the same in September and October, but he still was able to get guys out when he needed to be. In 2014, the fifth spot in the rotation will be the righties to work out of in order to get him rested up as the season starts. Plus, it will give him the opportunity to face the fifth starters from other teams and maybe just rack up the wins in the early going.
Chris Capuano, Allen Webster and Brandon Workman all provide depth in the rotation, but will see additional work in the minor league spring games that start on Wednesday. Drake Britton is another option to see extra innings as spring training hits the halfway point this week.
Overall, this rotation is a great idea to get Buchholz back into the rotation without putting too much pressure on him to perform. Sure, he has the best stuff in the rotation, but he has really failed to be healthy for a full season since he has been in the majors. If he can get back into the front of the rotation by July, then Buchholz could reach 200 innings and 30 starts by season end. Also, he needs to stay on the field.