McAdam: Red Sox committed to current rotation

175737.jpg

McAdam: Red Sox committed to current rotation

By SeanMcAdam
CSNNE.com

Even before they locked up Clay Buchholz to a four-year, 30 million deal, the Red Sox already had three other starters -- Josh Beckett, John Lackey and Jon Lester -- secured to guaranteed deals through 2013.

If you take into account an option year on Lester, the Sox now have 80 percent of their starting rotation signed through the end of the 2014 season. (Daisuke Matsuzaka, their fifth starter, is signed through the end of 2012.)

In other words, the Red Sox have cost certainty.

What they don't have, of course, is performance certainty.

In theory, it's good to have this much starting pitching secured into the future. As general manager Theo Epstein noted Sunday, venturing into the free-agent pitching market can be an expensive proposition.

By definition, bidding for free agent starters is a gamble. Teams invariably pay for past performance, and because pitchers are far more susceptible to injury and declining performance, the risk is that much greater.

Barry Zito, anyone? Or Mike Hampton?

It's one thing to have their rotation locked down, allowing the Sox to project salaries and have a sense of what their roster will look like three and four years into the future.

And with both Lester and Buchholz in their mid-to-late 20s, there's less of a chance that either will underperform because of age or injury.

Beckett and Lackey, however, are different stories.

Lackey was a disappointment in the first year of his five-year, 82.5 million dollar deal, and has been an outright disaster through his first two starts of this season. Beckett's four-year, 68 million extension -- which didn't kick in until this season -- has the potential to be a bad investment, especially given Beckett's poor 2010.

Already, it could be said that the Sox moved prematurely in extending Beckett last April -- especially with the benefit of hindsight. After all, Beckett has not enjoyed a truly good season, from start to finish, since 2007 (though Sunday night's performance against the Yankees, a team that had scored 15 runs in the first two games of the series, certainly gives hope that the Sox will get their money's worth out of him this year).

Argue if you will that his sub-par 2008 was the result of a strained back in spring training, which prohibited him from his normal spring preparation. But that only reinforces the point that pitching can be notoriously unpredictable.

As for Lackey, the Sox undoubtedly overpaid for a pitcher who had won more than 14 games just once before signing with Boston. But because he was the lone front-line starter on the market that winter, supply and demand drove his price skyward. To date, he hasn't begun to return the Sox' investment.

In theory, Buchholz, at 26, represents less of a risk. Other than some random, short-term physical setbacks (a hamstring pull running the bases in San Francisco last June), he's been durable.

The Sox are hoping that his 2010 season -- in which he posted the second-lowest ERA among qualifiers in the American League -- represents his potential, with room still to grow.

The fact remains, however, that Buchholz's track record is mostly limited to last season. If that ends up being his career outlier, the Sox just spent a lot of money on an unsure thing.

Just because they have a lot of money committed doesn't mean they have zero flexibility. The club has eaten money on bad deals before. They wisely cut their losses on Edgar Renteria after just one year, and did the same with Julio Lugo after 2 12 unproductive seasons.

But those contracts were a relative pittance compared to some of the salaries given out to the starters.

Consider: In 2013, the Sox will be nearly 53 million to four starting pitchers, or an average of more than 13 million per starter.

That's reasonable money for a big-market team -- assuming the starters are pitching as the Sox forecast. If, on the other hand, the starters are ineffective, they become a financial albatross.

Sure, the Sox could deal off unproductive arms and assume much of the costs. But that merely rids them of the roster spot and not the financial obligation. They might be gone, but from an accounting standpoint, they won't be forgotten.

One of the benefits of having the resources and revenues the Sox have is the ability to make bold moves like the Red Sox have made here. But there's no escaping this fact: The only thing harder than affording quality pitching is attempting to project how it will perform in the future.

Sean McAdam can be reached at smcadam@comcastsportsnet.com.Follow Sean on Twitter at http:twitter.comsean_mcadam

Quotes, notes and stars: Red Sox make 'outstanding comeback' vs. Rangers

usatsi_9355232.jpg

Quotes, notes and stars: Red Sox make 'outstanding comeback' vs. Rangers

Quotes, notes and stars from the Red Sox’ 8-7 win over the Rangers:

QUOTES

* “(Matt) Bush has tremendous arm, but what we’ve seen . . . I don’t know that there’s anyone that throws a hard enough to get it by Mookie [Betts]. Just lightening bat speed . . . The dugout erupted when he caught it.” - Farrell said on Betts’ ninth inning homerun.

* “It was an outstanding comeback. Just a tremendous character win tonight by our guys. The work that our bullpen did tonight was just outstanding. ” - John Farrell said following the comeback win over Texas.

