BOSTON, MA: John Lackey #41 of the Boston Red Sox throws a pitch in the first inning against the Toronto Blue Jays at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts, in one of his final games before Tommy John surgery. (Photo by Darren McCollester/Getty Images)
John Lackey had Tommy John surgery following the 2011 season, this after completing one of the least-productive (but still lengthy) seasons of any pitcher in Red Sox history. While his elbow was in good enough condition when it was first checked early on in the year -- after receiving a cortisone injection, anyway -- things started to unravel the further he was from his initial DL stint, and by the end of the year, a game where he had Boston in a position to win was more of a survival thing than a real victory.
He had the surgery, though, and the hope is that he's going to be worth his contract once he returns from it. Manager Bobby Valentine, who has yet to watch Lackey from the dugout thanks to the surgery, says that Lackey threw a light bullpen session on Tuesday, and he expects him to pitch before the 2013 season. Not in an actual game, obviously, but he won't be waiting until 2013 before he starts to ramp up his recovery.
That's good news, regardless of what the Red Sox plan to do with Lackey in the future. Should they trade him, in the same way the Yankees dealt A.J. Burnett, having him be in a position to start the year in a rotation would be a huge selling point. Should they want to keep him around, however -- or have to -- then having him be healthy and closer to the pitcher they signed is a positive turn of events.
It's a little too early to worry about who is starting in 2013, but if there's anything a 162-game season can remind you of, it's that you can never have too many pitchers, within the limits of your 40-man roster. There's always a need, regardless of how dependable your rotation just was or wasn't.
Oscar Tejeda was designated for assignment following the Kevin Youkilis trade, as Boston needed two 40-man roster spots in order to accommodate both Zach Stewart and Brent Lillibridge. This didn't come as a surprise, as Tejeda was taking up a spot on the 40, and hadn't developed much at all since 2010. The 22-year-old was at his second stint at Portland, and while he was still young and has tools that could bring him success someday, there's an expectation of production for a player in the minors taking up a spot on the 40-man, and Tejeda's lack of growth, lack of plate discipline, and the move to the outfield that meant he needed to be even better offensively than in the past, all meant that he was something of a disappointment that could be designated.
The Pirates claimed him and stuck him on their own 40-man, with Pirates Prospects' Kristy Robinson describing him as an "infielder/outfielder," making you wonder if the Bucs aim to move him back to the infield, or just begin his life as a utility player now.
Even if Tejeda ends up developing, designating him is understandable. He had slid down the organization's prospect rankings considerably the last year, after struggling for both of his Double-A seasons, and Boston has had significant success adding depth to the farm through the draft during those two years.
Tejeda joins another former 40-man Red Sox prospect and utility player, Yamaico Navarro. They've been something of an island of misfit prospects organization over the last few seasons, but it's not a bad -- or expensive -- strategy. Especially if even one of them pans out.
Jair Bogaerts, brother of Red Sox prospect Xander, used to be in Boston's organization, but the Cubs took him as the player to be named later in the Theo Epstein compensation, after Chicago sent Chris Carpenter in return. He's no longer a Cub, though, as the 19-year-old twin of one of Boston's most exciting prospects was released on Wednesday, according to Baseball America's Matt Eddy.
Bogaerts hasn't played in 2012, as he spent the last two years in the Dominican Summer League, and likely would have been in the GCL or in short-season Lowell had he remained with Boston. The first baseman wasn't bad in his last stint at the DSL, and he's just 19, so maybe someone will scoop him up and give him a shot. (Pirates, again, this is your cue.)
Last up, the even-newer-than-Deven-Marrero shortstop in the Boston system, Tzu-Wei Lin, was officially assigned to the GCL. Boston almost has a legitimate prospect at short at every level now, with Lin, Marrero, Jose Vinicio, Xander Bogaerts, and Jose Iglesias all in tow.
Lin was one of the top international free agents available, according to MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo. He can hit a bit, but not for power, and is supposedly an exceptional baserunner and defender. He's just 18 years old, and is all of 5-foot-8 and 160 pounds. That sure sounds like someone who lines up at short.