Today, Sean discusses the competition for the fifth starter spot, Bartolo Colon's role in the rotation and Jonathan Papelbon's contract dispute. Click the play button below to see and hear the show; we'll post a transcript of Sean's comments later.
The fifth starter competition: Is it a competition? "Certainly the first four spots are accounted for, with Beckett, Matsuzaka, Lester and Wakefield. With the fifth spot, you'd have to figure that Clay Buchholz is the odds-on favorite to win that. It would be a natural progression for him, having made a few starts last year, including the no-hitter of course against Baltimore. He did not pitch particularly well in his first outing [of spring training], sort of piggy-backing on Tim Wakefield Sunday afternoon, had a rough first inning in which he allowed four runs, and then settled down and came out and got the side in order in the second inning. So, I think they were happy to see some adjustments. I would say that, while Tavarez and Kyle Snyder remain sort of on the periphery of any sort of competition for the number-five spot, it really is Buchholz, with Colon maybe coming up fast on the rails, given how impressive he's been. We have not seen him in a game situation yet, but they like his arm strength, they like the way he looks so far. We'll know a lot more tomorrow, after his second bullpen session. Following that is either a third bullpen or a live batting practice session, and then they determine when his first game is -- it will probably around the 15th. It's hard to imagine that he could be ready to start the season, and we don't know whether he's going to go to Japan to continue to make some progress, or get left back in Florida to stretch out his arm, but he would seem to be Buchholz's principal competition for that fifth spot, and again, it could be that Buchholz starts the year as the number five, and if he struggles at all, then they have some depth in Colon to make some changes."
Could Colon be a reliever? "I don't see ... there hasn't been any mention of that. In fact, Colon really sort of chafed last year in September, when Mike Scioscia attempted to use him out of the bullpen; he does not like pitching in that role. I'm fairly certain that there was some agreement when he signed his deal here that he would not be asked to pitch out of relief. I think it's starter or bust for him.
Why not just give Papelbon the money? "I think it sets a precedent of sorts for them, where every second- and third-year player who is not yet eligible for salary arbitration could come in and point to Papelbon's more than doubling his salary from $425,500 to 900,000 from his second to third year, and that happens a few times, and it starts adding up to possibly some money. The fact of the matter is that major-league players for the first three years of their big-league careers, the teams have the hammer. They have the power, because players have no leverage or arbitration rights, and after the third year the pendulum swings over dramatically in the players' favor. ... Prior to [years] four, five and six they have the rights to go to arbitration, which owners and executives claim artificially escalates salaraies at a rate higher than should be, and then after six years there's the prospect of free agency. The Red Sox are actually fairly generous with their 0-3 players. You look at what Florida has done with Hanley Ramirez -- here is a guy who had an MVP-caliber year the last couple of years, in two years of service time he's established himself as one of the best young shortstops in the game, and he got renewed at about $440,000 over the weekend. That's $60,000 more than the minimum. The Red Sox will not do that with Jonathan Papelbon, but nor will they give him Ryan Howard-like money, I don't think."