Daisuke Matsuzaka out for Season: 10 Pitchers Who Could Take His Place

Dmitriy Ioselevich@dioselevSenior Analyst IIIJune 5, 2011

Daisuke Matsuzaka out for Season: 10 Pitchers Who Could Take His Place

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    BOSTON, MA - MAY 04:  Daisuke Matsuzaka #18 of the Boston Red Sox reacts after giving up a single to Peter Bourjos #25 of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in the 13th inning at Fenway Park on May 4, 2011 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Get
    Jim Rogash/Getty Images

    Daisuke Matsuzaka is scheduled to have Tommy John surgery next week, likely ending his time in a Red Sox uniform.

    The 30-year-old right-hander was 49-30 in 105 starts for Boston since coming over from Japan for more than $100 million (with half of that money going to his former team just for the right to speak with him). 

    After a terrific rookie year and an even better sophomore season, Matsuzaka has fallen apart. He owns a career 4.25 ERA and 1.40 WHIP. This season he was 3-3 with a 5.30 ERA before being shut down on May 18 with a right elbow sprain.

    The Red Sox may finally be able to wash their hands of one of the worst investments in franchise history, but they still need someone to take the ball every fifth day. Here's a look at the 10-best candidates to fill Matsuzaka's spot in the rotation. 

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Tim Wakefield

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    BOSTON, MA - MAY 22:  Tim Wakefield #49 of the Boston Red Sox delivers a pitch in the second inning against the Chicago Cubs on May 22, 2011 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts.  Before this series, the two teams haven't played at Fenway Park since th
    Elsa/Getty Images

    Wakefield, 44, has been the de facto spot-starter on the Red Sox for three years now. He's stepped in during Matsuzaka's absence this year and has made five serviceable starts. But there's a reason the knuckleballer started the year in the bullpen.

    Wakefield is the ultimate hit-or-miss pitcher. His knuckleball can be unhittable one second, and a meatball the next. The problem is there's no way of knowing which it's going to be.

    The Red Sox likely want some more consistency out of their starters and, though Wakefield has thrown at least 125 innings every year of his major league career, he's not exactly reliable.

    Wakefield's nothing more than a stopgap solution at this point.

Alfredo Aceves

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    FORT MYERS, FL - MARCH 14:  Pitcher Alfredo Aceves #91 of the Boston Red Sox pitches against the New York Yankees during a Grapefruit League Spring Training Game at City of Palms Park on March 14, 2011 in Fort Myers, Florida.  (Photo by J. Meric/Getty Ima
    J. Meric/Getty Images

    Aceves, 28, has pitched reasonably well as John Lackey's replacement. In three starts the righty has thrown 16 innings and given up eight earned runs, six of them in his last start against the White Sox.

    Aceves will likely continue as a starter once Lackey returns, but for how long? The Red Sox signed Aceves hoping to get a few good innings out of him, yet they never expected him to last an entire season with his history of arm troubles.

    The Red Sox can use Aceves until he breaks down, but they may also be tempted to save his arm for the bullpen where he had a 2.60 ERA in 11 appearances.

Felix Doubront

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    BALTIMORE - AUGUST 31:  Felix Doubront #61 of the Boston Red Sox pitches against the Baltimore Orioles at Camden Yards on August 31, 2010 in Baltimore, Maryland.  (Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images)
    Greg Fiume/Getty Images

    Doubront, 23, was impressive in his major league debut last season, making three starts and an additional nine appearances out of the bullpen.

    The lefty was slated to return to the Boston bullpen again this season, but injuries kept him out for the first week of April and an additional three weeks in May. In five starts at AAA Pawtucket Doubront has a 1.59 ERA, although he's only thrown 17 innings as he builds up his arm strength again.

    The Red Sox think Doubront can be a back-of-the-rotation starter and that's exactly what they need right now. However, he's never thrown more than a 120 innings in a single season and Boston has very few capable lefties who can pitch out of the bullpen. Doubront is a great candidate to replace Rich Hill as the left-handed specialist.

Kyle Weiland

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    FT. MYERS, FL - FEBRUARY 28:  Kyle Weiland #97 of the Boston Red Sox poses during photo day at the Boston Red Sox Spring Training practice facility on February 28, 2010 in Ft. Myers, Florida.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
    Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

    Weiland, 24, is absolutely dominating at AAA Pawtucket this season. In 11 starts the 6-foot-4 righty is 5-4 with a 3.10 ERA and 65 strikeouts in 58 innings.

    It's only a matter of time before Weiland, a third-round pick in 2008, gets called to the big show. However, in what role will it be?

    Weiland has a live fastball and a promising curveball, along with above-average command of the strike zone. That sounds like a No. 3 or 4 starter, but the consensus seems to be that he'll end up as a late-inning reliever. Would the Red Sox at least give him a shot as a starter?  

