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At arms length

Posted by Eric Wilbur, Boston.com Staff May 21, 2008 10:04 AM

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?

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34 comments so far...
  1. "...the unseen feet of a completely different C.C. Sabathia." Zing!

    Posted by Austin May 21, 08 01:19 PM
  1. C.C. Sabathia has feet ?? :-P At the rate he's going, he's gonna be Jabba the Hutt next year... or maybe even by the end of this one !!

    The Red Sox have become the 21st century version of the 1990's Atlanta Braves - but with more talent & more rings !! A great farm system built on solid pitching.

    Maybe we are getting a bit spoiled here.... Sox, Pats, Celts... so different from when I was a kid. But I'll take it !!

    Posted by Tom May 21, 08 01:45 PM
  1. I don't think you give the Sox management team enough credit for the way in which they have DEVELOPED the young talent they draft. A lot of teams draft talented youngsters every year, but the Sox do an incredible job of signing and developing their talent. The draftees get spoon fed the mission statement from day one and then they taught the system and coached up to maximum potential throughout their entire minor league careers.
    PS: Hunter Morris the talented first baseman from Alabama that the Sox drafted but could not sign last season is a 2nd team all SEC performer and 1st team all freshman performer at Auburn.

    Posted by Terry May 21, 08 02:19 PM
  1. Positively upbeat!

    Posted by Jeff May 21, 08 02:20 PM
  1. Could it be Boston's version of the "Killer B's"? Buckholtz, Bard, & Bowden

    Posted by John May 21, 08 02:28 PM
  1. Kudo's to John Henry and his brilliance in hiring Theo, Larry and all of their staffs. In sports ownership, like many organizations, it starts from the top.
    .
    May the plethora of pitching propensity be prolonged!
    .
    On another subject, DeMarlo Hale seems to be doing pretty well at deciding how and when the RedSox runners should take the extra base. He was the Manager at Trenton when Nixon, Eckstein, Merloni and Varitek went through there. No slouch either.

    Posted by DougR May 21, 08 02:57 PM
  1. Who will come up next? I would like to see Charlie Zink if only for one start. Maybe if there is a double header to be played.

    Wakefield for Game 1
    Zink for Game 2.

    Let the knuckleballs rule the day.
    (Zink is currently 5-2 for PawSox with 2.47 ERA)

    This scenerio would mean Tek would have to catch one of them. lol

    Posted by Todd May 21, 08 03:12 PM
  1. I'm a Sox fan, but this article is much too self-congratulatory. Not to diminsh Lester's feat (and Clay's last year), but comparing these guys to Glavine, Maddux and Smoltz? Come on!

    Posted by Jason May 21, 08 03:15 PM
  1. Not to pick at nits, but there's no such word as "undeterminable."

    Posted by Jack B May 21, 08 03:30 PM
  1. Not to mention Beckett, who's still well under 30

    Posted by Mike May 21, 08 03:32 PM
  1. The Braves won 14 Division Titles in a row, we are not there yet. They had 3 or 4 WS apperances? The Braves made some great trades along the way as well and still do. I think the development of these pitchers and players is amazing and I will be most intreseted to see what they trade for with this talent. Beyond player development and player hype Atlanta had they made great trades and players they traded for delivered much more then what they traded away. John Smoltz who is still there and was a product of a trade and they did it Year after year after year. They also had some great FA signings ~ Maddux is one that stands out.

    The achillies heel for these guys is being able to trade and sign great or even good Free Agents consistantly. They need to turn some of these prospects into trade bait to replace players who retire or leave ect . . . .if they can do that they hit the triple crown like Atlanta did.


    Posted by Tom May 21, 08 03:39 PM
  1. Are you kidding me? Too MUCH?

    You know at least one of the bunch (maybe 3 or 4) will either get hurt or lose his touch.

    If the worst case is, we end up sitting down a 2.0 ERA ace, or creating a killer bullpen, I'll take those odds. And another World Series.

    For further evidence, see how the teams of other individual great pitcher like Sabathia and Santana did last year. I rest my case.

    Posted by Bob May 21, 08 03:41 PM
  1. GO SOX!!!!!!!!!!!

