Red Sox Hot Stove Report 
Pitching, December 7, 2010

The Boston Red Sox finished the 2010 season with 89 wins. This was in no part due to the pitching staff, as only Clay Buchholz and Jon Lester were effective for any meaningful stretch. The bullpen was even worse, as only Scott Atchison and Daniel Bard excepted themselves, with excellent pitching. Even Jonathan Papelbon blew seven saves.

The Sox bullpen had a good year in 2009; the Sox subsequently let two of it's best pitchers go, Takishi Saito and Billy Wagner via free-agency. Two pitchers who were successful for the Red Sox in the past, Manny Delcarmen and Ramon Ramirez, performed horribly and were traded before the year was out.

The Red Sox have expressed interest in free agent pitcher Scott Downs, who has pitched extremely well in a hitter's park for the Toronto Blue Jays. Tim Wakefield, the ageless knuckleballer, will be back for his 17th season with the Red Sox, probably in a full relief role for the first time since 2002. Yet he may be a long reliever and spot starter once again, as Sox starters battled inconsistency and injuries in 2009.

Daisuke Matsuzaka, the $100 million dollar pickup from the Nippon Professional Baseball League, continues to confound the Sox brass and provides the grist for the skeptics who still question his work ethic and his ability to play a full season of major league baseball. Another bright spot in the bullpen was Rich Hill, a lefty who was a former starter for the Baltimore Orioles and The St. Louis Cardinals. He was picked up off waivers, and pitched well in his 1.5 month stint with the Sox. His contract for 2011 has already been picked up by the Sox.

The super subs on the bench, led by Bill Hall and Darnell McDonald, filled in and played superbly when 2/3 of the outfield and the right side of the infield was disseminated by injuries in 2010. Yet the pitching was extremely disappointing, even disregarding the injuries. Josh Beckett has been unable to duplicate the success of his 2007 season, when he was second in the Cy Young Voting, and led the Sox to their 2nd World Series victory in 4 seasons.

John Lackey, the free agent pick up of 2009, was consistent but not spectacular. Jon Lester battled injuries and just wasn't the usual dominant left-hander we have seen in the last two seasons. With such an inconsistent starting rotation and bullpen, it was the offense that did the bulk of the heavy lifting, finishing second in the American League in runs scored.

Still, the Sox have excellent starters who just couldn't keep it together for a whole season, and the Sox missed the playoffs for the first time in four seasons. All signs point to the starting rotation bouncing back and having an effective seasons, sans injuries. The relief domain is more of a question mark, so look for the Sox to add some free agent arms in the bullpen. As it stands now though, it looks like it's going to be a long, hot summer for the boys in the bullpen in 2011.

— Roman Llimar

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