Let’s start with the premise that the first three slots are set with Lester, Beckett and Buchholz. Of course there will be missed starts and maybe even some DL, but those can be covered by spot starts from people on the team or even short term callups from AAA.
The 4th and 5th slots are basically the same so…
One of them is Bard’s to lose. The team seems committed to making it work and he wants to be successful. The potential upside is enormous. If it works, you have a young power arm that is under control for a number of years. For him not to start the season as a starter, I think he would have to fall completely apart. My definition of that is getting hammered each and every time out once he gets beyond the one or two inning appearances. Any of the short appearances would be the same if he were in line to start or relieve. My guess is that in the interests of having him be effective in September and hopefully longer, they will manage his innings. Once he gets to around 100 or so innings, my guess is they will start to back him off and maybe even put him in the bullpen. That would give him 15-18 starts. That would also get him through June as a starter. Guess who should be ready? Matsuzaka. If they do this right, he will have something left for crunch time and maybe he adds another 15-25 innings out of the bullpen. He will also have spent a season stretching out, so that by 2013, he ready to assume a bigger load. The Rangers backed off Ogando at the end last year, if I recall.
The other slot is where the real battle begins and I think there are a lot of candidates for that. I don’t think there will be one starter in the final spot, but rather a combination of many. Here they are and why.
Aceves-They are giving him the opportunity for a spot, but I think that at some point, they will look at him and say he helps the team the most out of the bullpen, but as that wild card, who can start on a moments notice. He can pitch the sixth and seventh as a multi inning guy; he can pitch the eighth as a set up; he can be used as a closer if need be; But he is the one best suited to start for two or three times around, if someone goes down. He is the insurance for the top three guys. He is going to make the team, they need to use him wisely.
Doubront-It’s now or never for him. He has no options and after last year, they aren’t going to be real patient. It would be great if he makes it as a starter, giving them two lefties in the rotation. My guess is that as long as he is reasonably effective in ST, he makes the team, at least out of the bullpen. If he is on the team, he could spot start. If he gets hammered in ST, he is probably gone. If he is in the bullpen, long relief would be a good spot, like come in the 4th when a starter blows out. Even sixth or seventh. If he is good, he might even make Morales expendable at some point.
Miller-Very similar situation to Doubront, in that he has no options. He makes the team or they say good bye. Clearly they see something in him and hope that the guy who was drafted 8th will reach some sort of potential. Unless he is absolutely lights out in ST, I don’t think he would start the season in the rotation. He would be one that could also go long relief. They are going to push this one. My guess is that if they can find a way to get him back to AAA, they would do it, but if he is put on waivers, someone will claim him.
Padilla-Intriguing. Of the “retreads” as some have referred to them, he has the best track record and could be a terrific end of rotation guy. It depends on which Vicente Padilla, we have. If it’s the one from 06, 08, 09, I’ll take that in this slot. He signed a minor league contract, so they could send him down. I don’t think that would go over well with him, nor would the bullpen. I think he makes it as a starter or he is gone.
Silva-Similar, but a I think, he would be more inclined to go to Pawtucket for awhile. Thus I think, his chances of making the rotation from the get go a re slim. Unless he has a terrific spring. Could be an emergency call up at any time.
Cook-Maybe a big time signing if he is healthy. If he can be 07-9 version, they may have a winner here. He has a AAA contract, they are going slow with him, so I don’t think they have any intentions of having him come out of ST as a starter. This a case of building him up for May or June. Wonder what his opt out situation is. May or later, potential emergency call up
Ohlendorf-Almost the same as Cook. Go slow and see what happens. He has some potential and he is not 30 yet. Opt out is another factor.
Tazawa-Building him up and with options, no need to rush him back. Will likely see him at some points during the season, possibly to spot start
Bowden-He is likely to make the team out of the bullpen and because he is out of options, he is a now or never type of guy. Doubt they want to move him back to being a starter, but I guess he could be an option.
Wilson-Doubt he has much chance to make the team out of ST. He is only 25, so what’s the rush. Might come up to make a start if they really ran into trouble.
I think they will bring 12 pitchers north an barring any injuries in ST, I see—Beckett, Buchholz, Lester, Bard, Bailey Melancon, Aceves as absolute locks. Morales and Albers are very likely, but could be knocked out if someone really surprises. There are three more slots to be filled and four likely possibilities right now. I think Doubront and Bowden will make it. Doubront as a starter or reliever, Bowden for the bullpen. Whether Doubront starts depends upon what Padilla does. If Padilla does well, he gets the last rotation spot and Doubront is in the bullpen. If Padilla craps out and Doubront is at least decent, then Doubront gets it. Miller can force his way on, but I see it in the bullpen to begin the season, if at all. For him to make the cut, then it would be at the expense of one from Padilla, Doubront, Morales, Bowden. Albers could even be expendable, though I doubt it. FWIW they have a lot of guys for potential bullpen callups, like Carpenter, Mortenson, Tazawa, Carlson, some others they have signed to AAA contracts and eventually Hill.