The Boston Red Sox pitching rotation is as much of an unknown as any other position in camp, but it’s tough to ignore the results thus far.
Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, Ryan Dempster, John Lackey, and Felix Doubront collectively have been a very pleasant surprise this spring. Together, the group has posted an extremely impressive 2.32 ERA through 50.1 innings. This number includes a couple of sub-par performances by Lackey (6 runs in 6.2 innings), who’s returning from elbow surgery that kept him on the shelf for the entire 2012 season. Without Lackey’s stats, the starters have a combined ERA of a 1.44—a microscopic number in today’s game.
Now, I’m not suggesting that it’s time to break out the pom-poms and start shopping for champagne, but the trend so far is great news for Red Sox fans—especially considering how the group looked heading into spring training.
In addition to Lackey’s previous health issues, the Red Sox pitching staff as a whole has some other hurdles to overcome. Lester is coming off of his worst season in the majors—his first losing campaign (9-14, 4.82 ERA). Buchholz has missed 23 starts over the last two seasons, but has been affective when healthy (34-18 since 2010). Dempster will be pitching his first full season in the American League, so some culture shock should be expected. And Doubront, although healthy, came into camp overweight.
With Doubront pitching four shutout innings Friday night before leaving with a 3-0 lead, the Red Sox starting rotation will likely be 8-2 heading into the weekend. Winning the AL East will be a difficult task to say the least, but if Grapefruit League play is any indication of things to come, then Red Sox fans will be in for quite an entertaining season.
(JM Catellier is the author of the book Fixing Baseball, a guide to restructuring the Hall of Fame. Follow him on Twitter: @FixingBaseball and Facebook, and check out his site: www.fixingbaseball.com)