Which pitchers are left for Sox?

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Which pitchers are left for Sox?

Last week, the Red Sox kicked off the Winter Meetings with two big signings Mike Napoli and Shane Victorino before going silent for the rest of their time in Nashville, and remaining silent for the nearly seven days since.

Now, normally this wouldn't be a problem. After all, at this stage in the offseason, the Sox picture is typically a little more clear, with their line-up and rotation essentially set in stone. However, this year is not normal. Or maybe, this is the new normal. Either way, here on December 10, the Sox still have a lot of work to do if they have any aspirations of end their three year playoff drought. And as usual, as was the case in September 2011 and for most of 2012, the major issue is starting pitching.

It was their biggest problem heading into the offseason, and it's the one problem they've yet to address. As it stands now, their rotation of Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, Felix Doubront, John Lackey and Franklin Morales doesn't stand up to the competition, and there's no depth behind them. Nothing there to help cope with the assortment bumps, bruises and missed starts that every staff faces over the course of 162 games.

And guess what? Thanks to the Sox lack of involvement in the arms race (combined with a weak class, in general), there's not much talent left. In fact, unless they revisit or ultimately pull the trigger on a Jacoby Ellsbury trade, the Sox will have a hard time improving their rotation at all.

So, who's still out there?

There's 34-year-old Kyle Lohse and 28-year-old Anibal Sanchez, both of whom are asking for much more than the Sox will or should give them. There's 29-year-old Edwin Jackson who's been serviceable but far from consistent over the past few seasons, a major factor in him playing for six teams in the last five years. There's 35-year-old Ryan Dempster, who still seems better suited for the NL. There's 30-year-old Shawn Marcum, who I like but who also might be asking too much. After that, I don't know? Do the Sox and Rich Harden finally come together after years of close calls and rumors? Do they bring Bronson Arroyo back for a one-year deal? Do they roll the dice on Francisco Liriano?

At the end of the day, they might have to roll the dice on a few guys and just hold their breathe that one or two of them works out. Sort of the same thing they did with position players back in 2003.

Is that ideal? Of course not. But when it comes to the current state of the Sox, "ideal" no longer exists.

Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrich_levine

Red Sox-Indians ALDS matchup becoming increasingly likely

Red Sox-Indians ALDS matchup becoming increasingly likely

BOSTON - The Red Sox knew they'd be in the playoffs last weekend when they clinched a postseason berth for the first time since 2013.

On Wednesday, they became division champs and knew they'd avoided the dreaded wild-card game.

ANALYSIS: Nick Friar looks at potential Red Sox-Indians matchup

They still don't know their first-round opponent, though it's becoming increasingly likely that it will be the Cleveland Indians.

Here's why: the Red Sox' loss to the Yankees on Thursday night leaves them with a 92-67 record with three games remaining, the second-best mark -- for now -- among the three A.L. division winners.

The Texas Rangers, at 94-65, retain the best record, with the Indians, at 91-67, a half-game behind the Sox.

The team with the best record of the three will enter the playoffs as the No. 1 seed, and will be matched against the winner of Tuesday's A.L. wild-card matchup.

To finish with the A.L.'s best record and host the wild-card winner, the Red Sox essentially need to sweep the Toronto Blue Jays on the final weekend and hope that the Rangers get swept by Tampa Bay.

That's because a tie between the Red Sox and Rangers in the standings would make the Rangers the top seed by virtue of the second tie-breaker: intra-division play.

(The first tie-breaker is head-to-head play; the Sox and Rangers split the season series, sending them to the second tie-breaker).

In other words, the Rangers have a magic number of one to clinch the best record in the A.L. and gain home-field advantage throughout the postseason. One more Red Sox loss or one more Rangers win would get the Rangers locked into the top spot.

Again, barring a sweep by the Sox and the Rangers getting swept, a matchup in the Division Series with Cleveland seems almost inevitable.

What's not known is where that series will begin, and here's where it gets tricky.

Because the Indians and Detroit Tigers were rained out Thursday, the Tribe will have played only 161 games by the time the regular season ends early Sunday evening.

That could force the Indians and Tigers to play a makeup game on Monday, since the game could have playoff seeding implications for the Indians and Tigers. Detroit is still in the running for the A.L. wild card spot, currently a game-and-a-half behind the Orioles and Jays.

Since the Red Sox won the season series against the Indians 4-2, the Sox can clinch home field by winning two-of-three games from Toronto this weekend.

Should the Sox win two from the Jays, it would wipe out the need for Monday's makeup -- at least as far as the Indians are concerned. It's possible that it would still need to be played to determine the one of the wild card spots.

No matter who wins home field in a likely Red Sox-Indians matchup, the Division Series between the two will start with games next Thursday and Friday. After a travel day, the series would resume Sunday and Monday, Oct. 9-10.

Should the Sox win home field and host the first two games, Game 3 would be played Sunday Oct. 9 in Cleveland -- on the same day and in the same city where Tom Brady will make his return to the Patriots.