That must be some creative accounting. Outside of Josh Beckett, Clay Buchholz and Jon Lester, the Red Sox do not have any healthy Major League-ready starters on their 40-man roster with a month to go before pitchers and catchers report for spring training.
The plan is to have two relievers -- Daniel Bard and Alfredo Aceves -- compete for a chance to join the rotation. Bard is almost certain to get a spot given the acquisition of close Andrew Bailey. Hypothetically, Cherington said, Aceves could join him.
But Bard threw only 73 innings last season and Aceves 114. Getting close to the 175-200 innings provided by a healthy starter will be difficult.
"That will come down to deciison making in spring training," Cherington said. "We're either stronger in the pen, which can help your rotation, or we're strionger in the rotation and hurting the pen a little bit. We need to balance that out. They both deserve a chance to show they belong in the rotation. They both believe they can be."
The Red Sox are hoping the inevitable gaps will be filled by would-be starters Andrew Miller, Vicente Padilla, Carlos Silva and Aaron Cook.
The other player who could help us Daisuke Matsuzaka, who is recovering from Tommy John elbow surgery and could be ready for the second half of the season.
"It would be nice, I suppose, to have five perfectly healthy guys you knew for sure would give you 200 innings every year, I'm not sure we've ever had that and this year is no different," Cherington said. "We feel really good about the front of the rotation. We feel like we have a collection of guys who can win jobs and help us in the fourth and fifth spots. We feel confident that both Bard and Aceves are capable of doing it, not to say they'll definitely be in the rotation."
The Sox proved that method would work in 2007. Matsuzaka (204.2), Beckett (200.2) and Tim Wakefield (189) were the rotation mainstays with Curt Schilling, Julian Tavarez and Lester providing support. The Sox won 96 games and the World Series.
The key this year will be how well Beckett, Buchholz and Lester hold up. Buchholz started only 14 games last season, his season ending in June because of a back injury. Beckett pitched well until September, when an ankle injury led to his losing two critical games down the stretch as the team collapsed and finished in third place.
New pitching coach Bob McClure and the team's medical staff have keep a close eye on Beckett and Buchholz this winter. New manager Bobby Valentine also visited Beckett in Texas.
"They've both had really good offseasons," Cherington said of the two righthanders. "We don't expect any issues with either of them going into camp. I know they're both really motivated to have a good year."
Cherington said is looking at ways at add more depth. But the only real upgrade would be for the Red Sox to add payroll and sign either Roy Oswalt or Edwin Jackson, the best free-agent starters on the market.
"I think we have more questions right now than Tampa or New York, for example. There's less competition for the rotation with those two teams. The Yankees made some moves to strength their rotation and Tampa has a strong rotation," Cherington said.
"Ultimately the answer will be written on the field. There have been very recent examples of teams that looked like they were going to be struggling for depth at this point in the offseason and found some ways to put it together and did a good job of buying low on some guys.They figured it out."
Check out the Globe tomorrow for more.