Boston Red Sox starting pitcher Jon Lester throws in the first inning against the Baltimore Orioles at Ed Smith Stadium. The Red Sox defeated the Orioles 6 - 1. Mandatory Credit: Joy R. Absalon-US PRESSWIRE
The Red Sox have their Opening Day starter, and it's Jon Lester. This isn't a huge surprise, as Lester has been lined up for that start since the beginning of spring training, and pitched the first Red Sox game of 2011 as well. Josh Beckett, the only likely "competition" for the role, encouraged manager Bobby Valentine to go with Lester all the way back when Valentine and Beckett first spoke.
Lester has thrown eight innings this spring -- well, official innings, anyway, as his two other starts were more exhibition in nature -- and has five walks against three strikeouts, with three runs allowed. His command isn't quite where Lester or the Red Sox would like it just yet, but that's what the spring is for. He'll likely need to be sharp in the season's first contest, as the Red Sox will be facing 2011's MVP and Cy Young winner, Justin Verlander, and his Tigers in Detroit.
Beckett still gets the home opener, though it won't be against any easier of an opponent. The Rays will come to Boston for Fenway's first outing of the year.
As a side note, Boston's schedule for the first five series of the year -- April 5 through April 22 -- is ridiculous. The defending AL Central champion Tigers, the Blue Jays, the 2011 Wild Card-winning Rays, the 2011 American League champion Rangers, and the 2011 AL East winning Yankees all face off against the Red Sox in a row.
According to Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports, not a whole lot has changed in the John Lannan chase. In fact, "chase" is probably too strong of a word to describe what it is the Tigers and Red Sox are currently doing to Lannan.
The Nationals want to clear Lannan's $5 million salary off of their books entirely if they trade him. Both the Red Sox and Tigers would like some pitching help, but if they wanted to spend that kind of money on starting depth, they wouldn't still be shopping for the likes of John Lannan in mid-March. Unless, perhaps, that's the only thing that it would cost them to acquire his services. That being said, it seems odd to spend the rest of the flexibility afforded Boston by dealing Marco Scutaro on someone like Lannan, when the season will bring other trade possibilities (and maybe even He Who Shall Not Be Named) the money could be spent on.
Lannan is having an odd spring, as he is striking out hitters -- something he just doesn't do -- but also allowing tons of hits. It's just nine innings, of course, so by the time the spring is over, he'll likely look like regular old Lannan again. Not pitching well while teams in lukewarm pursuit of you need to be sure you're worth the price of admission probably isn't good, though.
Felix Doubront, as of this writing (but not of this reading) is starting against the Minnesota Twins. To this point, he has six official spring innings, and Bobby Valentine (who would know about this sort of thing) thinks Doubront has a realistic shot to be a starter on the 2012 Red Sox:
It's likely the fifth-starter job is Doubront's to lose. That's not the same as it being his job already, but, given that he is out of options, the bullpen is likely to already have two left-handers in Franklin Morales and Andrew Miller, and Aaron Cook isn't ready to enter the season as a starter due to the delay in his spring training participation, he's likely first in line to lose the spot.
As long as he continues to pitch well this spring, and his modified mechanics that have him stepping flat to avoid arm trouble hold up, he should be worthwhile as the fifth. The Red Sox don't need to be locked in with him if an extended experiment doesn't work, either, thanks to Cook, who will eventually be ready to go.
The Red Sox have loads of outfield depth, but injuries will prevent us from seeing that in practice for a while. Carl Crawford is unlikely to be ready for Opening Day. The Red Sox were supposed to have Cody Ross and Ryan Sweeney around to fill the corners until Crawford is back, but Sweeney injured his quad and hasn't been cleared for game action again. (Though, to be fair, he's close.)
Ryan Kalish is working towards getting the Red Sox the depth they could use. He's not officially a prospect anymore, since he used up his rookie status in 2010, but the outfielder -- who doesn't turn 24 years old until next week -- took swings off of a tee today. That doesn't sound like much, but as someone who dealt with a torn labrum, bulging discs in his neck, and surgery to repair both within the last year, it's a positive sign.
Kalish won't be ready for the majors for a bit yet -- it's not like he dominated either Triple-A or the majors in 2010 -- but the faster he gets back healthy, the sooner he can resume his development and possibly help the 2012 Sox.