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Article Teaser: Failing to make the playoffs for the first time in four years, the Boston Red Sox have re-tooled a pitching staff that battled inconsistency and was infected by the injury bug last season, bringing in a host of capable arms into the bullpen and adding both a familiar face and a new one into the starting rotation.

Keep reading below...

Red Sox Staff Reshaped For New Year

Copyright (c) 2007-2017

Failing to make the playoffs for the first time in four years, the Boston Red Sox have re-tooled a pitching staff that battled inconsistency and was infected by the injury bug last season, bringing in a host of capable arms into the bullpen and adding both a familiar face and a new one into the starting rotation.

Joining Josh Beckett, Tim Wakefield and Curt Shilling in the rotation is former closer and rookie of the year runner up Jonathan Paplebon, who's 39 saves and 0.92 ERA led the team last season. While many feel that Paplebon's effectiveness out of the bullpen is equal to that of Mariano Rivera and some of the other top closers in the league, the Red Sox believe that using him as a starter will put less stress on his shoulder and in the process make him even more valuable to the team.

Also added to the starting staff is Japanese import Daisuke Matsuzaka, who recently signed a six-year, $52 million dollar contract with the team in December and is expected to be the team's number three starter in the rotation. While most of the Major League is still trying to find out what they can about the 26-year old pitcher, the Red Sox have known about him for a very long time.

"For several years now, he's been a real target," Epstein told MLB.com after the signing was made official. "We've been trying to keep a low profile. I don't think we were mentioned very prominently among the most likely suitors for Matsuzaka. That was by design."

The Red Sox also still have the promising rookie from last season Jon Lester on the roster and a host of other pitchers like Lenny DiNardo and Kyle Snyder who can spot start if needed. Considering that, it's easy to see that Boston has much more depth on their staff than last year. Also, if Matt Clement manages to recover from September rotator cuff surgery, the Red Sox may have enough depth in the starting rotation to make deal for some more support in the bullpen or on the bench. Either way you look at it, Boston's starting rotation looks like it is destined to succeed this season.

While the starting rotation looks to be a stable commodity, there are some question marks regarding the team's bullpen. Moving Paplebon into the rotation has created a void at the closer spot and while there has been no clear-cut decision made by the team as to who will fill it, the talk from the organization makes you think that the recently signed Joel Pineiro seems to be the front runner.

"Joel was right at the top of the list," said assistant general manager Jed Hoyer at a press conference after the deal was made. "He's a guy that, even when he was having great success as a starter, a lot of our reports were, 'Wow, this guy would be unbelievable in the bullpen.' "

Pineiro himself feels that the change of scenery and new role in Boston will help him regain his old form.

"Things are a little different here," Pineiro told MLB.com. "This is like baseball nation. Fans are great here; they're always supporting you from the first out to the last out. Hopefully, I can take that adrenaline and that aggressiveness, and, obviously having [Jason] Varitek behind the plate -- that's the No. 1 thing. A lot of people told me [that] having him is going to help me out a lot."

Joining Pineiro and veterans like Mike Timlin, Julian Tavarez and Javier Lopez in the Boston bullpen are Hideki Okajima, Brendan Donnelly and J.C. Romero, who are not only capable of eating up innings out of the pen, but give the Red Sox the depth out of the bullpen they haven't had in years. While Okajima and Romero felt it was the right decision to come to Boston, Donnelly was easily the most excited of the bunch.

"In Anaheim there were not a whole lot of innings to go around. I think it was a win/win for everybody," Donnelly of the trade that landed him in Boston. "There is a lot of appreciation for the organization. They were the first ones to give me a chance and have a career. I have a lot of friends there. I will miss some guys, but it's time to move on. I'm leaving a big rivalry with the A's and Angels, but I'm going to the biggest rivalry there is and I can't ask for more."

With Donnelly, Romero and the other new faces in the pen, the pressure on Paplebon and Matsuzaka to succeed in a new role and a new league won't be nearly as high and will give the two a chance to flourish. Despite not having a clear cut-closer at the present time, any team that has Josh Beckett and Curt Shilling in their rotation and the depth that the Red Sox have in the bullpen can opt to solve that problem when they see fit.


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Patrick Hickey Jr. writes as a freelancer for Boston Red Sox Tickets Brokers - a great place to buy cheap sports, theatre and concert tickets online. http://www.bestshowticketslasvegas.com

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Internal ID: #4226
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Word Count: 840

Total Views: 4602

Article Rating: 2.55 of 5
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2007-01-17 14:00:00






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