The Red Sox lost their number one starter when Jon Lester left.
Their off season acquisitions have all been to fill in the three to five spots in the rotation at best.
Are they betting on Clay Buchholz to step up and become the ace of the rotation?
That is a lot to ask of a starter that has yet to pitch over 190 innings or make 30 starts in a single season, something an ace needs to do.
The shoes he needs to fill where pretty big in Lester.
He reached 200 innings in seven of his last eight seasons and in the one season he failed to reach that level, he still pitched 191 2/3 innings. He did this while making 31-33 starts per year.
Buchholz is well aware of the critique on his ability to pitch through pain and his mental toughness.
"It's just one of those things," he said in an interview with Red Sox insider Sean McAdam. "Baseball, the way it's evolved, 200 innings is sort of that benchmark to be a legitimate starting pitcher in the big leagues. It's not like I'm not out there trying to do it. It's just that I haven't done it yet."
"I feel like I'm strong this year. I feel like, if everything keeps going forward and I don't have any hiccups along the road, that's where I'll be at. It just hasn't happened yet. I don't take it as a knock."
He needs to find some way to bring out the pitcher we saw in the first half of 2013, who started 16 games, tossed 108 innings and posted a 1.74 ERA. That was well on track to break the 30 game 200 innings mark, until he fell into a cycle of injury and undisclosed discomforts.
"If you're you're throwing 200 innings," Buchholz said, "that means you're going deep into ballgames and pitching well. If you're giving up six runs in four innings, you're probably not getting deep into ballgames. It's about going out there and commanding your stuff. Everything else will work itself out."
"If you throw 200 innings, you're probably doing your job."
This year he will need to do his job and realize his potential for a full season. At 30 years old he is now the senior pitcher on the staff and no longer taking his cues from the likes of John Lackey, Jon Lester and Josh Beckett.
"It changed for me in a day last year," said Buchholz, recounting the July 31 trade deadline. "One day I left and I was the same guy that I've been for the last four years, and the next day I walk in and I'm the oldest guy on the team."
"We're all professionals, and some guys are a little bit younger," said Buchholz. "It's always good to have somebody to go to if you want to ask questions. I hung out with (Brandon) Workman a lot, we worked out together this offseason. He's been up for a couple years now, but there are still things he asked me in the offseason. We weren't even playing catch yet but he was still talking about baseball. It's a good role to have. It's more or less taking it and running with it rather than sitting back."
For Buchholz 2015 is the year the table is set for him to assert his authority on the mound as ace of the Red Sox staff.
Eric is a contributing writer since 2013 and a true Overseas Fan of the Boston Red Sox living in the Netherlands. He's spent years on baseball fields around the world pitching. His weekends are now spent helping the next generations of pitchers to find their passion and love for the sport. More articles by Eric: https://www.redsoxlife.com/search/label/ericschabell