The position for the 5th starter spot is always a problem. Usually you’ve got two guys which are both borderline Major League talented.
But the Red Sox have another kind of problem around the 5th starter spot. They’ve got too many good guys! The first battle is between these two guys:
Clay Buchholz has a very nice Spring Training allowing just one run in 19 2/3 inning (0.46 ERA). So it looks like it’s obvious that he’ll be the 5th starter, but in this case it isn’t that easy. He struggled last year as the 5th starter going 2-9 with a 6.75 ERA in 76 innings. He’s 24 years old, so it wouldn’t hurt keeping him a year longer in Pawtucket (AAA).
Second guy for the competition:
Brad Penny, acquired from the Dodgers via free agency this offseason. He’s coming of a bad year, especially for his standards. He had a 6-9 record with a 6.27 ERA in 94 2/3 innings. Better than Buchholz, but still pretty bad. One reason why he threw bad last year was a heavy shoulder injury, because of this injury he started later this Spring Training throwing in games. He maybe isn’t ready by opening day, so in that case Buchholz maybe gets the nod. But don’t be surprised Penny takes over in a week or so. Penny had a very good year 2007, going 16-4 with a 3.03 in 208 innings. He’s 30 years old.
And to make it even tougher a third pitcher will be in the mix coming June:
Lifelong pitcher from the Braves, John Smoltz is currently rehabbing from an arm injury. At first he tried to be back on June 1st. The latest reports say he could be back by mid-May. Last year he had an 3-2 record with an ERA of 2.57 in only 28 innings. Smoltz has been one of the most dominating pitchers of his era. He can also relieve, but that probably won’t be the case this year. He’s 41 years old.
In my opinion will Brad Penny the 5th starter. Come May/June Smoltz will either step in for a injured pitcher or for Penny/Wakefield if they’re doing terrible. Buchholz will be a nice back up waiting in the wings to step up when needed.