Boston Red Sox: What to Expect From the Starting Pitching

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Boston Red Sox Pitching Staff

Lackey
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

With less than a week to go in spring training, the Boston Red Sox have done a masterful job of keeping their pitching rotation healthy. If they can continue the trend throughout the regular season, the team has a good chance of returning to the playoffs for the first time since 2009.

Collectively, the five-man rotation of Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, Ryan Dempster, John Lackey and Felix Doubront have posted a 9-3 record and a solid 2.62 ERA. Alfredo Aceves, the long reliever and emergency starter, has been equally as impressive (2-0, 3.00 ERA) this spring.

With a lineup no longer capable of scoring 850 runs, the Red Sox will rely heavily on their pitching in 2013. The bullpen is expected to be very good this season—and very deep—but it all starts with the starting five.

The rotation has already overcome injury and adversity in making it this far through spring training. Now they need to take the next step and carry their progress into the regular season.

Here’s a look at the five starters that will open the season in the Red Sox rotation and what should be expected from each of them. If healthy, the group will allow the team to have a realistic chance of competing for the American League East title.

(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)

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Jon Lester, LHP

Lester
Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Lefty Jon Lester is currently the MLB ERA leader in spring training among qualified pitchers, with a ridiculously low mark of 0.90 (two earned runs in 20 innings). The Red Sox desperately need the 29-year-old to return to his 2010 form, and all signs so far are indicating that he will. If a division title is in the cards for the Red Sox, Lester will need to win 18 games.

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Clay Buchholz, RHP

Buchholz
Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

It’s always been about health with right-hander Clay Buchholz. The 28-year-old has been dominant at times over the past three seasons, but he’s missed 28 starts due to injury during that span. Buchholz will move into the number two spot in the rotation in 2013 for the first time in his career. If he can stay on the field, he should win 15 games and post an ERA around 3.50.

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Ryan Dempster, RHP

Dempster
Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Free agent acquisition Ryan Dempster was brought in over the off-season to solidify the middle of the rotation. A career National Leaguer, the 35-year-old will be getting his first taste of the American League for a full season. Dempster has the attitude and the mindset to be successful—and he has the arm. Expect a higher ERA than what he normally posts, but Dempster should also get better run support than he did in the N.L. A solid season in the neighborhood of 13-10 wins is what Red Sox fans should expect.

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John Lackey, RHP

Lackey
Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

After missing all of 2012 following elbow surgery, John Lackey rejoins the rotation and will take up the fourth spot. His days of being a staff ace are long in the past, but he can still get hitters out with a vast repertoire of pitches. The trick with Lackey will be—and always has been—whether or not he can keep his focus. He’s easily distracted on the mound, and is very susceptible to blowup-type innings. If he can reel in his emotions and just pitch, a season of 10-12 wins is not out of the question.

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Felix Doubront, LHP

Doubront
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

After coming into camp out of shape, lefty Felix Doubront has rebounded nicely. With 16 strikeouts in 13 spring innings, Doubront has shown that he can miss bats with frequency. He needs to cut back on his walks though, and he needs to be conservative with his pitches because his innings will be monitored. If Doubront can duplicate his 2012 season (11 wins), this could be the first Red Sox staff with five double-digit winners since their 2004 World Series team. Now wouldn’t that be something?

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