Originally posted on The Outside Corner  |  Last updated 1/12/12

After a 2011 season that saw ten different pitchers get MLB starts, the Boston Red Sox are going down a different route in 2011.

None of Boston's starters thew over 200 innings, with just two, Josh Beckett and Jon Lester, qualified for the ERA title. Three of Boston's six starters who started double digit games, Tim Wakefield, John Lackey and Andrew Miller, had ERAs over 5.00. Pretty much, the reason that the Red Sox missed the 2011 playoffs was because of injuries to their starting pitching staff.

The Red Sox have bolstered their corps of starters for 2012 with minor league deals to major league veterans Aaron Cook, Carlos Silva and Justin Germano, entering discussions with former Dodgers spot starter/reliever Vicente Padilla, and re-signing enigmatic former top prospect Rich Hill. Add those players (of varying success levels) to the 2011 fifth starter holdovers of Wakefield, Miller, and reliever Alfredo Aceves, and the Red Sox have at least a few options to fill their rotation holes.

But is Boston even going to need these extra players? Beckett and Lester are written into the rotation with ink, and Lackey might as well be there too because of his exorbitant contract. If Clay Buchholz is healthy in 2011, a year in which he started just 14 games, he'll be ready too. So that takes care of four of Boston's five rotation spots, and that doesn't even begin to touch on Daisuke Matsuzaka in his return from Tommy John surgery.

Here's the problem for the Red Sox: injuries happen. And the cast of characters they've assembled for the fifth spot in the rotation isn't a list of All-Stars. But then again, many teams don't have the back to back punch at the top of the rotation like the Red Sox, and the stellar offense they possess as well.

A lot of Boston's problems hinge on Lackey, who made $15.25 million last year and will make the same total in each of the next three seasons. He was actually pretty good in 2010, amassing 4.1 fWAR in 215 innings. But 2011 saw a dropoff to 160 innings, and a fall in fWAR to 1.5, while his ERA also rose by two runs. Those are not the makings of a successful signing, and he absolutely needs to turn it around for the Red Sox to not have to fill their rotation with guys liks Silva and Cook in the heat of the summer. Most of the Red Sox 2011 problems came as a result of injuries, and some better luck in 2012 should turn things around quickly. But the pitcher's mound could become a horror show in July if one of their big three gets hurt and Lackey isn't effective again.

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This article first appeared on The Outside Corner and was syndicated with permission.

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