* “Koji comes back after a couple of rough outings and was vintage Koji here tonight.” - Farrell said on Uehara striking out the side in the ninth to earn the save

* “The homerun. Without that homerun, you don’t get to that wild pitch.” - Jackie Bradley said on what the Red Sox dugout was more excited about in the ninth.

* “Winning, to me that’s everything. I definitely want to go out there and throw the baseball better. I want to win myself. But at the end of the day I want the Red Sox to win.” - David Price said following the Red Sox win, despite his inability to keep the game close throughout the duration of his start.

NOTES

* David Ortiz extended his hitting streak to 10 games with his fourth inning single. He’s now 12 for his last 36 during his 10-game hitting streak.

* Sandy Leon’s ninth inning double was his 12th hit of the year. He’s now 12-for-22 (.545) to start his 2016 campaign. Four of his hits are doubles and he also has four RBI. 

* David Price’s 2.1-inning start is his shortest with Boston yet. The lefty gave up a season-worst 12 hits -- the most hits he’s given up since May 8th last season in a 6.1 inning start.

* Hanley Ramirez’s two-run homerun marks his third in the last ten games.

* The Red Sox improve to 22-3 when Jackie Bradley Jr. hits a homerun following his 13th homerun of the season.

STARS

1) Mookie Betts

Betts had over three hours between his two base hits, but his second proved the most important. He launched a 2-0 fastball into left center, tying the game in the ninth.

2) Jackie Bradley Jr.

Bradley laced a homerun into the right field second deck to put Boston in striking distance at 7-4. In addition to knocking in two runs, he scored in the ninth after he walked, starting the ninth inning comeback. 

3) Koji Uehara

Despite struggling of late, Uehara was called on to close and struck out the side to seal the win. He was the final piece of the 6.2 innings of relief from the bullpen that came in one of Boston’s biggest wins of the year.

Nick Friar can be followed on Twitter: @ngfriar

First impressions of the Red Sox’ 8-7 win over the Rangers

usatsi_9355096.jpg

First impressions of the Red Sox’ 8-7 win over the Rangers

First impressions of the Boston Red Sox’ 8-7 win over the Texas Rangers:

Boston’s offense is always in striking distance.

The Red Sox had an uphill battle from the get-go thanks to David Price’s tough outing.

But somehow they took advantage of Texas’ equally bad pitching—that just happened to be more spread out than Boston’s bad pitching.

If Jackie Bradley Jr. doesn’t earn a walk, or Sandy Leon doesn’t fight tooth and nail for a two-out double in the ninth, that Mookie Betts homerun can’t happen.

The Red Sox need another long outing from Steven Wright.

Obviously they’d prefer a strong performance -- but the knuckler may need to bite the bullet if he’s off Saturday night.

Boston’s bullpen has been used and abused of late, and needs some rest following the Chicago series and a 2.1 inning outing from Price.

Price continues to struggle against the Rangers in his career.

Even when he was able to walk out of the first with just the one run after a bases loaded double play, but couldn’t clamp down with two outs.

The biggest reason he struggled wasn’t his velocity—although it seemed down most of the night—but his location. He left a lot of pitches up in the zone and Texas is not the team you can do that with.

Although Price was bound to have a rough start, this start went worse than anyone could’ve anticipated. To say this was a bad start is putting it nicely.

Texas gave him a nice wake-up call. He still has room to grow.

Matt Barnes had a solid performance.

It wasn’t his best, but given the situation, he did well. First off, the Rangers are a very hot team and swing early in the count. Barnes left the ball up time after times, but only surrendered the one run.

Additionally, he entered the game far earlier than he’s used to -- in the midst of a blowout where his team was on the wrong end. That’s not an easy thing to walk into for a reliever, especially one who’s used to pitching late in tight ballgames.

He gave Boston a chance when the offense started to gain momentum.

Hanley Ramirez’s power continues to show.

Although he’s not hitting at the rate he did to start the year, Ramirez laced another homer against the Rangers Friday night.

This homerun may have been his most impressive, coming on a 1-2 slider away, driving it to straightaway center -- the deepest part of the ballpark.

Boston just saw what they look like when they almost blow games.

All season the talk around the league has been how explosive the Red Sox lineup is.

Well, the Rangers offense is right there with them. The league’s hottest team didn’t waist any time scoring, and had 15 hits before Boston pitching recorded an out in the fifth inning.

Although the Red Sox outslugged Texas late, they saw what a potent offense outside the AL East can do -- and how bad pitching can undo all of that.

Nick Friar can be followed on Twitter: @ngfriar