Yes, yes, you can never have too much pitching.
Still, we have to ask, do the Red Sox have too much pitching?
Too many quality arms, not enough space in the stables? Hey, who's up for an eight-man rotation?
If there is indeed a problem that any baseball team would prefer to have more than anything, it's the burden of too many effective starters, a predicament the Sox may be all too happy to find themselves in.
We're not simply speaking of the here and now, although that's been pretty good too, no? Last night, the 23-year-old Justin Masterson followed up the 24-year-old Jon Lester's no hitter with his first big-league win, allowing the Royals just three hits over 6 1/3 innings. Tonight Boston tosses Bartolo Colon, 34, to the mound. If Colon -- three years removed from a Cy Young award -- appears to have anything left, it's only going to enhance the undeniable fact that the Sox have the best starting rotation in baseball. Or, at least will support the fact that they're set for the undeterminable future.
Have you seen how many wins the Yankees have from their highly-touted young duo of Phil Hughes and Ian Kennedy? Zero. The Red Sox trio of Lester, the 23-year-old Clay Buchholz, and Masterson is 6-5 with a no-hitter to boot. Next winter, New York will likely toss millions at the unseen feet of a completely different C.C. Sabathia, while Boston calls up Daniel Bard at some point in the season as we all witness another farmhand maturation.
It's truly remarkable what the Red Sox are doing not only from the standpoint of building a rock-solid minor league system, but in particular how they're managing to develop major league-ready pitching so effectively. Lester's no-hitter on Monday was the second by a pitcher developed by the franchise in the past three months of regular season baseball. It's easy to discount that, but in no way should we. It wasn't long ago, of course, that the only everyday player that climbed the Boston minor league ladder was Trot Nixon. Heck, the Sox ought to be praised solely for the fact that Dustin Pedroia started on back-to-back Opening Days at second base, a feat matched only by Mark Bellhorn and Jody Reed over the past two decades.
But as difficult a task as it is to develop a core of players ready for the majors, it's a gargantuan challenge to boast a starting five that came from draft day. Boston still hasn't produced a 20-game winner from scratch since Roger Clemens, but that stat may soon be coming to an end thanks to the talent that's starting to emerge.
Lester gave us the feel-good story of the year, but let's not forget about the fact that he was downright nasty, serving up a cut fastball with which the Royals couldn't do squat. Has Lester turned the corner from erratic control to dominant lefty? We can't go that far, but we can point out that since a start that saw him allow 16 walks and 15 runs over his first 27 2/3 innings of the season, Lester has walked just 12 over 34 1/3 innings and allowed six earned runs, including one or fewer in three of his last five starts. That's pretty dominant.
While the jury might be ready to make a decision on Lester's star power, it's still out on Buchholz, who is on the disabled list with a broken fingernail. Whether that broken fingernail was the source of Buchholz's last two stinkers is still in question, but really, who hasn't had to shut it down from their job because the clippers went awry? Still, he's managed to get past the sixth inning just once this season (an eight-inning ND at Tampa Bay), and how about those home and road splits? At Fenway, the kid is 2-0 with a 1.04 ERA and batters are hitting just .226 against him. On the road: 1-1, 8.56, .377.
Then there's the latest emerging candidate for long-term stardom in Masterson, who received a promotion to Pawtucket last night after his spot start in Boston. In two big league starts, the righthander has allowed five hits and two earned runs. Not to get greedy, but like, who's next? Will Michael Bowden (21) -- a 2005 draft pick who is 3-3 with a 2.83 ERA at Portland -- arrive in '08 or will he be forced to wait until '09 thanks to an already-crowded staff? His Sea Dogs teammate Bard (22) is 1-0 with a 0.62 ERA in a relief role this season. The Yankees get all wrapped up in their own Rose and Pavano while Boston has the real potential to become Tom Glavine's (old) Braves or Jim Palmer's Orioles. Bowden, Masterson, Buchholz, and Lester aren't going to all be 20-game Cy Young contenders, but if one of them is followed by three other quality arms, dynasty is a real word to use in conversation.
And yet, it's so very truly early in the whole process, and pitching is such a sensitive thing to develop, that their wealth of pitching can't really be described as much more than an encouragement, rather than an embarrassment of riches. Too much pitching? Never.
Then again, you don't hear too much griping about jettisoning Kason Gabbard anymore, do you?