Remember when the Sox rotation was in good shape?

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Remember when the Sox rotation was in good shape?

"The Red Sox appear to have the top of their rotation set for the next five years. The rest of it is in pretty good shape, too."

I was Googling around this morning, trying to brush up on the details of Josh Becketts wildly-depressing contract, when I came across this lead. Its from an AP story that was published on April 5, 2010, the day after Beckett signed his four-year, 68M extension with the Sox.

Funny how perfect it all looked back then. With Beckett re-signed, John Lackey inked for five years and Jon LesterClay Buchholz under control through 2014, we all thought the Sox had it made. If nothing else, they'd always have pitching. One of the best staffs in the AL, in fact.

"It's hard to have an elite organization without excellent starting pitching," Theo Epstein said at the time. "When you have that starting pitching, you don't want to let it get away. It's hard to acquire in free agency. It's hard to acquire in trades. And it's hard to draft and develop this kind of starting pitching. ... That's the biggest building block on which we can go about finishing off the rest of the club."

Ugh.

It's crazy how much things can changed in a few years, but no doubt that they have. There's no doubt that the core that was supposed to carry this team through these last three seasons and beyond is now the biggest hurdle standing between the Sox and success. Beckett and Lackey have piled up their nine years150M and defecated on it. Lester's regressed. I don't think any of us are ready to count him out, but we never imagined this. Buchholz is hard to beat when he's healthy and focused, but that's only come in spurts. Right now, he's great. But how long will that hold up?
Of course, this is nothing new. Like I said, we're now in our third season of watching this "elite" pitching staff underachieve and sabotage Boston's hopes. While we once beamed at the prospect of their time together, we're now left begging for it to end . . .

While simultaneously fearing that it won't.

I mean, at this point, will anyone be surprised if they're all back next season? If somehow, the Sox justify keeping Beckett and Lackey in the mix? I won't be. And in turn, won't be surprised if this team continues to crumble. Like Theo Epstein said: "It's hard to have an elite organization without excellent starting pitching."

Right now, the Sox have neither.

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

Hanley Ramirez's shoulder already a concern for Red Sox heading into WBC

Hanley Ramirez's shoulder already a concern for Red Sox heading into WBC

Another year, another injury concern for Hanley Ramirez. This time, though, it's a bit more complicated.

Boston Red Sox manager John Farrell told the media Monday that Ramirez hadn't played any first base during spring training yet due to discomfort in his right throwing shoulder.

“Well, we’re working through ramping up his throwing program,” Farrell said, via WEEI.com's Rob Bradford. “That has taken a little bit more time than anticipated coming in so we’ve got to kind of take that day to day how much we can increase the intensity with the throwing. He’s just working through some soreness with the throwing.”

As Bradford points out, Ramirez and the Red Sox went through the same process last year. Where it differs this time around is Ramirez's scheduled participation in the World Baseball Classic: He's expected to report to Team Domincan Republic on Friday, which means the Red Sox won't be monitoring his every move on the field (though the two training staffs will be communicating daily, also per Bradford).

Ramirez isn't the only first baseman on the roster, with the Cleveland Indians' Carlos Santana there as well. So will Ramirez be jumping into game action anytime soon?

“I don’t know what I’m going to do. They haven’t told me anything,” Ramirez told WEEI.com “I’m just going to go there and see.”

Boston pitchers strike out 14, but Red Sox still fall to Rays, 7-3

Boston pitchers strike out 14, but Red Sox still fall to Rays, 7-3

The appearance of Tampa Bay Rays lefty Ryan Yarbrough almost got the Boston Red Sox back in their spring training exhibition game. The Sox managed to score all three of their runs against the 25-year-old in their 7-3 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays at Charlotte Sports Park in Port Charlotte, Florida on Sunday.

But the Rays, who scored runs in five different innings, managed to widen their lead in the eighth inning by beating up on Sox lefty Luis Isla, a 24-year-old who spent last season with Portland and Pawtucket. In the eighth, Rays' Joe McCarthy homered and Luke Maile managed an RBI single, which cappped off the scoring in the contest. Sox starter Hector Velazquez allowed three hits and an earned run in his two innnings. The 28-year-old, who spent 2016 in the Mexican League, still managed to amass four strikeouts.

"I was a little nervous at the start, being in the United States for the first time and playing for a big league club for the first time," Velazquez told RedSox.com through an interpreter. "But once I got the first out, all the nerves went away, and I was able to bear down."

Despite allowing two homers, Boston pitchers combined for 14 strikeouts.

With the exception of the Sox' inning against Yarbrough, Boston's veterans and prospects struggled mighltily against the Rays pitching staff. Chris Archer started for Tampa, and set the tone in the first two innings, where he threw two strikeouts, one walk and allowed one hit and no runs. Andrew Benintendi (0-for-3), Sam Travis (0-for-2) and Bryce Brentz (0-for-3) went hitless on the day. Travis, however, reached base on balls.

"I felt good. I accomplished what I wanted to accomplish," Archer said, via the Red Sox' team website. "Just out there having fun, it was really fun to be out there in the spectrum with the umpire, the fans, the batter. It was fun."

Marco Hernandez's triple got the Sox' eighth-inning off to a strong start, and singles from Matt Dominguez, Deven Marrero, Rusney Castillo and Cole Sturgeon followed. The Sox' eighth inning scoring ended after Castillo got thrown out by left fielder McCarthy at third. Six Red Sox finished with one-hit outings, including Brock Holt and Blake Swihart.

The Sox will next host the St. Louis Cardinals in Fort Myers on Monday at 1:05 p.m. ET.