As the Red Sox brass continues to winnow players from spring training camp with its 2014 roster decisions, one of the easiest calls will be the starting pitchers.
Boston is among an elite group of likely playoff contending teams with deep, talented rotations. You can count the others on one hand: the Detroit Tigers, Los Angeles Dodgers, St. Louis Cardinals, Tampa Bay Rays and Washington Nationals.
So, it’ll be no surprise when, barring injury, Jon Lester (30), Clay Buchholz (29), John Lackey (35), Jake Peavy (32) and Felix Doubront (26) reprise their starting roles for the defending World Champions (BoSox Injection’s recent 25 in 25 series profiled each of them). Their combined record of 452-312 represents a .592 lifetime winning percentage. With the exception of Peavy’s fingers, they all have been healthy and reasonably effective during spring training – especially encouraging for Buchholz who has battled injury and exceeded 16 starts only twice in his seven year career.
Should one of these five suffer a setback, Chris Capuano, Brandon Workman, Allen Webster or Anthony Ranaudo are quality options ready to step in. Capuano (35), a nine-year veteran, likely will be with the big league team in a long relief role. Workman (25) started three games for Boston last year and appeared in 20 overall including the postseason. He is a strong candidate for the active roster as well. Webster and Ranaudo, both 24, saw action in Boston during 2013 and will be about an hour’s drive from Fenway in Pawtucket.
Starting pitching typically goes a long way to determining championships. Last year was no exception. If the Red Sox have any hopes of repeating, their rotation with need to repeat or improve on its 2013 performance too.
There is little mystery about who their batterymates will be either. When it comes to roster choices about catchers, veterans David Ross and A.J. Pierzynski appear to have locks on two spots on the 25-man roster. Both are in the twilights of their careers. Ross, who turns 37 March 19, has 12 years of major league experience. Pierzynski has logged 16 years in the majors and turned 37 Dec. 30.
Behind them is sufficient depth: Ryan Lavarnway, Dan Butler and Christian Vazquez. Butler and Vazquez have wended their way through the Red Sox’ minor league system. Lavarnway (26) has seen playing time in Boston during the last three seasons. The Yale University alum has been viewed as a power hitting prospect, but the pop has left his bat recently and his catching skills are not the best available. He also has been spending time at first base during spring training, but whether it’s a move to enhance his value to the Red Sox or to another club in trade is an open question.
Butler (27) has had five seasons on the farm, climbing all the way to AAA Pawtucket, where he spent all of the 2013 season. Vazquez (23), a defensive wunderkind with a cannon arm, has been in the system for six years and was behind the plate for AA Portland virtually all of last season but is projected higher than Butler and may be the first summoned to the majors.
Whether it’s starting pitching or catching in 2014, the Red Sox have depth in their system for a competitive season.