    Posted by dirtywater May 21, 08 03:44 PM
  1. and then of course there's the possibility of that guy named Schilling being available for starts...or even, wrap your mind around this, long relief in September/October.....anyone up for 5 innings from Dice-K, 3 from Curt and close it out in four playoff starts?

    Posted by Brad Glidden May 21, 08 03:46 PM
  1. Not just talented players, but truly good kids that have come and continue to come up through the system -- Lester, Masterson, Pedroia, Ellsbury, Lowrie, Moss, etc. Kudos to the owners, Theo, Tito, minor-league coaches, trainers, the entire organization. BB is a business, but from the outside it looks like you're doing it the right way for all involved. I am one happy fan!

    Posted by Gotter May 21, 08 04:39 PM
  1. I think Buccholz will figure out his road struggles and become a consistant pitcher. Ervin Santana had horrendous road-home splits last year and looks a lot better this year. The Red Sox seem to have the patience to wait it out and not panic. They don't seem to follow that TNSTAAPP mentality, and good for them.

    I forgot Colon was pitching tonight! I better get my work done and get home!

    Oh John... Buccholz, Bard, Bowden... what about Beckett? He still counts.

    Posted by MarshallDog May 21, 08 04:44 PM
  1. Sox are it! Can`t believe the Yankees didn`t get Santanna. It`s not a matter of them developing there younger players. It`s a matter of them even trying to compete with Beckett and Dice K. The young guys (Lester, Masterson and CB are the gravey right now. GO SOX!!! Ellsbury and Pedroia are the other reasons to be very optimistic on the NEW BIG RED MACHINE!!!

    Posted by Steve May 21, 08 04:48 PM
  1. Love all the "seen your feet lately" jokes here about Sabathia. Have you seen who's pitching for the Sox tonight? Me!

    Posted by Bartolo May 21, 08 04:52 PM
  1. I love seeing our guys come up and do so well. Lets not be hasty though and we all know that no one should count out any of the Yankees guys. Love your article Eric, but I'm not doing the jig just yet. Lester has been inconsistent and so has Buck. A no hitter doesn't mean you're the next coming of Pedro. I am so high on Lester for his story, but Buck, not so much. I have a bad feeling there as his stuff has been off and hopefully thats from his fingernail. I think Masterson will be a star though. Right now, the Sox aren't in any position to be assuming anything as we know that horrible team 215 miles south usually turns it around this time of year. Hope not but lets not get too high on everything just yet. OK for me to be the voice of reason? hahaha!!

    Posted by Boston Roger May 21, 08 05:09 PM
  1. Are we seriously asking this questions just two removed from a season that saw the Sox start Brian Corey and Devern Hansack among others.......

    Posted by Kevin May 21, 08 05:13 PM
  1. Kris Johnson, Dustin Richardson, Nick Hagadone.....

    Posted by Steve May 21, 08 05:16 PM
  1. I like the optimism, but I think that we may be jumping a great deal ahead of ourselves. With the way injuries effect starters, there is no telling who will be in the rotation at season's end, let alone next year. A few years back, a young gun named Juan Pena won his first two starts in convincing fashion, yet he never threw again due to injury. Another potential roadblock is how the rest of baseball responds the third, fourth, and fifth times they see these young guys. Masterson has looked great, but the next time up these extremely talented hitters may pick up on his delivery and belt the ball around the field. Lets just hope that Tito and Theo keep these guys on the path that they are on and make moves only when they are absolutely necessary.

    Posted by Chris May 21, 08 05:32 PM
  1. You can't argue with Lester's no-hitter, obviously, but we may not want to start counting chickens yet based on Masterson shutting down the Royals -- an obviously weak team. Then again, they do have a better record than the Yanks!

    Posted by Dave May 21, 08 05:36 PM
  1. There can be too much of a good thing. I remember when The Hills, Sex and the City and Project Runway were all on in the same night at the same time. I didnt have a DVR then, haaaaa I was soooo 2005, and couldn't watch them all. I may have to get all new pink shirts because I have my Pedroia and Ellsbury ones but some of these pitchers are sooooo cute, I might need to add Masterson as well. I hope the Sox get more hitters too because I want more home runs hit into the Monster Seats so I can be seen on tv by people at my work in my pink sox gear holding up my I Heart RemDawg sign. I still love singing Sweet Caroline as loud as I can and starting the wave, I hope to see Ellsbury or Masterson at Game On so they can buy me a Stoli Vanilla and Diet Coke. That would be so hot. I am outie!