Andrew Miller

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    FT. MYERS, FL - FEBRUARY 20:  :  Andrew Miller #30 of the Boston Red Sox poses for a portrait during the Boston Red Sox Photo Day on February 20, 2011 at the Boston Red Sox Player Development Complex in Ft. Myers, Florida  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
    Elsa/Getty Images

    Miller was the sixth overall pick in the 2006 amateur draft because of an outstanding frame (6-foot-7, 210 pounds) and an electric fastball. Serious control issues have derailed the left-hander's career and he's now with his third major league team.

    Now 26, Miller is working his way back to the majors as a starter for the Pawtucket Red Sox. In 10 starts he has a 2.70 ERA and 48 strikeouts in 53.1 innings, with just 34 walks. That's a massive improvement over his career 1.37 SO/BB ratio.

    The Red Sox have to be pleased with what they've seen out of Miller, who was considered a long-term project when Boston traded for him in the offseason. He projects best as a reliever, but his arm is strong enough to give the Red Sox a few starts this year.

Kevin Millwood

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    ST. PETERSBURG, FL - SEPTEMBER 29:  Pitcher Kevin Millwood #34 of the Baltimore Orioles pitches against the Tampa Bay Rays during the game at Tropicana Field on September 29, 2010 in St. Petersburg, Florida.  (Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images)
    J. Meric/Getty Images

    The Red Sox signed the veteran right-hander to a minor league deal as an emergency option in case they needed a starter. 

    Millwood, 36, has made one start for Pawtucket this season and only lasted 2.2 innings while giving up four runs and two walks. His fastball was sitting at around 85 mph, and that's not going to earn him a promotion any time soon.

    There's a chance Millwood can rediscover his pitching prowess, but that doesn't appear likely. He's a last resort. 

Junichi Tazawa

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    BOSTON - AUGUST 22:  Junichi Tazawa #63 of the Boston Red Sox walks off the mound during the game against the New York Yankees at Fenway Park on August 22, 2009 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
    Jim Rogash/Getty Images

    The Red Sox brought Tazawa over from Japan in 2009 and the right-hander held his own in six major league games despite a 7.46 ERA and 15.3 H/9 IP.

    The righty missed all of 2010 because of Tommy John surgery, but he's back rehabbing in the low minors and could be ready to contribute in Boston by the All-Star break.

    In three starts this year he has a 11.57 ERA in 9.1 innings and clearly has a lot to work out. The 25-year-old has great control and an impressive assortment of secondary pitches that make him a very attractive option as a No. 4 or 5 starter.

    Tazawa will have to pitch better in the minors before he gets another shot at the majors.

Derek Lowe

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    NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 03: Derek Lowe #32 of the Atlanta Braves pitches against the New York Mets at Citi Field on June 3, 2011 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City.  (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)
    Nick Laham/Getty Images

    If the Red Sox exhaust all their internal options, don't be surprised to see Theo Epstein pursue a starter via the trade market.

    Lowe, 38, was a tremendous pitcher during his time in Boston (3.72 ERA, 70 wins, 85 saves) and he's carved out a nice career in the National League. He's now the veteran of the Atlanta Braves' pitching staff, but is pitching like a No. 5 starter.

    The Braves aren't in any rush to trade Lowe, but the Red Sox are one of the few teams that can afford Lowe and his $15 million price tag. It's no doubt Red Sox fans would love to see Lowe back in a Boston uniform after his heroics in the 2004 playoffs.

Jason Marquis

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    WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 31: Starting pitcher Jason Marquis #21 of the Washington Nationals delilvers to a Philadelphia Phillies batter during the second inning  at Nationals Park on May 31, 2011 in Washington, DC.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
    Rob Carr/Getty Images

    If the Red Sox opt for a rental to fill the hole in the rotation, then Marquis may be one of the best names available.

    The 32-year-old right-hander missed almost all of last season with an elbow injury, but he's been respectable in 11 starts this season. Marquis is 6-2 with a 4.13 ERA and an impressive 2.24 SO/BB ratio.

    He's making $7.5 million this season in the last year of his contract and wouldn't cost the Red Sox more than $3 million and a couple of mid-level prospects. 

Brett Myers

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    HOUSTON - APRIL 12:  Pitcher Brett Myers #39 of the Houston Astros throws against the Chicago Cubs in the first inning at Minute Maid Park on April 12, 2011 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
    Bob Levey/Getty Images

    Myers, 30, is one of the more attractive options on the trade market because he's under contract through at least 2012 and is coming off a career year.

    Last season the righthander was 14-8 with a 3.14 ERA in 223.2 innings, all of which were career highs. Myers hasn't been quite as successful in 2011 with a 4.82 ERA in 12 starts and has fallen victim to a league-leading 15 home runs.

    The Red Sox would be thinking beyond 2011 if they acquired Myers. Plus with former Boston bench coach Brad Mills now the manager in Houston, a deal should be easy to get done.