Two months ago, the Red Sox had the deepest rotation in the league, their franchise's history, and quite possibly the universe.
Last night, they trotted out Junichi Tazawa.
How quickly things can change in a seven-month baseball season with Boston suddenly in serious need of some solid starting pitching. It’s taxed their bullpen, which is one of the best in the league and with all the talk about their offense failing on the Tampa Bay, New York road trip, the back end of the rotation is clearly what hurt them.
Not to jump on Tazawa too hard because he actually pitched to a reasonable degree in his debut last Friday night and showcased a filthy curve ball with command of the strike-zone in his first start against the Tigers, but to picture him as our number three behind Lester and Beckett is a little stressful.
Sox GM Theo Epstein says he’s got four pitches that he can command at an equitable level and he’s certainly been impressive in doing so to this point, but to ask a 23-year-old rookie who can’t verbally interact with nearly all of his teammates to contribute significantly in an American League pennant race could pose a problem.
Even if he can’t fill in for Daisuke Matsuzaka, Tazawa’s value will be of great worth to Boston this off-season. His age and likely future success makes him very flexible as a trading chip should the Sox go after Roy Halladay, Felix Hernandez or another ace quality starter this winter.
With Tazawa as a security blanket, Epstein has the option of moving Clay Buchholz or Michael Bowden without giving up all the young gems in the farm system.
With John Smoltz officially gone, Brad Penny relegated to a fastball he can’t control, and Dice-K and Tim Wakefield hurt with vague injuries, it looks like the team’s young pitchers will be forced to step up and perform during the hectic months of August, September and if all goes well, October.