Sox coming up short in search for pitching

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Sox coming up short in search for pitching

BOSTON -- With less than 24 hours to go before the non-waiver deadline, the Red Sox appear to be coming up short in their attempts to bolster their starting rotation.

The reasons aren't hard to determine: In a sellers market, those with pitching to offer are demanding a prohibitive return. Further, the Red Sox, after packaging three of their better prospects to land Adrian Gonzalez some 20 months ago, are reluctant to further dip into their inventory of quality, controllable young players.

The Miami Marlins, before effectively telling teams that they had pulled right-hander Josh Johnson from the market, were seeking teams' three top prospects.

Meanwhile, the Red Sox consider such prospect cornerstones as pitcher Matt Barnes, infielder Xander Bogaerts and outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. as untouchable.

Thus, any discussions for the few remaining front-line starters are essentially non-starters for the Sox.

Moreover, though Red Sox fans may not want to hear of such thinking, the team believes that they could well be better off hoping for Josh Beckett and Jon Lester to improve rather than overpaying for lesser talents on the market.

The one starter who might be worthy of such a package, Philadelphia's Cliff Lee, is seen as too expensive in another sense: Lee has three more years remaining after this one. With a 12.5 million buyout for 2016, that brings his total salary obligation to approximately 95 million.

The Sox, an industry source indicated, have discussed Lee internally, but the talks never progressed enough to engage the Phillies since, like other big-market teams -- the Phils themselves included -- the Red Sox are intent on staying under the 189 million luxury tax threshold.

Obtaining Lee would give the Red Sox three players with average annual salaries over 20 million, accounting for about one-third of the limit -- with 22 other players still to account for.

Another available pitcher that has been linked in some circles to the Red Sox, Seattle's Jason Vargas, doesn't interest the team much at all.

Vargas, 29, is 11-7 with a 3.76 ERA, but those numbers are helped by pitching in cavernous Safeco Field. Away from the big home ballpark, Vargas has pitched to a 4.67 ERA and allowed 19 homers in just 80 innings.

On the current Red Sox pitching staff, Vargas would be seen as the team's third-best lefty starting option beyond Felix Doubront and Franklin Morales.

McAdam: Buchholz is the relief the Red Sox need

McAdam: Buchholz is the relief the Red Sox need

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- This is the kind of season it has been for Clay Buchholz:

A little more than a month ago, he was merely taking up space on the Red Sox roster, having been summarily removed from the rotation after three months of poor outings.

He was in the bullpen, but the Sox were loathe to use him. Asked, memorably, why Buchholz hadn't been the choice to serve as a long reliever in a game in which the starter departed early, John Farrell candidly noted, in not so many words, that because the Sox still had a chance to win the game, Buchholz didn't make sense as an option.

Ouch.

But slowly, Buchholz became more effective in his new relief role. And when injuries struck the rotation, Buchholz got himself three cameo starts, during which he posted a 2.70 ERA in 16 2/3 innings, topped by Tuesday's beauty -- 6 1/3 innings, one run allowed, nine strikeouts recorded.

Just as Buchholz has straightened out, however, Red Sox starters are suddenly stacked up like jets waiting for clearance to land at Logan Airport. Steven Wright returns from a brief DL stint Friday, and Eduardo Rodriguez is not far behind.

When he pitched poorly, the Red Sox didn't have any other options.

When he pitched well, the Red Sox have plenty of other choices.

So, now what?

"As far as Clay goes,'' said John Farrell, "this will be, I'm sure, a conversation (had) within (the organization). But setting that aside, he's throwing the ball exceptionally well right now.''

That's indisputable.

But the question remains: In what capacity will he throw the ball in the near future?

There's been a suggestion to keep Buchholz in the rotation while moving Drew Pomeranz to the bullpen. That would give the Sox a dependable lefty in relief -- as opposed to, say, Fernando Abad -- while also serving the dual purpose of putting a governor on Pomeranz's climbing innings total.

Pomeranz, who has plenty of bullpen experience in the big leagues, has also thrown 140 1/3 innings this season, eclipsing his previous major league high by nearly 40.

But Pomeranz is 27, not 21. He's shown no signs of fatigue. To the contrary, he's 2-0 with a 2.25 ERA in his last four starts. The Sox shouldn't mess with his success.

Instead, Buchholz should become one of the team's high-leverage set-up weapons, available in the seventh or eighth inning.

True, Buchholz doesn't have the swing-and-miss capability you'd prefer to have in the eighth inning, where the fewer balls put in play, the better off you are. But he can get lefties and righties out, and, pitching out of the stretch full-time, he's greatly improved his command.

Buchholz would remain the best option for a spot start if one of the five Red Sox starters faltered or got hurt. But the bullpen remains the best choice for him.

Ironic, isn't it? When he pitched poorly, he remained in the rotation for several months. Now that he's pitching superbly, he can't earn a permanent spot.

It's been that kind of season.

McAdam: Will this be Clay Buchholz's last start?

McAdam: Will this be Clay Buchholz's last start?

With Wright and Rodriguez set to return, Sean McAdam joins SNC to discuss whether Tuesday’s game against the Rays will be the last start for Clay Buchholz.