All season, it’s seemed, that the Red Sox starting rotation has suffered injury fate so bad it’s almost as if Theo Epstein hired the entire New York Mets medical staff before the year began.
On Tuesday night, more bad news came Boston’s way, as Jon Lester had to leave a no-hit bid after four innings due to a strained lat, the muscle near your shoulder that runs up your back. Worse news – it’s on his left side, and he’s had cramping problems before.
Lester will undergo further tests on Wednesday to figure out the severity of the injury, but in all likelihood he’ll be placed on the 15-day disabled list and miss the minimum time, unless of course something worse is uncovered.
Also on Wednesday, Clay Buchholz will have a third opinion on his back, which has bothered him all season long and caused the pitcher to struggle to find any kind of consistency this season.
Daisuke Matsuzaka is already done for the year (and probably next) with Tommy John surgery. And while TJ rumors have started to swirl around John Lackey and his funny elbow (which required a cortisone shot to get him going in late May, and seems to have fully wore off), expecting any sort of consistent success from him the rest of the way seems unlikely.
But here’s the good news, especially if you own any of these guys on your fantasy teams or are in dire need of some starting pitching: The Red Sox have plenty of depth. General manager Theo Epstein said Tuesday that the team wouldn’t even be targeting pitching at the trade deadline, instead focusing their efforts on the hitting end (the great Peter Gammons reports Jeff Baker, Ryan Spilborghs or Conor Jackson to be likely candidates).
Instead, the team has a whole pile of options waiting at Triple-A Pawtucket. Those are your guys.
The sexiest candidate of them all is Felix Doubront, the talented but oft-injured left-hander (his teammates at Pawtucket put his name tag above the trainer’s room) who has electric stuff and seems to be loved by everyone in the organization. But Doubront is only 23 years old, and while he’s been stretched out to the six-inning mark recently, the results haven’t been there. In all likelihood, he’s a year away.
That leaves two likely replacements in Kevin Millwood and Kyle Weiland. Weiland has yet to see Major League action, but Epstein speaks highly of him and the 24-year-old right-hander has been dominant all season. He struck out 12 in an eight-inning gem, allowing one hit to my hometown Rochester Red Wings at the end of June, pushing his season total to 99 over 93 innings of work, walking 37 with a 3.00 ERA.
Millwood, while much less attractive to fantasy teams, has also been effective, albeit without the strikeouts. But Millwood isn’t still pitching simply because he wants to (he actually told me he had no problem spending the summer on the couch, but the Red Sox expressed a ton of interest). He’s pitching because Boston will need him at some point this season, so the question becomes when.
With Tim Wakefield already in the rotation and Alfredo Aceves looking like a more attractive long-man out of the bullpen, Millwood could see a spot in Beantown sooner than later.
Even if Lester has to miss just a few weeks, Lackey can only stink it up so many times before a decision has to be made, and Millwood might be the first option. Even though his strikeout-numbers are awful, he’ll still make a good addition in deeper leagues, pitching on a high-scoring team that is sure to give him quite a few wins.
Weiland is the sexier option, and a guy you’d want even in standard mixed leagues if he were to get the call. He’s still raw, but the Notre Dame grad has great stuff and rarely gives up home runs, making him even more attractive in a park like Fenway.
So if you missed out on Andrew Miller – and while none of these guys are likely to have the success that Miller has shown – don’t be too down on yourself. There are still a few more arms to come up through the system. And they’ll sure be needed soon.