Josh Beckett and John Lester will be the horses the Red Sox will count on this year, but the supporting cast is not bad either.
After the dynamic one-two punch, teams will have to contend with the newly acquired John Lackey, Daisuke Matsuzaka and the immortal Tim Wakefield, who at 43, is leading the Red Sox in both innings pitched and wins this spring. Lackey has thrown nine scoreless innings thus far. While Matsuzaka has yet to make his spring debut, all reports are that he is in great shape and ready to bounce back from a disappointing 2009 season.
The two at the top are locked in, but look for the back three to more than hold their own. At this point, no one will argue that the Red Sox have the best starting staff in the American League. They can prove that once the season gets going in 11 days.

Forty-two-year-old Tim Wakefield leads the Red Sox in wins (3) and ERA (2.91). Before the season, the knuckleballer was a big question mark. Wakefield was supposed to be the weak link in the league’s best starting rotation. Sure enough, even at his advanced age, he can still make that knuckleball dance. Wakefield came up in 1992 with the Pittsburgh Pirates. In 1995, he was traded to the Boston Red Sox, where he has spent the past 15 seasons. He currently has 181 wins. If he keeps up it up, he could reach 200 wins for his career, which would put Wakefield in some pretty elite company.

Sox stung again

May 4, 2009

Even though the Tampa Bay Rays have gotten off to a slow start this season, 11-15 so far, the still have the Red Sox number. The Rays won 5-3 on Sunday thanks to six stolen bases by Carl Crawford. Boston’s inability to beat Tampa Bay, particularly in Tampa, dates back to last season. They were 1-8 there last season, and so far are 1-3 in Tampa Bay this year. Tonight, the Red Sox will play the Yankees at the new Yankee Stadium for the first time. John Lester will be on the mound for Boston.

Julio Lugo, who was recently activated from the 15-day disabled list, is set to return to shortstop tonight for the Red Sox. Lugo will be the third different starter this year at that position. Jed Lowrie, the opening-day starter, went down with a left wrist injury, had surgery and is expected to be out until the middle of the summer. Nick Green did an admirable job replacing Lowrie, hitting .302 with seven RBI while doing a good job defensively. Last year Lugo played in 82 games and hit just .268 with one home run.

The Red Sox figured Justin Masterson would be a key member of their bullpen this year. They might have found a better place for him though, in the starting rotation. In his two starts since replacing Daisuke Matsuzaka, Masterson is 2-0 with nearly identical numbers in both starts. In both starts, he went 5.1 innings and gave up just one run. Brad Penny has struggled thus far, so when Matsuzaka returns, Manager Terry Francona will have to decide whether to replace Penny with Masterson, or send Masterson back to the bullpen.

Make it ten

April 27, 2009

It is good to be a Red Sox fan right now. A three-game sweep of the Yankees at Fenway Park increased their overall winning streak to ten games. After a slow start, the vaunted lineup is finally producing. Jacoby Ellsbury‘s bat is heating up and combine that with his blazing speed, he is the perfect leadoff man. David Ortiz still does not have a home run, but he has been hitting to left field with regularity lately, which is a good sign. He is in the midst of a six-game hitting streak and his average and RBI numbers are looking more and more “Papi” like.

Injury updates

April 27, 2009

There are currently two players on the 15-day disabled list for the Red Sox, both starting pitchers. Daisuke Matsuzaka has a strained shoulder. On Tuesday, he threw from 60 feet, The Boston Globe reports. Manager Terry Francona was impressed with the strength of his shoulder and the exams revealed no structural damage. As soon as he’s able to comfortably throw 80-100 pitches, he will return to the lineup. John Smoltz, also with a shoulder injury, threw a two-inning simulated game recently and is still targeted for a June return.

Things were looking bad. The Red Sox were 3-7 and on the verge of having a month of April that would be tough to recover from. Everything got right when they came home for a four-game series with the Baltimore Orioles. Not only did Boston sweep the Orioles, but they proved they could win in every way possible. A big come from behind win on Friday started the series. That was followed by a pair of close games in which the bullpen shut the door. Finally, today they capped it all off with a blowout 12-1 win. Justin Masterson came out of the bullpen to make his first start of the year replacing Daisuke Matsuzaka. He was solid, only giving up one run and getting the win. When the Red Sox were so excited about their starting rotation at the beginning of the year, he was not figured in. A pleasant surprise is always welcome in a grueling 162-game season.

After falling behind 7-0 to the Orioles in the second inning, it looked as though the Red Sox were going to drop another one and continue the painfully bad start to the season. All of the sudden, out of nowhere, their bats woke up. J.D. Drew and Jason Bay each hit homers and the bullpen pitched lights out. Boston won 10-8. Still a concern is the inconsistent starting pitching. No starter has put together two solid starts yet. Also, David Ortiz is hitting an abysmal .158 with just four RBIs. Pieces seem to slowly be coming together for this super-talented team. Now they are just waiting on Ortiz and the starters. If and when they play up to their abilities, look out.

David Ortiz is hitting .200 with no homers. Dustin Pedroia is hitting .167. Thus, the Red Sox are 2-4 and in the cellar of the American League East. Boston has scored no more than five runs in any game this year, an unexpected output from what many predicted to be the favorite to win the World Series. The bullpen has gotten off to a slow start too. Normally reliable Hideki Okajima has a 13.5 ERA in his first three outings. The pitching can be expected to improve as the season goes on. However, Ortiz and Pedroia still have something to prove to Red Sox fans. Pedroia has to prove his MVP season last year was not a fluke, and Ortiz has to prove that he can come back from an injury that sidelined him much of last year and be the hitter he once was. The Red Sox play tonight in Oakland at 9:05 PM CST.