The Red Sox have two spots in their rotation to fill, and even with Daniel Bard spending the winter preparing as if he is going to start, they will need to address the issue of depth. Last year, it seemed as if depth wouldn't be a problem: they had Tim Wakefield, Alfredo Aceves, and Andrew Miller, signed Kevin Millwood when he was let go by the Yankees, and also minor leaguer Kyle Weiland if they needed another spot start or two.
They needed more than a spot start or two, though, as we are all trying to forget, and it turned out that going 10 deep with starters didn't mean much if those replacements didn't perform. Miller was bad, but the Red Sox were actually very successful in his starts -- other than that, there were issues, as Wakefield pitched as poorly as he had the year prior, Weiland was only good in 25-pitch stints, and Millwood left for Colorado before the Red Sox could bust open his "In Case Of Emergency" glass.
Miller has been re-signed, in order to compete for a spot on the roster in the spring, but as he wasn't enough in 2011, he won't be enough for 2012. The Red Sox need to look at the discarded remnants of other teams in order to find treasure within some else's trash, and a good place to look is Ross Ohlendorf.
Ohlendorf, you might remember, went 1-11 in 2010 for the Pittsburgh Pirates. This despite a 4.07 ERA, manageable 1.8 K/BB ratio, and just one homer allowed per nine. The Pirates' defense didn't even kill him (that time, anyway), as he allowed a .289 BABIP, despite pitching in front of a porous defense as a contact guy. If you want to talk about a poor luck season, then Ohlendorf can contribute to the conversation.
He also spent time on the 60-day DL with a latissimus dorsi strain -- the same kind of injury Jon Lester had last summer, just more severe -- and dealt with it again in 2011. He was limited to just 38 innings, was hammered (8.15 ERA, .386 BABIP), but mercifully spent most of the season recovering rather than trying to pitch through it again.
This injury might keep someone from giving him a legitimate shot at a rotation spot, in the same way Alfredo Aceves was scooped up late into last off-season's game due to a history of back trouble. That worked out well for Boston, as they were rewarded for their risk-taking with 90-plus innings and a player still under team control. Ohlendorf has just over three years of service time, hence Pittsburgh non-tendering him when they needed to open up a spot on th 40-man roster for former Red Sox farmhand Yamaico Navarro. He won't be Aceves, by any means, but he is someone who could do a better job in spot starts than anyone else the Red Sox currently have at Triple-A.
He is by no means excellent, or even very good, but pitchers with his peripherals are getting guaranteed contracts, some for multiple years. With a quality defense behind him -- and Boston has one -- Ohlendorf can certainly play the role of stop-gap pitcher, should someone or someones go down with injury in 2012. It's no guarantee he will be available in this role, but should the market for his services not form, as it didn't for Aceves a year ago, the Red Sox would be smart to give him a look. Depth is depth, and Ohlendorf can face major league hitting.