Boston Red Sox Opening Day Roster Heavy on Pitching

By Carl Conrad

The 2012 Major League Baseball season has yet to begin, and the Boston Red Sox are already battling injuries, including some very significant ones on their pitching staff.  In addition to outfielder Carl Crawford’s wrist injury, closer Andrew Bailey is out for at least 4 months due to a thumb injury.  Bailey, who has yet to pitch a meaningful game for Boston, was slated to replace Jonathan Papelbon, who defected to the Philadelphia Phillies in the offseason.  Manager Bobby Valentine has given the nod to Alfredo Aceves to take over the closer duties.  The jump from Papelbon to Bailey to Aceves is quite a significant drop, and Red Sox Nation has to be hoping that he doesn’t cost the club too many games until Bailey is able to return.

The Sox are carrying 13 pitches on opening day, including:  Alfredo Aceves, Matt Albers, Scott Atchison, Daniel Bard, Josh Beckett, Michael Bowden, Clay Bucholz, Felix Doubront, Jon Lester, Mark Melancon, Franklin Morales, Vicente Padilla and Justin Thomas.  Lester will get the Opening Day start and the team will likely go with a rotation of Lester, Beckett, Bucholz, Doubront and Bard.  That is assuming that Beckett’s thumb injury does not prevent him from being able to go.

Jarrod Saltalamacchia is starting at catcher this year and hoping to build on a relatively strong 2011 season in Boston.  Kelly Shoppach will back him up.  Boston is going with 6 infielders to start the 2012 campaign:  Mike Aviles, Adrian Gonzalez, David Ortiz (also DH), Dustin Pedroia, Nick Punto and Kevin Youkilis.  Gonzo will start at 1st, Pedroia at 2nd, Aviles at short and Youk at 3rd, while Ortiz will play the familiar DH role.

Crawford’s thumb injury is expected to keep him out for some time, so the Sox had to reshuffle their outfield somewhat.  They will start Jacoby Ellsbury in center field, Cody Ross in left and Ryan Sweeney in right, with Darnell McDonald able to fill in where necessary.

This year’s version of the Red Sox, under new skipper Bobby Valentine SHOULD be able to start the season significantly better than they did in 2011, but that is no guarantee, especially considering the injuries they have suffered before the season has even begun.  The back end of the rotation and the late inning relievers have got to be a concern for the team, and if they can surprise with their performance, the Sox have a good chance to get out to a hot start.

Boston opens their season today at 1:05 against the Detroit Tigers.

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