Buchholz and Lester: The Future Is Now (And Critical) for Boston

Jonathon HiltonContributor IMarch 31, 2008

There's no denying that last season Clay Buchholz and Jon Lester had to overcome pretty serious obstacles to get where they are today.

Lester, a cancer survivor, fought and trained to get back to starting rotation form, capping off all that hard work with an impressive game against the Indians in the ALCS last year.

Buchholz, often viewed as a replacement pitcher when one of the starters misses a game, stunned Red Sox fans with a perfect game last season. Together the two went 7-1 last season, and after the World Series, left many fans wondering what role these two would play come next season.

Well now Boston fans have an answer. Since the World Series, manager Terry Francona has made it clear that the youth movement is taking center stage in Boston, most notably his decision to move Jacoby Ellsbury from backup to starting CF, a dangerous move considering Ellsbury's inexperience.

Right now the starting rotation for the 2008 Boston Red Sox looks like this:

Josh Beckett, Dice-K, Jon Lester, Tim Wakefield, Clay Buchholz

Bullpen (Notables): Manny Declarmen, Hideki Okajima, Jonathan Papelbon, Mike Timlin

In my mind, this rotation is great and a relief to see for not just me but many Red Sox fans. The reason? Well for starters Curt Schilling is getting old and more and more unreliable for the Red Sox. Sure he's a legend in Beantown and helped the Red Sox get two World Series titles, but at age 40 and a torn up shoulder that requires extensive surgery, it's safe to say that he's going to be playing a large role this season, which is fine in my mind.

No longer the ace, Schilling should not try to make a fast comeback and push his way back into the rotation around the All Star Break. If Buchholz and Lester are pitching well (which many scouts have them doing this year), I would take those two in the lineup, even in the long run near playoff time, over the rusty, surgery repaired shoulder of Curt Schilling.

Plus, there's no denying the competition in the AL East is intensifying at a rapid pace. The Yankees, notoriously known for buying players past their prime, are finally going to the minors and draft class of 2005, promoting Joba Chamberlin and Ian Kennedy to bullpen and the starting rotation respectively.

While veterans Andy Pettitte and Mike Mussina are still there to anchor the front of that rotation, it's clearly evident that Hank Steinbrenner is looking towards the future, and basing off of last year's statistics, the Yankees are in a prime condition to establish these young players as tommorrow's superstars.

While the Blue Jays, Orioles, and Devil Rays are teams that are still far from competing for the top spot in the AL East, it would be wise for both the Sox and Yanks not to take an eye off those teams, due mainly to the influx of young talent that could be quietly developed over the season.

So for Boston, the future is now. Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz, while still young and unproven, need that experience of a full MLB season to get better and gain experience for years down the road. What better time that now?