With last week's news that Clay Buchholz has a stress fracture in his lumbar spine came the very real possibility that he will not be returning to the mound this season. This information poses a serious threat to the Red Sox World Series hopes as before being shelved in mid-June, Buchholz served as one of the few reliable spots in Boston's rotation.
Josh Beckett has had a phenomenal bounce back season from a disappointing campaign in 2010, and Jon Lester has been his usual outstanding self, but even he has been bit by the injury bug this year, making him harder to count on than he normally would be.
The rest of the rotation has been a potpourri of underachievers, minor leaguers and guys that were supposed to be in the bullpen. The most notable of this group is John Lackey who was signed to pitch in the big games which he is likely no longer trusted to start.
Another wild card in the Red Sox pitching rotation is recently acquired Erik Bedard who Boston acquired at the trade deadline. Bedard has front of the rotation ability but his health is a constant question mark. The Red Sox hope that despite just coming off the disabled list before they traded for him, Bedard can hold up for the stretch run.
As of right now, the only two starters Boston can reasonably count on are Josh Beckett and Jon Lester. Obviously, to win in October a team must have more than two reliable starting pitchers (with the possible exception of the 2001 Diamondbacks). The Red Sox must decide who they are going to put their faith in if Clay Buchholz is not back by the postseason.
In order to win the World Series without Clay Buchholz, Boston is going to have to either get extremely lucky or be the beneficiary of a miracle. If they are lucky, Andrew Miller or Tim Wakefield will get hot at just the right time and step into the all important third starters' role.
If some sort of miracle is performed, John Lackey and Erik Bedard will be possessed by the 2007 versions of themselves, providing the Red Sox with not three, but actually four starters who can shut down an opposing team's offense in the playoffs.
At this point, the odds seem pretty highly stacked against either of these two scenarios playing themselves out, although Bedard did have a decent first start for the Red Sox.
Still, because of their offensive prowess, Boston has the potential to win the World Series even without Clay Buchholz, however Red Sox fans should be praying that he will be healthy and able to pitch in the playoffs.