For three straight years, there has been offseason talk of the Red Sox having a six-man rotation. For three straight years, six men have proved woefully inadequate.
In 2008, it was the combination of Clay Buchholz' inability to adapt to big-league competition and Curt Schilling's inability to return from injury. In 2009 it was John Smoltz' poor performance with Brad Penny forced out in the middle of all the rotation shuffling. Both times the Sox had to turn to Paul Byrd to eat late-season starts.
This year, so far, it's been the injuries. Despite entering the year with perhaps the strongest group of six yet, with both Josh Beckett and Daisuke on the disabled list, the team again finds itself wondering who will make the next start.
The problem is compounded by issues that have cropped up at Triple-A Pawtucket this year. Last year's spot starter of choice, Junichi Tazawa, is out after having Tommy John surgery in April. Michael Bowden, the other likely replacement, has struggled with a new delivery, resulting in a ton of fly balls and a 4.97 ERA. Even up-and-coming Felix Doubront, who many fans have hoped could take this opportunity for a successful Major League debut, is just a few starts out of Double-A Portland and has found himself on the disabled list for a short time with a shin contusion.
So where do the Red Sox turn now? To Michael Bowden who can't get minor league outs? Do they dare risk another bullpen game against a strong Dodgers lineup? Or do they give Boof Bonser and his incredible double-digit ERA the call? If none of those sound too appealing, then it just goes to show you that the Sox can never have enough rotation depth.