Josh Beckett Nearing Return To Rotation

MIAMI, FL: Josh Beckett #19 of the Boston Red Sox pitches during a game against the Miami Marlins at Marlins Park in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Sarah Glenn/Getty Images)

At this moment, with Josh Beckett and Clay Buchholz on the disabled list while Daniel Bard prepares to re-enter his former role as a reliever, the Red Sox rotation is such: Jon Lester, Franklin Morales, Aaron Cook, Felix Doubront, Daisuke Matsuzaka. While we should take a moment to applaud the depth that has allowed them to be missing three starters at once yet continue to have something in their possession resembling a major-league rotation, it's certainly not the optimal assortment of pitchers for a club looking to contend.

That's why the news that Beckett might be back from resting his shoulder as soon as Friday is of the welcome variety. The right-hander wasn't pitching like someone with shoulder inflammation -- he posted a 3.19 ERA and 5.3 K/BB in the five starts and 36-2/3 innings preceding the DL stint -- so one hopes that he's that good or better after taking a couple of weeks off to allow the inflammation to die down.

Beckett threw a bullpen session on Monday, and he's eligible to come off of the 15-day disabled list on Wednesday. This all makes for interesting discussion on just who is going to leave the rotation when he's ready to come back -- whenever that is -- as Franklin Morales whiffed 17 and allowed just four runs allowed in his 12 innings and two starts filling in. That's the most-productive spot-start work the Sox have received this year, and given Morales, a former elite starting pitching prospect, has been lights out in the four elongated appearances he's had in June (24 strikeouts against one walk, 18-1/3 innings, 1.96 ERA), it's tempting to keep him in the role until he proves he doesn't deserve it.

Will it be Aaron Cook or Daisuke Matsuzaka stepping down in favor of Morales, if someone were to do just that? Then, when Clay Buchholz returns from his own trip to the DL, will Morales survive the further winnowing of the replacements? Then, if Morales does stick in the rotation, what are the Sox to do with Cook and Dice-K, who have no options and are in the last (or only) year of their deals? The bullpen is loaded -- and that's without the return of Bard or the rehabbing Andrew Bailey -- and both the 25- and 40-man rosters are packed beyond their means once the roster is healthy.

Regardless of the eventual answers, this having depth thing sure beats watching Andrew Miller and Kyle Weiland fight for rotation innings.

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