COMMENTARY| It's only mid-March, but the Boston Red Sox are already dealing with injuries to starters. This isn't anything new. Teams deal with injuries to pitchers all the time. However, when the depth chart only starts with six, the heat is already on. The injury to Franklin Morales leaves the Red Sox with just five healthy starters with only a few weeks before the season opener.
The good news for Boston is that the five healthy pitchers are the projected five to start the season in the rotation. The five starters have also performed adequately so far. Clay Buchholz hasn't allowed a run, Jon Lester is a strikeout machine, Ryan Dempster has only walked one, Felix Doubront is holding his own, and even John Lackey has tossed respectably. It's been very refreshing watching this group perform so well.
The problem is what's behind them. With Morales likely starting on the disabled list, Boston is left with very few options. Alfredo Aceves and Andrew Miller could be used out of the bullpen, but neither have had sustained success in a starting role (hence, why they're in the bullpen). Stephen Wright and Allen Webster have had fine springs, but are projected to be Triple-A pitchers this season. So, in what direction could the Red Sox possibly go? There are still a few intriguing names available.
Kyle Lohse- Still a free agent, Lohse is coming off a very efficient season for the St. Louis Cardinals. Lohse finished with a record of 16-3, with a 2.86 ERA in 211 innings of work. His numbers the year before were also impressive, and makes one wonder how on Earth he still isn't signed.
There are some factors going against him. Lohse is 34 years old, and looking for a three-year contract. That may be a year too long for many teams out there searching for a quick fix. He also hasn't been consistent throughout his career. Even though the past two seasons have been strong, Lohse is a career 4.45 ERA pitcher, with a WHIP above 1.36. Numbers that again could scare away teams. However, what may hurt Lohse the most is the fact that he is a Type-A Free Agent, meaning a team would have to give up a first-round pick to sign him.
Chien-Ming Wang- He hasn't thrown a full season in the MLB since 2007, but Wang was highly impressive in the World Baseball Classic. Wang threw 12 scoreless innings, allowing just 10 hits. He finished the tournament with a sub-1 WHIP (.920). The WBC isn't the major leagues, but it was still a solid performance in a clutch situation for Wang. The 32 year old could be grabbed on the cheap, maybe even on a minor league contract. It may worth taking a flyer on, just to have another arm in case of emergency.
Carlos Zambrano- The former All-Star has fallen off over the past few seasons. Zambrano hasn't had an ERA under 4.00 since 2010, and hasn't thrown over 200 innings since 2007. He did try to impress some scouts at the WBC, allowing two runs over three innings of work. Zambrano would probably be gotten on the cheap. However, with the Red Sox trying to change the clubhouse image bringing in the unstable Zambrano could be counterproductive.
Carl Pavano- The free agent threw over 200 innings in two of the last three years. Pavano could be a nice, inexpensive option, if he can actually play. A shoveling accident at his Vermont home in January nearly killed him. There is no timetable for his return.
The list of those available is about as thin as the Red Sox rotation. Considering these names aren't the most attractive, there is always the possibility of a trade. Boston does have the resources in the minors to make a splash if need be. However, there is also simply hoping and praying that the current starters stay healthy and perform well.
Chris Sedenka is a Yahoo! Contributor in Sports covering the Boston Red Sox. You can listen to his daily radio show on 96.3FM in Portland, ME or at thebigjab.com. He is also the voice of the Maine Red Claws of the NBA D-League.
You can follow Chris on Twitter @ChrisSedenka.
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