COMMENTARY| With spring training a little over a month away, it seems like a good time to try to project what the Boston Red Sox may look like in 2013. Boston went through a bit of a facelift by bringing in numerous players to fill out what was a depleted roster. Here is what the starting rotation may look like to start the season.
Number One: Jon Lester (LHP). This is a huge season for Lester. Coming off a forgettable 2013 campaign, Lester will look to regain what once made him a Cy Young candidate. It wasn't that long ago when Lester was his efficient self. Then the collapse of 2011 occurred, and Lester has struggled ever since. He was just 9-14 last year with the highest ERA (4.87) of his career. He did manage to throw over 200 innings, but his strikeouts were down, and he allowed a whopping 25 HRs in 33 games. However, there is optimism for 2013. History is on his side. Lester has been an efficient pitcher throughout the majority of his career. At 29 he is still considered young. The key factor, however, is return of former pitching coach, now manager, John Farrell. Lester pitched his best with Farrell in command of the staff. Hopefully history repeats itself.
Number Two: Clay Buccholz (RHP). Much like the rest of the team, Buccholz is not going to look back at 2012 glowingly. His ERA was roughly 4.56, and he allowed 25 HRs in 29 games. The summer months weren't as bad for Buccholz who pitched to a sub 3.00 ERA in June and July. However, Buccholz could never make up for the dismal performances in April and May. Like Lester, Buccholz still has a lot going for him. The 28-year-old has been a Cy Young candidate in the past, when Farrell was still the pitching coach. He should also be in top health to start the season, a change from the beginning of the previous season. Is Buccholz a true number two? Not ideally. But Boston really doesn't have another option.
Number Three: Ryan Dempster (RHP). This new acquisition had an interesting 2013. Dempster was lights out in Chicago for the Cubs. He pitched to a 2.25 ERA, with a WHIP almost under 1.00 (1.038). He was then traded to the Texas Rangers and fell flat on his face in the AL West. His ERA skyrocketed to 5.09 with a WHIP over 1.40 (1.435). While Dempster had some decent years, he is a career 4.33 ERA pitcher. Could his numbers improve in the AL East? Hard to imagine considering the teams he will have to face numerous times. Take the New York Yankees for example. Dempster is 0-4 lifetime against New York, with a 7.62 ERA. Or the Toronto Blue Jays, a team that Dempster has a 5.27 ERA against. There will be a fair amount of pressure placed on Dempster considering he was brought in to be a bit of a savior. If his season starts off slowly, it could get ugly fast.
Number Four: Felix Doubront (LHP). One of the lone bright spots for the Sox in the first half of 2012 was the emergence of Doubront. The lefty finally got an opportunity to be a starter for the Red Sox and he faired well. Doubront even took a sub-4.00 ERA into June, and then started to slowdown. He limped down the stretch ultimately finishing with a 4.86 ERA. Doubront also struggled to keep opponents off the base paths, with a 1.477 WHIP. He does have a long way to go, but his confidence seemed to grow last season. As with others, the return of Farrell could help Doubront quite a bit. Doubront has good stuff, and if he is able to learn command, he could be a solid middle-of-the-road starter in the future.
Number Five. John Lackey (RHP). After missing the 2012 season due to Tommy John surgery, Lackey is back in the fold. Red Sox fans last saw Lackey struggling to a 6.41 ERA in 2011 before he shutdown for surgery. The polarizing pitcher will now have a chance to show fans why he was originally brought in on a big contract. Lackey won't be expected to be anything more than a low end starting pitcher, so the pressure on him will be minimal. However, it's hard to imagine that the media magnifying glass won't always be fixated on Lackey. If he struggles early on don't be surprised if Franklin Morales gets a spot start or two to give Lackey a reprieve. Of course the Red Sox won't be able to do much if there's an injury or two. A lack of depth could be a real issue for this rotation.
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.