The Boston Red Sox And 4,828 Fifth-Starter Candidates

TORONTO, CANADA - J.P. Arencibia #9 of the Toronto Blue Jays rounds second after his three-run home run against Andrew Miller #30 of the Boston Red Sox during MLB action at the Rogers Centre. (Photo by Abelimages/Getty Images)

Who will be the fifth starter for the Boston Red Sox? It'll be one of close to a dozen candidates the team has rounded up this offseason.

The Boston Red Sox collapsed last September because of their pitching. No, really. Look it up. It was in the papers and everything. As such, they were expected to acquire another starting pitcher before the 2012 season.

C.J. Wilson was too rich for their blood. Mark Buehrle was tempted by sacks of teal money. Yu Darvish was never going to happen. Edwin Jackson settled for a one-year deal somewhere else. Roy Oswalt doesn't want to play that far north.

There were several young starters moved this offseason. They all brought back huge prospect hauls for the teams that traded them. So unless the Red Sox wanted to give up Xander Bogaerts and a handful of other prospects, they were never going to join that race.

That leaves us with a 2012 Red Sox rotation held together by twine and pennies in the bottom of a fountain. Jon Lester is great; Josh Beckett is coming off one of his best seasons. After that, there's a pitcher coming off a serious back injury, a converted reliever and a fifth starter that they'll chose from a … from a …

What do you call a group of fifth-starter candidates? It's a gaggle of geese, a pride of lions, a bevy of quail … we should settle this now because this is important. I'm going to go with scrum. The Red Sox have a scrum of fifth-starter candidates, both in-house and recently acquired:

Acquired during the offseason
Aaron Cook
Clayton Mortensen
Vicente Padilla
Carlos Silva
Ross Ohlendorf

In-house candidates
Alex Wilson
Andrew Miller
Alfredo Aceves
Felix Doubront

A scrum of fifth-starter candidates like no other. While we were expecting the Red Sox to trade for Gavin Floyd, or to sign Edwin Jackson, they were rounding up fifth-starter candidates and burying them around the yard. It wasn't a sexy plan. It wasn't exciting. Michael Lewis has 4,420,391 different book ideas he'd like to get to before tackling the story of how the Red Sox acquired all of them, including No, I'm on the Brewers: A Story of Two Jeff D'Amicos.

But it wasn't a bad idea to get all of these guys in one camp. And considering that the one thing the Red Sox needed last September -- desperately, painfully needed -- was a warm-bodied, replacement-level starter, they did pretty well for themselves. Marc Normandin of the Internet (and Over the Monster) is pretty happy with the group of options:

This is probably the strongest non-roster invite rotation any team could make. I'm not going to double-check this to see if it's fact, as that's a good way to disprove my theory. At the least, it's probably better than Baltimore's rotation. (That isn't a joke.)

The Orioles have suffered enough, Marc. Shame on you. And shame on you for probably being right.

The trick now is to find the right permutation. Cook probably has the inside track on the last spot, as he should. The rest of the guys are there just in case. It's a group of able-bodied guys who should be on the fringes of a rotation. Some of them are there because they're inexperienced (Wilson, Doubront), some because they've never been good enough to latch on to a permanent rotation spot (Miller, Ohlendorf) and some because their best days were before the days of personal computers (Silva, Padilla).

It's quantity of limited quality. And that's an OK thing. The more emergency kits, the less likely there will be a September repeat. The problem, though, is that there are two names that would fit snugly into a group like this: Tim Wakefield and Kyle Weiland. Those two aren't unreasonable options for an emergency, either, but they were the exact worst pitchers for the exact worst time last season. Of all of those pitchers listed up there, there will be a couple who would do great if pressed into action, and there are a couple who would need a stepladder to see replacement level. The problem is that no one can tell which is which right now, especially the Red Sox.

Boston didn't get the big name -- not yet, at least -- but they still did a prudent thing and made other arrangements. Boring, practical arrangements. If it works out, they should be lauded for their diligence. If it doesn't, there will probably be a column or two written about how the Red Sox blew it by being cheap when it came to upgrading the rotation. It's a heckuva risk, but if a team has to win a raffle to pay the rent, at least they can get a handful of raffle tickets.

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