    Posted by Caroline P. Hat May 21, 08 05:57 PM
  1. I had to listen to Yankee fans and that 1918 chant for most of my life. The simple fact was that there was no curse of the bambino. It was the curse of ownership.
    Year after year the Red Sox would sign free agents. Or they would trade away young prospects. With new ownership, dedicated to rebuilding the farm system, it is a pleasure to root for the Sox. They could very well build a dynasty for the next decade. Now if we could only get rid of Manny.....

    Posted by Darren May 21, 08 06:43 PM
  1. I do remember the Atlanta Braves having a succession of good pitchers from their minor league system in the 1980's and 1990's, with the only exception being Maddox, whom they got from the Cubs. It showed, as the Braves were a legitimate contender on a yearly basis for a number of years.

    Lester, Buchholz, Masterson, Bowden, Bard...need we also say Richardson or even Johnson from AA? We'll see...

    Posted by SBJ May 21, 08 07:00 PM
  1. papelbon, delcarmen, hansen, buchholz, lester, masterson, bowden, bard...it's not a farm system, it's a compound. all those dudes for a season = 1 month of a CC Sabathia salary in 2009...and combined weight is also the same

    Posted by bosoxj May 21, 08 08:54 PM
  1. *Buchholz! Not Buckholtz. Sorry, a pet peeve.

    Hey what about adding two other pretty good B's?

    Beckett, Bard, Buchholz, Bowden, Bartolo?

    Posted by Ron May 21, 08 09:08 PM
  1. Being a Red Sox fan since 1956, I am still in awe of the pitching staff over the past 5 years! Granted, Boston has had great individual pitchers on their staff in past years. However, it had always been carried by their monster hitting lineups. To combine the two is 7th heaven. I am so much in awe of the present (and recent) team(s). There are no weaknesses. Youth, speed, pitching, hitting, and just pure talent. I keep pinching myself everyday that this is happening! Too much pitching? Start a B team!

    Posted by ragingram6 May 21, 08 10:55 PM
  1. You NEVER have too much pitching! As soon as you start thinking that, injuries or slumps happen. Better to juggle than struggle, especially with most of the talent on the extreme ends of the age spectrum. With that in mind, I hope Schilling is available for the stretch run and post-season to cut the staff some slack while maintaining the intensity, which as a veteran he'll do. I'm glad they kept Julian Tavarez. His versatility is hard to come by during a long season. Short, long, he eats up innings. He'll be back up soon.

    Posted by Dan May 22, 08 12:58 AM

  1. Yuh, but we gave Kason Gabbard away for nothing.

    Posted by Charles schnare May 22, 08 06:31 AM
  1. Gabbard, who? please..... ONLY because he is a lefty will he be in the majors the next couple of years due to that band box of a stadium. Theo's crew should be applauded for their efforts the past 4 years. Duquette and Gorman should be taking notes on how to develop talent, not just for our team but as chips to trade elsewhere. That's the whole idea. Too much is utopia!

    Posted by Long time sufferer basking in the sun May 23, 08 05:14 PM
  1. it is truly remarkable what the Sox management have done with the farm system and our young pitchers. to have two rookies from same organization throw no hitters in such a short time frame was amazing. I would also like to point out that another pitcher who came though the Sox farm system, Anibel Sanchez, also threw a no hitter as a rookie immediately following the trade for Josh Beckett. That gives us 3 no hitters by rookies in the last 2+ years. Pretty darn good!!!!!!

    Posted by Bob May 24, 08 01:17 PM
  1. Never again a Denny Galehouse situation like in 1948 when i was just learning how to suffer as a Sox fan..... even living in the same neighborhood with Bobby Doerr, Jackie Jensen, Sammy White and Ellis Kinder was of little consolation. In comparison we are indeed living in nirvanna these days, & i for one am enjoying being obnoxious to all those EE fans like they were to me for oh, so long! Ex West Newton Old Man with a long memory. GO SOX!!!!!!

    Posted by Bob K May 25, 08 01:01 PM
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