Last season, the first pitcher the Red Sox could call up from the minors to start was Felix Doubront. The same Doubront who showed up to camp out of shape and with a tender elbow, and was then unavailable when the team needed him. Bygones are bygones and all that when it comes to 2012, but the depth situation is much better this time around.
Aaron Cook didn't make the rotation for two reasons: one, Doubront pitched well in the pre-season and Daniel Bard is being given the chance to become a starter, and second, Cook's arm strength wasn't where it needed to be given he started spring training late. He's certainly been effective when he's pitched, though: he threw 14-1/3 innings in the spring, with nearly three times as many groundouts as flyouts and a 1.88 ERA. He continued that productive stretch in his first start with the PawSox, with seven frames, 3.7 times as many groundouts as flyouts, and four strikeouts against two walks.
Aaron Goldsmith wrote about Cook for the PawSox blog, and how he's working his way back so that he can eventually get to Fenway and the majors once more. The Red Sox might not have a specific role for him right now, but as long as Cook continues to pitch and build up arm strength, they'll find innings for him to pitch. Especially with a May 1 opt-out in his contract looming.
Daniel Bard gets his first professional start today after nearly 200 innings pitched in the majors. Alex Speier explains why Bard is being converted to starting pitching now, instead of in the past, when he was first successful as a professional pitcher:
"We had seen so much more success than we had ever seen. We had seen him gain so much more confidence. At that point, it was about not disrupting that more than anything else. Not that the conversation didn't happen every year, but it's a matter of getting to that point where there's a genuine belief -- I think he always had it -- but for us to have that genuine belief that he'd be good at this."
Add that to the needs of the Red Sox bullpen versus their needs in the rotation at the time -- Michael Bowden and Justin Masterson were around, and in the case of the former, was still considered a top prospect. According to Speier, in 2010, when Bard was destroying the opposition, Bard came around to the idea of going back to starting rather than sticking in relief. We will see the fruits of that conversion this season, whether they end up being fresh or rotten.
Andrew Miller is on the disabled list, on a rehab assignment. He threw a scoreless inning for Single-A Greenville on Monday, and then told reporters he would make his next appearance on Thursday. The difference between the previous inning and the next one, and the reason it's being mentioned here, is that Thursday's will come for Triple-A Pawtucket.
Miller is likely to be a piece of Boston's bullpen as a left-handed option as long as he can keep his control, well, under control. That's been the case with him for years, of course, so nothing's guaranteed. We didn't get to see enough of him in the spring to know whether we should be enthused about the idea, either. But we'll be able to see soon enough. He's out of options, and the roster already has 13 pitchers, so you won't see the Red Sox keeping him around just for the sake of trying him out. If anything, being out of options with such an unknown but somehow still-promising commodity should make the purpose of this rehab assignment that much more clear.
Rich Hill is on the mound for Greenville today. He won't be starting with the Red Sox, but it's not uncommon for minor-league starters to go for short stints, only to be replaced by other starters on an innings limit. We're almost all big fans of Hill and his extreme strikeout stuff from the bullpen, and pitching against live hitters brings him one step closer to pitching real innings.
Two more quick notes: today marks another opportunity for the Red Sox to win two games in a row for the first time since August 27 of 2011. First baseman Lars Anderson, after 642 games in the minors, started in left field for the first time in his career today. Anderson has no future with the organization at first, but if he can work in left, then if nothing else, his trade value might increase.