Red Sox manager Terry Francona has announced his starting rotation when the team breaks camp for the regular season. There are no big surprises, as Josh Beckett will be the 'ace' of the staff, leading off. Dice K Matsuzaka simplified things by needing extra time to prepare for the 2010 season, making the number five spot an easy choice for Francona.
The Sox will start the season with Beckett facing the Yankees on opening day, followed by Jon Lester in game two and John Lackey in game three. Tim Wakefield will get the nod in game four, against the Royals, with Beckett returning on five days rest to pitch the seasons fifth game, the second against the Royals.
Clay Buchholz will then become the team's fifth starter when he makes his 2010 debut in game six, against the Royals. Lester will then return followed by Lackey.
It could be awhile before Matsuzaka is ready to start a game for the Red Sox, so Wakefield and Buchholz will each have time to impress Francona and keep their spots in the rotation.
Barring injuries, the top three of Beckett, Lester, and Lackey are locked in, but if either Wakefield or Buchholtz struggle, they will likely be headed for the bullpen when Dice K is ready to return. However, strong performances to start the season could delay Matsuzaka's return.
Francona will likely feel a bit of pressure to get Matsuzaka in the mix, since he is one of the higher paid guys on the pitching staff. Plus Buchholz can still be an option to return to the minors and Wakefield has experience in the bullpen.
Wakefield is currently leading the Sox with three spring training wins. He is also leading the club with 19.2 innings pitched this Spring.
Buchholz, who added some weight to his thin frame during the offseason, has struggled a bit this Spring. He had an ERA over 10 with more walks than strikeouts before his recent game against the Twins on March 28. He allowed four runs in 4.2 innings during that game, but he did strike out seven without walking any Twins batters.
Matsuzaka just recently made his spring training debut, pitching in relief of Tim Wakefield.
Lester and Lackey could easily be number one starters for many teams, but with Beckett's leadership and history, Francona paid him the respect of anointing him the staff ace.
Lackey has been the Angels top pitcher for the past few years, but left to sign a five year deal with Boston when he became a free agent last winter.