Commentary

Forecast: 2013 Red Sox pitchers

Originally Published: September 22, 2012
By Gordon Edes | ESPNBoston.com

BOSTON -- As the team's last homestand winds down, here's a breakdown of the Sox pitching staff and who is likely to be back, and who will be elsewhere, in 2013:

Starting pitchers

Lester
Jon Lester
Contract status: Signed through 2013, with club option in 2014
Forecast: Stay
Comment: The 2012 season will be the aberration in a long and fruitful career for Lester. Opposing hitters feasted on his four-seam fastball in 2012, hitting 14 home runs with an isolated power average (ISO) of .328, compared with .190 and 6 home runs in 2011. There was no drop in velocity, which suggests when he made mistakes he paid dearly for them. The swing-and-miss percentage of all of the pitches in his repertoire remained roughly the same, though there was a significant spike in the number of line drives hit off his cutter and curve. With a fresh start in 2013, Lester should return to top form.


Buchholz
Buchholz
Clay Buchholz
Contract status: Signed through 2015, with club options for 2016 and 2017.
Forecast: Stay
Comment: The Sox are confident that Buchholz's performance in the second half (2.93 ERA in 13 starts) is more indicative of his talent than his rough start (8.69 ERA in his first five starts). Stint on the DL with esophagitis cost him a shot at 200 innings.


Lackey
Lackey
John Lackey
Contract status: Signed through 2014, club option 2015
Forecast: Stay
Comment: It's doubtful that another club would take a chance on a Tommy John patient without seeing him pitch, especially at that price. And an argument can be made that with a rebuilt elbow, Lackey might finally deliver the type of performance they expected when they signed him to a five-year, $82.5 million deal. With $30.5 million still due him, the Sox may have no choice but to hope for as much.


Matsuzaka
Daisuke Matsuzaka
Contract status: Free agent
Forecast: Gone
Comment: Short of Daisuke paying them to keep him, hard to imagine a scenario in which the Japanese right-hander returns.


Aaron Cook
Aaron Cook
Contract status: Free agent
Forecast: Gone
Comment: Nice try.


Doubront
Felix Doubront
Contract status: Non-arbitration eligible
Forecast: Stay
Comment: Doubront showed flashes of great promise, though his second-half fade (2-5, 6.35 ERA) is worrisome. Doesn't turn 25 until next month, and he fits the mold of young, cheap arms the Sox need for their rotation.


Franklin Morales
Franklin Morales
Contract status: First-year arbitration eligible
Forecast: Stay
Comment: Power lefty may be given a shot to win a starting job in camp, but could also wind up in bullpen to make a potentially fearsome left-left tandem with Andrew Miller. Shoulder issues raise a red flag, but he's still only 26.


Relievers

Andrew Bailey
Andrew Bailey
Contract status: First-year arbitration eligible
Forecast: Stay
Comment: Freak thumb injury and recurrence of forearm stiffness made this a lost season for Bailey, but healthy he projects as the team's closer for 2013, and still at a reasonable price.


Tazawa
Junichi Tazawa
Contract status: Non-arbitration eligible
Forecast: Stay
Comment: Fully recovered from Tommy John surgery, Tazawa has been phenomenal down the stretch -- in his past 11 appearances, 1 earned run in 10 innings (0.90), 16 whiffs, 1 walk -- marking him as the leading candidate to become Boston's primary setup man in 2013. He would appear to have future closer potential as well.


Aceves
Alfredo Aceves
Contract status: First-year arbitration eligible
Forecast: Gone
Comment: The Sox have a decision to make on Aceves, who still has value, either as a starter or a reliever, but may have worn out his welcome here because of his clashes with Bobby Valentine. The Sox could gamble that Aceves will coexist more peacefully with a new manager, but Tazawa's emergence makes him more expendable in the pen and the Sox may decide he's too great a potential headache to audition again for a starter's role. This much is true, though: The man can pitch.


Andrew Miller
Andrew Miller
Contract status: First-year arbitration eligible
Forecast: Stay
Comment: Miller has emerged as a valuable weapon in the bullpen, which has a chance to be formidable next season.


Daniel Bard
Daniel Bard
Contract status: First-year arbitration eligible
Forecast: Stay
Comment: The failed experiment to make Bard a starter led to instability in both the rotation and bullpen and played a big role in the team's poor start. Now, finding the five mph Bard lost on his fastball in the transition becomes the key to whether Bard returns to his previous status as one of the game's foremost setup men. The pitcher shares with club officials the belief that getting away this winter and coming back fresh next spring will prove therapeutic.


Rich Hill
Rich Hill
Contract status: Second-year arbitration eligible
Forecast: Stay
Comment: Another Tommy John survivor, Hill has pitched well when healthy, and is still cheap. He gives Sox roster flexibility and depth.


Breslow
Craig Breslow
Contract status: Second-year arbitration eligible
Forecast: Gone
Comment: Breslow probably will be priced out of coming back, especially with the Sox having cheaper alternatives from the left side.


Vicente Padilla
Vicente Padilla
Contract status: Free agent
Forecast: Gone
Comment: Have pitcher, will travel.


Melancon
Mark Melancon
Contract status: Non-arbitration eligible
Forecast: Stay
Comment: Cheap, organizational depth. Could go to a team looking for relief help.


Chris Carpenter
Chris Carpenter
Contract status: Non-arbitration eligible
Forecast: Stay
Comment: Sox would like to see what Carpenter can do healthy.


Atchison
Scott Atchison
Contract status: First-year arbitration eligible.
Forecast: Stay
Comment: Elbow condition complicates things, but Atchison pitched well enough to be invited back.


OFFENSE: Which Sox position players will return? »

Gordon Edes

Red Sox reporter, ESPNBoston.com

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