Jon Lester, Josh Beckett, Clay Buchholz, Felix Doubront, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Aaron Cook, Franklin Morales.
These are the seven names available to fill five spots in a Red Sox rotation that, while crowded, has been entirely unimpressive thus far this year.
When Josh Beckett and Clay Buchholz return, their spots are guaranteed. Buchholz had been pitching too well lately, and Beckett has ended up once again being the team's best starter this year.
So to is Jon Lester's. While he's never had a bad start last as long as this one, the Red Sox are not going to turn away from their would-be ace after just 94 innings of mediocrity. Especially when they've got nowhere else to turn.
That leaves Daisuke Matsuzaka, Felix Doubront, Aaron Cook, and Franklin Morales. The first two have to be considered the "incumbents," and as of a week ago it would seem ridiculous to even talk about Doubront losing his spot, but is that a possibility in the short term?
It's been nearly a month since Doubront's run of consistent starts came to an end. Since then it's been up and down, and frankly mostly down. 10 homers in his last six games and a declining strikeout rate do not help appearances.
Add in the fact that at 24-years-old this is the first exposure to a full Major League starting schedule Doubront has had, and the Sox' tendency to be conservative, and it seems possible that, should Doubront continue to struggle, they may opt to give him a quick break--just a few starts off--while they try to sort out the rest of their starting rotation.
Then there's the slow-motion train wreck that is Daisuke. The Sox won't allow themselves to be fooled by all the promise he shows in his good innings after years of watching him fall apart suddenly and dramatically. His results so far have been unacceptable even on a team with a weak rotation, and with Franklin Morales showing big possibilities and Aaron Cook pulling off the sort of solid start that's expected of him, it's going to be hard justifying Daisuke's continued presence at one of their expense unless something changes soon.
Josh Beckett is due back at the end of the week, while Clay Buchholz will likely be back sometime around the All-Star break. With the spots filling back up, the Sox will have to make some big decisions before too long.