Bobby Valentine and the Boston Red Sox have solidified their starting rotation with lefty Felix Doubront as the #4 starter and righty Daniel Bard as the #5 starter. Though Alfredo Aceves also did well enough this spring to earn starting honors, he will play an integral role in relief for a team struggling with bullpen options.
Out of the three pitchers, Doubront was the most likely choice for a rotation spot. He came into spring training healthy and with a positive attitude. He finished with a 2.70 ERA, 1.44 WHIP, .290 BA against him, six walks, and ten strikeouts over 16.2 innings pitched through four games. The young pitcher always had much promise as a prospect, but this spring he has broken out as a potential strong started and hopefully will continue his success into the regular season.
Bard spent his Spring Training and off-season preparing for a transition from the bullpen where he was a successful set-up man to former closer Jonathon Papelbon to a potential starter. Though results were mixed, Bard finished up with a strong start against the Toronto Blue Jays. He ends his spring with a 6.57 ERA, 1.50 WHIP, .228 BA against him, 16 walks, and 18 strikeouts over 24.2 innings pitched through six games. Now with a defined role on the team, Bard will look forward to finding his groove in the regular season.
Aceves, who had a 5.50 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, .254 BA against him, three walks, and 15 strikeouts in 18 innings pitched over five games, will be the life of the bullpen. This role is just as important to the team than if he was a starter, maybe more so. By the end of the season, he will probably have made a few spot starts, but he is so valuable because he can make longer relief outings and more appearances. With new closer Andrew Bailey’s thumb questionable and only a few days from Opening Day, the bullpen is not in tip-top shape, but having Aceves there strengthens it automatically.
The Red Sox have an undeniably strong offense that has not had many changes since last season. Carl Crawford should not be far off, but will not start Opening Day due to his recovery from wrist surgery. If Cody Ross can continue the tear he has been on throughout Spring Training, then the Sox have an upgrade in their outfield to a line-up that already boasts MVP runner-up center-fielder Jacoby Ellsbury, second baseman Dustin Pedroia, and first baseman Adrien Gonzalez, among others. The season depends on large part to the health and consistency of their pitchers.
Going into the season, Valentine and the Sox should feel confident that they have a winning team. Hopefully, they’ll play like one.