Reporting Dan Roche
BOSTON (CBS) – In part three of my Red Sox breakdowns, I take a look at the Boston rotation heading into the 2013 season.
The Red Sox really came up short in this department last season, as the trio of Jon Lester, Josh Beckett, and Clay Buchholz combined to go 25-33 with a 4.83 ERA and it felt even worse than the numbers.
This year there are still plenty of question marks surrounding their staff, and many are saying the success of the Red Sox relies on the success of their starting five.
After four solid, consistent seasons from 2008-11 where he averaged 16 wins, eight losses and a 3.35 ERA, Lester struggled to a 9-14 record with a 4.82 ERA in 2012. He couldn’t find any consistency all season and, in turn, looked fairly miserable throughout. If you want to break it down as far as where his troubles were rooted, look no further than his record at Fenway Park against his road mark:
Fenway: 3-10, 6.31 ERA in 18 starts
Road: 6-4, 3.20 ERA in 15 starts
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Lester perhaps took a big step on Wednesday when he took on a lot of the responsibility for what went wrong last season; from his struggles to his whining to umpires. He also said he loved playing in Boston.
It will be interesting to see if Lester steps up, both on and off the field, this season now that Josh Beckett has been traded.
Buchholz finished 2012 with a record of 11-8 and a 4.56 ERA, but his journey to that mark was a bit of a strange one. He went 3-1 in April, but with an ERA of 8.69. Then in 14 starts over June, July, and August he went 7-2 with a 2.90 ERA. In September, when the team was horrific, he went 0-4 with a 3.96 ERA in six starts. Buchholz also missed a 20-game stretch during the season with an esophagus problem, when he lost a lot of blood that was caused by a pain reliever called Toradol.
Buchholz has been relied on as a top starter, but got off to a bad start this spring when he suffered a mild hamstring strain on Day One of workouts. Luckily, the injury looks like that will be just a little bump in the road.
The 35-year-old Dempster is known as a good guy to have in the clubhouse and a guy that has some grit and ability on the mound. He went 5-5 with a 2.25 ERA in 16 starts for the Cubs last season before being traded to Texas at the deadline, where he went 7-3 with a 5.09 ERA in 12 starts. Dempster lasted just three-plus innings, giving up five runs on six hits in a crucial regular season-ending 12-5 loss to Oakland that decided the AL West champion. For his career, Dempster touts a respectable 124-124 record with 87 saves. Right now, no one is really sure what he’ll bring to the Sox, except guts.
The highly scrutinized Lackey came into camp 17-pounds lighter and a year removed from Tommy John surgery. Now the big question is what’s he got left?
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No one is really sure of that answer just yet. In his two seasons with Boston, Lackey has gone 26-23 with an ERA around 5.00. He did win a lot of big games with the Angels, and if healthy he could give Boston some quality starts. he still has two years and $30-million left on his contract, so it’s put-up or shut-up time for Lackey. It should be interesting to see how it all plays out.
Doubront is a wild card that has been dealing with some arm stiffness early on here in Fort Myers. In 2012, Doubront moved into the starting rotation and was one of the bright spots. He made 29 starts and went 11-10 with a 4.86 ERA. However, it was the most innings Doubront has ever thrown in a season and has slowed him down this spring. His splits are a little troubling as well, as he went 9-4 with a 4.41 ERA in the first half, while only going 2-6 with a 5.54 ERA in 12 starts in the second — including a 1-4 mark in September.
The hope is that the off-season rest helped, but he Doubront will likely be limited in how many starts he can make this season.
The versatile lefthander appeared in 37 games last season going 3-4 with a 3.77 ERA with one save. In nine starts, he went 3-3 with a 4.14 ERA. Overall, Morales had 76 strikeouts in 76 innings, and can be an effective, versatile pitcher on this staff in 2013.
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There are question marks all over this rotation and a lot needs to happen for it to come together. But it all begins with Jon Lester, who at the age of 29 seems like he’s ready, willing, and able to become an elite starter.
If that happens, good things should follow in the form of Buchholz, Dempster, and Doubront (if healthy). John Lackey is a guy to watch early on, because if he’s finally healthy he can become a top of the rotation guy.
The trade that saved the Sox some $250-million last August also brought hard-throwing Rubby De La Rosa, as well as Allen Webster, who could both be up in Boston by the end of the season. Knuckler Stephen Wright is also a guy to watch closely as well.
If the Sox are to turn things around this season it will all start with the rotation. In the wide open AL East, this group has to perform in order for the Sox to have any chance.
Follow WBZ-TV’s Dan Roche on Twitter @RochieWBZ. Tune in to his updates from Red Sox Spring Training in Fort Myers, Florida all week on WBZ-TV, WBZ NewsRadio 1030 and 98.5 The Sports Hub!