By Rich Levine

Okay, so Year One's a bust.

We now know that for sure.

In a way, it doesn't come as much of a surprise. I mean, we've been unimpressed by John Lackey for the better part of the last six months.

That's not to say Lackey's been awful. In fact, it's a stretch to even say that he's been bad. But, in his first season with the Sox, it goes without saying that Lackey's been average. He's had a few memorable starts like the near no-hitter in Seattle but he's never allowed us to build any consistent trust or confidence that he'll come through. He's found pockets of success, but never sustained it. He's just sort of rolled along. Not bad. Not great. Just average.

That's OK when you're Scott Atchison. Not when you're on the hook for high eight figures.

But much like last year's Celtics, with Lackey, we never felt comfortable rushing to judgment. Despite all his early-season inconsistency, we always held onto the fact that he was brought here to win in late AugustSeptember (and hopefully October). He was Schilling-lite. It didn't matter what he pitched like over the first few months if Lackey was winning meaningful games at the crucial moments, then all would be forgotten. Ridiculous amount of money well-spent.

Of course, now we can't say that. After last night's plop at the Trop, all we can say is that John Lackey's first season with the Sox is a failure.

There's no more waiting for the right time to evaluate his year, because that was it. That was the moment we'd been holding out for on the road, in prime time and Lackey with the ball and the Sox season in his hand.

That was his shot, and he didn't take it.

The funny thing is, as usual, Lackey didn't even pitch that poorly. He threw five solid innings against a very good line-up, had one rough inning and lost the game. He wasn't bad; he just wasn't good enough.

And he wasn't alone. Where was his offense, you wonder? Wasn't this more than only an important game for Lackey? Wasn't everyone's season on the line? Where's the criticism for David Ortiz and J.D. Drew going a combined 0-for-8? Or Boston's No. 1-5 batters going a combined 3-for-20? Isn't James Shields having a rockier year than Lackey? Why couldn't the Boston bats step up?

Fair questions. No doubt that everyone in the lineup (which only scored a total of nine runs in three games) deserves some heat, but when you bring in a guy for the money that the Sox did John Lackey, it's also fair to assume that when the season's on the line, three runs is enough. It doesn't matter if you're playing the '27 Yankees (which shouldn't be bad now, since they're all dead), a top pitcher in a playoff atmosphere needs that W.

Maybe you're a little more flexible if the guy has a body of work (in a Sox uniform) that you can look back on and stay optimistic, but because Lackey never truly fulfilled our expectations during the season's earlier months, he had everything riding on the home stretch. It wouldn't be enough to just pitch okay. He needed to be great. That was his penance. That's how he'd earn everyone's admiration, and really earn that cool 18 million check.

Well, maybe next year. For now, all Lackey's earned is a Nation full of concerned fans, half hoping that their 82 miilion man will turn it around next yearhalf terrified of where this team will be if he doesn't.

Rich Levine's column runs each Monday, Wednesday and Friday on CSNNE.com. Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrlevine33

Porcello 'feels as good as I've felt all spring' in Red Sox' 5-3 loss


Porcello 'feels as good as I've felt all spring' in Red Sox' 5-3 loss

Rick Porcello and Drew Pomeranz combined to allow all five of the Red Sox' runs in Boston's 5-3 loss to the Minnesota Twins.

Porcello finished his start by fanning four, allowing four hits and earning two runs over four innings. Pomeranz followed in the next four innings with four strikeouts, five hits allowed and three earned runs. Pomeranz allowed ByungHo Park's eighth-inning, two-run homer, which ended up being the game-winner.

Porcello, however, was optimistic after the loss.

"The buildup was good," Porcello told reporters, via RedSox.com. "Today I felt as good as I've felt all spring. At this point, I'm ready to go. I'm looking forward to the start of the season."

While the Sox offense was able to get three runs off Ervin Santana in his 4 2/3 innings, they struggled against the Twins' next five pitchers. Xander Bogaerts (2 of 3) and Pablo Sandoval (1 of 3) managed homers. Hanley (3 of 3) Ramirez had a double, and Dustin Pedroia (2 of 3) had two singles.

Kyle Kendrick will start Thursday in the Sox' final Spring Training series against the Washington Nationals. First pitch is at 1:05 p.m. ET.

Who's on first for Red Sox? It may be not someone you'd expect

Who's on first for Red Sox? It may be not someone you'd expect

Who’s on first? A middle infielder, maybe.

Hanley Ramirez, Josh Rutledge and Mitch Moreland aren't fully healthy. So the 25th man on the Red Sox has become a matter of corner-infield triage.

Rutledge was gearing up to play some first base with Ramirez restricted to DH because of his throwing shoulder. But Rutledge is hurt now too, likely headed to the disabled list with a left hamstring strain, Sox manager John Farrell said Wednesday morning in Florida.

Here’s the easiest way to think about who takes Rutledge's place: Who would the Red Sox like to see less against left handed pitching, third baseman Pablo Sandoval or first baseman Mitch Moreland? 

If it’s Sandoval, then you carry Marco Hernandez, who can play third base.

“He’s a very strong candidate,” manager John Farrell told reporters in Florida on Wednesday. “He’s one of a few that are being considered strongly right now.” 

If it’s Moreland, than you carry Steve Selsky, who has a history playing first base.

“He’s a guy we’re having discussions on,” Farrell said. “Any guy in our camp that we feel is going to make us a more complete or balanced roster, Deven Marrero, they’re all in consideration.”

The additional wrench here is that Moreland has the flu. If he's not available at all for a few days to begin the season, then the Sox probably have to carry Hernandez.

Why? Because Brock Holt can play some first base if Moreland is out. But then, you’d need another back-up middle infielder, and Hernandez gives you that. 

Hernandez is also hitting .379 in 58 at-bats this spring entering Wednesday.

Moreland isn’t the only one who has the flu.

"It’s running through our clubhouse," Sox manager John Farrell told reporters in Florida on Wednesday, including the Providence Journal’s Tim Britton. "Probably be held out for three days for a quarantine.” (LINK:http://www.providencejournal.com/sports/20170329/with-josh-rutledge-and-mitch-moreland-ailing-first-base-depth-compromised-for-red-sox)

That means the Red Sox won't have Moreland for their exhibitions against the Nationals on Friday and Saturday in Washington D.C. and Annapolis, Md. Moreland could still be ready for the regular season, but would likely be at less than full strength.

Having Ramirez available would sure make things a lot simpler for the Sox.

Both Sandoval at third base and Moreland could use right-handed bats to complement them. Or more specifically, they could use people who can hit left-handed pitching to complement them.

Hernandez is a left-handed hitter who might actually be able to hit lefties. But the Sox haven't used him at first base, and there's no indication they will.

“As we look at the upcoming games, there is the potential for two left-handed starters in Detroit,” Farrell said. “So there’s a number of things being factored right now.”

Early in spring training, Farrell was asked what player had started to catch his eye.

The guy he mentioned was Selsky, an outfielder and first baseman the Red Sox feel fortunate to have picked up off waivers because he still has minor league options remaining.

Now Selsky, who has already technically been cut from major league spring training, has a chance at making the opening day roster. He's 27 and hit .356 in 45 Grapefruit League at-bats.

Chris Young isn't going to have an easy time finding at-bats as it stands now, but the Sox aren't considering moving him to first base.