Monday, ESPNBoston confirmed a weekend report by CSNNE.com that starter Clay Buchholz has a stress fracture in his lower back. While the fracture won't require surgery, the nature of the injury means that Buchholz's season is over.
As recently as Monday afternoon, Terry Francona was keeping up appearances publicly. Despite the team's admittedly "high level of concern," as tweeted by Gordon Edes, Francona wasn't prepared to acknowledge that his young righty was done.
In an interview with the Boston Globe, Tito was content to leave things in the hands of the specialist examining Buchholz. Unfortunately, his wait-and-see attitude didn't yield positive results. Confirmation of the fracture is yet another blow to a rotation that has already suffered more than its share of bad fortune this year.
Remember that Daisuke Matsuzaka is out for the year after undergoing Tommy John surgery. Jon Lester missed more than two weeks with a lat strain, though he's now back in action. And of course, there's the ineffective John Lackey.
Lackey was torched again on Monday, allowing five earned runs in just over six innings of work against the Indians. With a season ERA of 6.23, he's a major liability every time he takes the mound.
At the trade deadline, the Red Sox attempted to bolster their pitching staff by adding Seattle's Erik Bedard in exchange for prospects. It was a solid trade given the price paid, though Bedard does represent another significant injury risk for a team that just can't bear any more trips to the DL.
When it comes to health, the past couple of seasons have been hell in Boston.
The problem is that the trade was not enough. Now that Buchholz is finished, the team is right back where it was before acquiring Bedard. In fact, the club may be in a worse position than ever.
Josh Beckett and Jon Lester are still excellent and reliable options. But after that? Bedard is hardly a durable arm. Lackey remains disastrous, and Buchholz's injury now keeps the spot-starters in play. Some combination of Tim Wakefield, Andrew Miller, Alfredo Aceves and Kyle Weiland will continue to see action as the Sox try to fill out their quintet.
Felix Doubront may factor in as well, assuming he recovers from a hamstring problem in Pawtucket. But the thought of needing to start any of those guys during a series in October is downright horrifying.
It's still possible to make trades. Players must pass through waivers before any deal can be completed, but don't be surprised if the Sox continue to search for a couple of live arms. The addition of Bedard isn't enough to get the club's pitching to where it needs to be.
This puts more pressure on the game's top offense to continue its stellar production. While it's possible that the Boston bats will continue to hit their way out of trouble, the AL East is an unforgiving division. A late summer swoon is all it takes to fall out of the post-season race.
The Sox are certainly in a great position heading into August, but the need for Bedard to deliver is now stronger than ever. Even if he does, it may be tough for fans to feel comfortable.
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