Which pitchers are left for Sox?


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

NLCS: Cubs eliminate Dodgers, reach Series for first time since 1945


NLCS: Cubs eliminate Dodgers, reach Series for first time since 1945

CHICAGO -- Cursed by a Billy Goat, bedeviled by Bartman and crushed by decades of disappointment, the Chicago Cubs are at long last headed back to the World Series.

Kyle Hendricks outpitched Clayton KershawAnthony Rizzo and Willson Contreras homered early and the Cubs won their first pennant since 1945, beating the Los Angeles Dodgers 5-0 Saturday night in Game 6 of the NL Championship Series.

The drought ended when closer Aroldis Chapman got Yasiel Puig to ground into a double play, setting off a wild celebration inside Wrigley Field, outside the ballpark and all over the city.

Seeking their first crown since 1908, manager Joe Maddon's team opens the World Series at Cleveland on Tuesday night. The Indians haven't won it all since 1948 - Cleveland and Cubs have the two longest title waits in the majors.

"This city deserves it so much," Rizzo said. "We got four more big ones to go, but we're going to enjoy this. We're going to the World Series. I can't even believe that."

All-everything Javier Baez and pitcher Jon Lester shared the NLCS MVP. Baez hit .318, drove in five runs and made several sharp plays at second base. Lester, a former World Series champion in Boston, was 1-0 with a 1.38 ERA in two starts against the Dodgers.

Deemed World Series favorites since opening day, the Cubs topped the majors with 103 wins to win the NL Central, then beat the Giants and Dodgers in the playoffs.

The Cubs overcame a 2-1 deficit against the Dodgers and won their 17th pennant. They had not earned a World Series trip since winning a doubleheader opener 4-3 at Pittsburgh on Sept. 29, 1945, to clinch the pennant on the next-to-last day of the season.

The eternal "wait till next year" is over. No more dwelling on a history of failure - the future is now.

"We're too young. We don't care about it," star slugger Kris Bryant said. "We don't look into it. This is a new team, this is a completely different time of our lives. We're enjoying it and our work's just getting started."

Hendricks pitched two-hit ball for 7 1/3 innings. Chapman took over and closed with hitless relief, then threw both arms in the air as he was mobbed by teammates and coaches.

The crowd joined in, chanting and serenading their team.

"Chicago!" shouted popular backup catcher David Ross.

The Cubs shook off back-to-back shutout losses earlier in this series by pounding the Dodgers for 23 runs to win the final three games.

And they were in no way overwhelmed by the moment on Saturday, putting aside previous frustration.

In 1945, the Billy Goat Curse supposedly began when a tavern owner wasn't allowed to bring his goat to Wrigley. In 2003, the Cubs lost the final three games of the NLCS to Florida, punctuated with a Game 6 defeat when fan Steve Bartman deflected a foul ball.

Even as recently as 2012, the Cubs lost 101 times.

This time, no such ill luck.

Bryant had an RBI single and scored in a two-run first. Dexter Fowler added two hits, drove in a run and scored one.

Contreras led off the fourth with a homer. Rizzo continued his resurgence with a solo drive in the fifth.

That was plenty for Hendricks, the major league ERA leader.

Hendricks left to a standing ovation after Josh Reddick singled with one out in the eighth. The only other hit Hendricks allowed was a single by Andrew Toles on the game's first pitch.

Kershaw, dominant in Game 2 shutout, gave up five runs and seven hits before being lifted for a pinch hitter in the sixth. He fell to 4-7 in the postseason.

The Dodgers haven't been to the World Series since winning in 1988.

Pitching on five days' rest, the three-time NL Cy Young Award winner threw 30 pitches in the first. Fowler led off with a double, and Bryant's single had the crowd shaking the 102-year-old ballpark.

They had more to cheer when left fielder Andrew Toles dropped Rizzo's fly, putting runners on second and third, and Ben Zobrist made it 2-0 a sacrifice fly.

The Cubs added a run in the second when Addison Russell doubled to deep left and scored on a two-out single by Fowler.


Maddon benched slumping right fielder Jason Heyward in favor of Albert Almora Jr.

"Kershaw's pitching, so I wanted to get one more right-handed bat in the lineup, and also with Albert I don't feel like we're losing anything on defense," Maddon said. "I know Jason's a Gold Glover, but I think Albert, given an opportunity to play often enough would be considered a Gold Glove-caliber outfielder, too."

Heyward was 2 for 28 in the playoffs - 1 for 16 in the NLCS.


Kerry Wood, wearing a Ron Santo jersey, threw out the first pitch and actor Jim Belushi delivered the "Play Ball!" call before the game. Pearl Jam front man Eddie Vedder and actor John Cusack were also in attendance. And Bulls great Scottie Pippen led the seventh-inning stretch.