March 24, 2012; Jupiter, FL, USA; Boston Red Sox relief pitcher Felix Doubront (61) throws in the first inning against the Miami Marlins during a spring training game at Roger Dean Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-US PRESSWIRE
In what is not the most surprising turn of events, the Red Sox have set their rotation Sunday, with Bobby Valentine giving the final two spots to lefty Felix Doubront and converted reliever Daniel Bard.
The selection of Bard and Doubront seems to have been required by circumstance as much as anything. With Bard having gone through the significant process of converting from essentially a one-inning reliever to a six-inning starter, the Sox would have been foolish not to at least see what they can get out of him before converting him back. As for Doubront, with no options left to send him to the minor and no clear pen opening for him, the only way to try and extract some value from him was to give him a shot in the rotation.
That's not the most optimistic way to look at things, and that's not entirely fair. It was just over one year ago that we were assuming Felix Doubront was the first line of defense against injuries in the starting rotation. His lack of conditioning may have cost him that opportunity, but with the lefty seemingly in fine shape this spring there's every possibility he'll now live up to our earlier expectations.
Daniel Bard, on the other hand, hasn't exactly proven himself yet. He has shown some ability to go deep enough in games to survive as a starter, maintaining solid velocity into the 80s in pitch count, but getting knocked around a bit in the sixth in his last appearance. The changeup--considered by many to be the key to his conversion--has also been somewhat hit-or-miss. Still, he'll get a good few regular season starts before the Sox make any real decisions on his future.
Should either candidate not live up to the part, the Sox have a good deal of backup lying in the wings. Aaron Cook, Vicente Padilla, and Alfredo Aceves could all play the part if called upon, with Cook likely the first man to be called upon in case of emergency. While Cook had been knocked out of the competition due to an injury setback, he seems to be getting up to speed rather quickly.
Regardless of your stance on Bard, Doubront, or the situation in general, we can all at least take heart in the simple fact that they can't be as bad as Lackey and the gang were in 2011.