2012 Red Sox Preview: The 5th Starter

The Red Sox start spring training with no clear #4 or #5 starter.  Daniel Bard will be given every opportunity to earn the #4 starter role and Daisuke Matsuzaka might be the longer term solution for that last spot but he still needs a few months to get healthy.  That leaves a cast of 6 or 7 guys to vie for the #5 spot out of camp.  The Sox brought 4 veterans into camp on minor league deals and 2 more guys from last year’s squad will get a chance to win the job.  Alfredo Aceves also has a shot but I think his versatility will make it hard for Bobby Valentine and co. to take him out of the bullpen where he’s been so valuable.  Here is a look at the 6 guys vying for that final rotation spot.

Carlos Silva, 32 years old, 10th major league season

2010 stats (he didn’t pitch in 2011) and career highs in parentheses

Games Started: 21 (33, 2004 & 2007)
Innings Pitched: 113 (203, 2004)
Win-Loss Record: 10-6 (14-8, 2004)
ERA: 4.22 (3.44, 2005)
WHIP: 1.274 (1.173, 2005)
Batting Average Against: .273 (.273, 2010)
Strikeouts/9 Innings: 6.4 (6.4, 2010)
Walks/9 Innings: 1.9 (0.4, 2005)

2012 Outlook

Silva may have the most past success of any of the guys going for the 5th spot but he didn’t pitch in the majors at all in 2011.  He spent the first few months of the season in the Yankees minor league season but was released in June.  He’s not really a power pitcher.  He pitches to contact and his career .302 batting average against might not play well in the AL East.  Still he is an innings eater.  He has good control as evidenced by his 1.7 BB/9 rate.  He’d certainly be a guy, if healthy, that could go a solid 6 or 7 innings and really save the bullpen, something that the Sox had trouble with last year.  His biggest issue is the fact that he is not very versatile and has little value to the Sox if he’s not a starter.  The fact that he’ll be rusty coming off of a dormant second half of last season may put him in a tough position to make the team.

Padilla hopes to join Josh Beckett and co. in the Sox rotation

Vicente Padilla, 34 years old, 15th major league season

Games Started: 0 (33, 2006)
Innings Pitched: 8.2 (208.2, 2003)
Win-Loss Record: 0-0 (15-10, 2006)
ERA: 4.15 (3.28, 2002)
WHIP: 1.385 (1.084, 2010)
Batting Average Against: .226 (.226, 2010 & 2011)
Strikeouts/9 Innings: 9.3 (9.3, 2011)
Walks/9 Innings: 5.2 (2.3, 2002 & 2010)

2012 Outlook

Padilla is a power arm so he could be a candidate to come out of the bullpen if he doesn’t start.  He could be an attractive candidate for the initial 5th starter’s role if Bobby V. is comfortable with Dice-K’s rehab and can use Padilla to start for a few months and then transition him to the bullpen.  He could also be used in the bullpen out of the gate and as insurance if one of the other guys outperforms him in spring training.  Last year was a good primer for him as he made all 9 of his appearances out of the bullpen.  It was a good news/bad news situation.  He struck out a lot of guys but he also walked a lot of guys.  There are a couple red flags on Padilla.  The first is that he has said all along that he wants to start and might not be happy with a bullpen role.  Before last year he was a full-time starter since 2001.  The other thing is that he has had attitude problems in the past and his Red Sox career didn’t start well when a warrant was issued for his arrest for failure to pay child support.  Ben Cherington went to great lengths to improve the clubhouse atmosphere and Padilla might not be the best fit, particularly if he wants to make a big stink about not starting should he lose out on the rotation slot.

Aaron Cook, 33 years old, 11th major league season

Games Started: 17 (32, 2006 & 2008)
Innings Pitched: 97 (212.2, 2006)
Win-Loss Record: 3-10 (16-9, 2008)
ERA: 6.03 (3.67, 2005)
WHIP: 1.691 (1.337, 2007)
Batting Average Against: .326 (.279, 2007)
Strikeouts/9 Innings: 4.5 (4.5, 2011)
Walks/9 Innings: 3.4 (1.7, 2005)

2012 Outlook

Cook was downright awful last season.  It was his worst season in the pros.  2010 wasn’t all that much better.  Before that he was a rock in the Rockies’ rotation for a good 5-6 year stretch.  Getting out of the thin air in Colorado could possibly do Cook some good.  He is not a strikeout guy, he pitches to contact.  He’s lived off of his sinker for his career and, as Sox fans know from watching a guy like Derek Lowe, if his sinker is on he could be very effective for long stretches.  The last two seasons obviously set off big red flags and you wonder if Cook has anything left in the tank.  If the Sox staff could get him right and he could find his sinker again, he could be a sleeper for the final spot.  A lot of his success might hinge on how Kevin Youkilis and Mike Aviles look on the left side of the infield.  Cook could be helpful but he needs to get himself right somehow because if he pitches like he did the last two years in spring training he’s not going to make it to Fenway.

