We're now less than two weeks away from the first game of the 2015 Red Sox season, meaning that there are few opportunities left for any given player to make an impression in spring or, indeed, change the one they've made thus far. For some, that's not a problem. Mookie Betts certainly doesn't need any more extra base hits to build up his hype, after all.
For others, though, there are some concerns. I think the one area most Red Sox fans were focused on coming into spring was the rotation, questionable as it is in its construction. There have been some positive performances there, particularly from the top two arms in Clay Buchholz and Rick Porcello. Those two have combined to allow five earned runs in 20 innings of work with 20 strikeouts and five walks which, frankly, looks more like the top-line pitching the Red Sox aren't supposed to have than anyone might have expected.
The other three, though...well, it's a mixed bag. At the bottom of the heap is Joe Kelly, who has more runs to his name than innings despite an 8:1 K:BB. Justin Masterson and Wade Miley have allowed fewer runs, with Masterson coming in at a 5.11 ERA and Miley at a 3.27 ERA, but each has walked as many batters as they've struck out, and it's not like that Masterson ERA is going to fly come the regular season.
So when is it time to worry? Obviously not yet. Say what you will about spring, but we need no appeal to its unusual nature to make the case that some 50 total innings between all five pitchers is reason to be either concerned or excited. Even if it came in May or June, we're talking about a stretch of ~9 games with the average start yielding around three runs. No big deal.
But let's put a time limit on it. One bad game is never enough for concern, but three or four? Now it might be time to start scouring the trade market, or to see if one of the Pawtucket starters is ready to take the mound in Fenway Park. When do we start panicking? Let's give it a month.
One month means five-to-six starts. It means time to get into midseason shape, and time to identify and hammer out any issues that were not readily apparent when the competition was fake and the results less telling.
Why Victorino should/will start over Castillo
Shane Victorino will likely start Opening Day in right field while Rusney Castillo heads to the minor leagues. And believe it or not, that's probably a smart move by John Farrell and Ben Cherington.
Granted, one month slumps do happen to some great players. Imagine if the Red Sox had given up on Jon Lester once and for all when his 2013 season started to head the way of 2012 in May and June. Then
it may not have hurt so much when he left oh God Jon why are you wearing blue inste they probably never win the World Series without him. Still, particularly when it comes to players with questionable track records, there comes a time to pull the trigger, and while the Red Sox offense can probably bail out a rough month of pitching, expecting them to keep on doing so into May and beyond is a tough sell.
So let's give them April. April for Joe Kelly to prove that he's more than he's shown this past year, spring included. April for Masterson and Buchholz to show they're healthy, and for Miley and Porcello to prove this ground ball plan can work. If one of them allows four runs in five innings in their first outing, or even six in three, let's avoid hitting the panic button. Even 2014 Jo(h)ns Lester and Lackey had disasters in Boston. Even 1999 Pedro Martinez had July 18th.
Give it a month. Then feel free to go nuts. It's entirely possible there'll be a need.