First off, it's not a problem. If having an extra reliable starting pitcher is a problem, be assured that 29 other teams would happily sign up for the same problem.
But as the Red Sox prepare for spring training, they have six starting pitchers.
There will not be a six-man rotation. You want guys like Jon Lester, Josh Beckett and John Lackey to pitch more, not less. They are conditioned to pitch every five days and that is what they will do, with an extra day of rest mixed in now and then.
Daisuke Matsuzaka frustrated the Red Sox mightily last season and it's safe to say there are trust issues on both sides. But given all they have invested in him, he has to pitch.
Clay Buchholz also has gotten all he can get out of Triple A at this point. He is 25 and has started 34 big-league games. Unless he shows up in Fort Myers and looks awful, he is in the rotation.
"Buch? He's ready to bust out," Terry Francona said yesterday before the BBWAA dinner. And there was a gleam in his eye when he said it. The Red Sox don't think Buchholz will be good. They think he will be very, very good.
That leaves Wakefield. He's 43 and he's coming off back surgery. But the Red Sox didn't sign him to tell jokes.
"What we know is that we have a really good pitcher. We feel like we have six bona fide major league starters," Francona said. "Wake's probably not that 200-inning guy that he's been. So how that slots in, that's what we've got to figure out."
According to Francona, the idea of using Wakefield as a long reliever has not been discussed. "But we all know he can do that," the manager said.
The first order of business will be to see how he feels, how he's throwing and how the other starters look. Then decisions can be made.
"He's in a throwing program right now. I think once we get him on the mound and taking regular turns like everyone else, these decisions will become a little bit more clear as we get into camp and closer to the season," pitching coach John Farrell said.
I get the feeling it won't be a problem. No team has five starters each throw 200 innings; there are always bumps along the way. The weather plays havoc with the schedule, things just happen. If Wakefield starts 15 games and throws another handful in long relief, he will be a valuable guy to have around.
A few other observations from the dinner:
- Jeremy Hermida still can't believe he's playing in a city were people actually care about baseball. He's in town for a week visiting and it sounds like he doesn't want to leave.
- Casey Kelly was given an award for being the minor league player of the year and gave a better speech that you would have any right to expect from a 20-year-old standing in front of a hotel ballroom full of people. He's very composed.
- Terry Francona has really settled into his job in terms of knowing who he is, what he has done and what that all means. He used to seem uncomfortable, even bothered, by the attention. But now he has a smooth, glib way of dealing with all of it and leaving people with a good feeling. That Joe Torre "all is well" zen is not easy to acquire, but Francona is getting there.
- Rockies manager Jim Tracy was on hand to pick up an award and beforehand was raving about Adrian Beltre's leadership skills. Tracy managed Beltre with the Dodgers.
"The people in that clubhouse will really like him," Tracy said. "And he's the best third baseman I've been around and I was around Scott Rolen. Nobody makes the play coming in like Adrian does. Nobody."
- The Sox will be releasing their list of spring training non-roster invitees later on today. So stay tuned for that.