Ross Ohlendorf, 29 years old, 6th major league season

Games Started: 9 (29, 2009)
Innings Pitched: 38.2 (176.2, 2009)
Win-Loss Record: 1-3 (11-10, 2009)
ERA: 8.15 (3.92, 2009)
WHIP: 1.940 (1.234, 2009)
Batting Average Against: .364 (.255, 2009)
Strikeouts/9 Innings: 6.3 (7.0, 2008)
Walks/9 Innings: 3.5 (2.7, 2009)

2012 Outlook

The reasons that Ohlendorf was so attractive for the Red Sox to sign to a minor league deal this off season are probably the reasons that Ohlendorf is the underdog to win the 5th starter’s spot.  Ohlendorf has an option left, meaning he can be called up and sent back down 1 more time.  He also is under team control until the end of next season.  Ohlendorf is in a good position to come into camp and just start to buy into the team’s organizational philosophy and try to find himself in AAA for a while.  Like Cook he was horrible last season but he is still young and there is potential there.  Ohlendorf seems to be more of a long term project and he could prove to be a valuable piece that can be stashed in Pawtucket for at least this season.

Andrew Miller looks to jump into the Sox rotation this year

Andrew Miller, 26 years old, 6th major league season

Games Started: 12 (20, 2008)
Innings Pitched: 65 (107.1, 2008)
Win-Loss Record: 6-3 (6-3, 2011)
ERA: 5.54 (4.84, 2009)
WHIP: 1.815 (1.600, 2009)
Batting Average Against: .302 (.273, 2009)
Strikeouts/9 Innings: 6.9 (7.9, 2007)
Walks/9 Innings: 5.7 (4.7, 2008)

2012 Outlook

Andrew Miller is one of those maddening pitchers to watch.  If he could improve his control and cut down his walks he could legitimately be a top of the end rotation guy.  The problem is throughout his career he has yet to figure it out.  His walk/9 rate has been above 4 1/2 throughout his entire career which is horrible.  When he hits his spots he is very tough to hit.  New pitching coach Bob McClure has talked about how he has seen flaws in his footwork and is trying to fix that during spring training.  If Miller could get himself right he could be a huge asset to the Sox rotation.  It would be interesting to see Miller and Daniel Bard, who were the aces of the staff when they were together at North Carolina, pitching together in the Red Sox rotation.

Felix Doubront will try to put his injury issues behind him this season

Felix Doubront, 24 years old, 3rd major league season

Games Started: 0 (3, 2010)
Innings Pitched: 10.1 (25, 2010)
Win-Loss Record: 0-0 (2-2, 2010)
ERA: 6.10 (4.32, 2010)
WHIP: 1.953 (1.480, 2010)
Batting Average Against: .316 (.270, 2010)
Strikeouts/9 Innings: 5.2 (8.3, 2010)
Walks/9 Innings: 7.0 (3.6, 2010)

2012 Outlook

Doubront is another high-ceiling guy.  He was injured coming into camp each of the past two seasons and didn’t come in at optimal shape.  He missed a lot of time last season in the minors with shoulder problems.  If he’s healthy he may finally be able to emerge as a starting option for the Sox’ big league club.  Doubront has great stuff and, like Miller, if he can harness that stuff and keep the ball near the plate he can be very effective.  His control is not as bad as Miller’s and his shoulder played a factor last season.  He’s a guy that can strike people out and it’s always good to have another tough lefty in the rotation along with Jon Lester.  We’ve already heard good things with the Sox brass regarding Doubront for his work in camp and he’ll have every opportunity to win the job this spring.

By the end of spring training I see both big young lefties being the last two standing.  Experience is one thing but when you talk about pure stuff Miller and Doubront are the best of the bunch.  Also neither of these guys have any options left so they would need to put them through waivers if they wanted to send them to the minors.  I think both Miller and Doubront make the squad and Padilla has an outside shot at making the team as a reliever too.  I’ll check back with a progress report on all of these guys towards the end of the spring.  Next week I’ll preview some of the mainstays such as David Ortiz and Dustin Pedroia.

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About evonsports
30 year old sports enthusiast and aspiring writer from Boston.

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