Red Sox' end of rotation still a cloudy situation

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Red Sox' end of rotation still a cloudy situation

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- The Red Sox announced Monday that Jon Lester would pitch their season opener, to be followed by Josh Beckett, and, one would think, Clay Buchholz. They know, too, that Andrew Bailey will close games.

But the other eight spots on the pitching staff remain something of a mystery, one Bobby Valentine and pitching coach Bob McClure hope to solve in the coming days.

The expectation is that Dainel Bard will fill the fourth spot in the rotation, with a number of candidates -- including Andrew Miller, Vicente Padilla, Alfredo Aceves, Aaron Cook and Monday's starter, Felix Doubront -- battling for the fifth spot.

Valentine declined to identify Doubront -- who blanked the Yankees for four innings last week and limited damage by yielding two runs on eight hits in 4 23 innings to the Twins Monday -- as the "favorite" for the battle for the fifth spot.

"I don't know if he is the favorite, no," said Valentine. "I see him as a guy who's going to pitch for our team sometime this year. I don't know if that's at the beginning of the season or not . . . I think there's still a step (he has to make)."

Another complicating factor: both Doubront and Miller are out of options and must make the 25-man roster or risk being exposed to waivers before they can be re-assigned to Pawtucket.

That's just one more variable as Valentine assembles his staff.

"It's about time to figure (things) out," said Valentine on the makeup of the staff. "I'm a bit confused about the whole bullpen situation only because we haven't been able to fit any pieces together. I think that confusion is filtering (down). Everyone is something other than settled. That's where we have to go from here.

"I think all the (bullpen) pieces are there, but some of them are contingent on the starters. (We have) to start making it look like something other than pitchers getting their work in."

Part of the confusion stems from the fact that as many as six pitchers -- Bard, Doubront, Cook, Padilla, Miller, Aceves -- are competing for two starter spots. At least two of those candidates will likely earn spots as relievers should they fail to the rotation.

NFL scout on Garoppolo: 'Bill thinks he's got the next great one'

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NFL scout on Garoppolo: 'Bill thinks he's got the next great one'

Covering the NFL for almost 20 years allows you to make relationships with a bunch of people. So I thought I'd tap into some of those people as we gear up for New England Patriots training camp for a series of pieces about topics we've been kicking around.

COMPARING THE 2007 AND 2017 PATRIOTS

The panel consists of one former Pats player still in the game, two scouts of AFC teams, one front-office member in the AFC, and one NFC scout. They all requested anonymity for obvious reasons (as the player said, "hey, I might want to end up back there!") I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I had talking to these guys.

Today's topic: Why is Jimmy Garoppolo still here?

Scout 1 (AFC) -- "He's Bill Belichick. He doesn't give a [damn] about what you, or me or anyone else thinks. I know teams called about Garoppolo. I don't believe they were ever given a realistic price. Why? To me, the answer is simple: Bill thinks he's got the next great one. I watched his snaps. I think he can be that. [Garoppolo] has a great base, and his mechanics are close enough to [Brady] that you appreciate his willingness to learn and the coaching he's gotten there."

Scout 2 (AFC) -- "I absolutely loved the kid coming out of college. When we interviewed him, [it was obvious] he's got those qualities you want in a QB, as a leader. I begged our guys to take him at the end of the first round. That's how good I thought he was then. He's a hell of a lot better now. The job Bill and [offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels] have done with him, the work he clearly has put in, wrap all that up and it makes all the sense in the world to keep him. They can win with him. That's all you need to know -- in my opinion -- as to why they kept him. The moment that Brady guy starts to show cracks, the next guy is in already there, already knows the locker room, the system, the environment. I think it's genius."

Former Pats player -- "I played against him every day in practice. He's all that." Why? "He can make all the throws. He can process all the information. He is a gamer. He can slow it down. He can spin it. I'm going tell you this, if he had gotten traded to Cleveland, they're a borderline playoff team. I really believe that."

Scout 3 (NFC) -- "I know teams called and got nowhere. Easy conclusion is they see Garoppolo as the next QB. But I think it could be as simple as the value there. He's the player one snap away. Weigh that against the third guy (Jacoby Brissett) or some vet and maybe it was just too wide a gap to risk it. Keep him. See how the year plays out and then decide, do we want to franchise him? Ink him to some kind of bridge deal? Or let him go off into free agency?"

Front Office (AFC) -- "Bill knows something we don't. That's the way I read it. Whether it's Brady's future, or what they didn't see in Brissett, or something about the makeup of Garoppolo, he just couldn't part company with him. I can't say as I blame him. Finding one good QB in this league is hard enough. Two? Maybe only a handful of teams in the league can say they have that. Plus, with Bill, he's not worried about coaching for his job. He can think big picture -- two, three, four years down the line. That's not something too many other coaches/front offices in this environment get. He can afford to pass on a handful of draft picks to keep a player he really likes."