Beyond Lester, Beckett and Buchholz, the Red Sox rotation was up in the air. Would it be Daniel Bard, once the closer-in-waiting, now being stretched out to be a starter? Alfredo Aceves, the Yankees cast-off who can start, relieve or close? A guy named Felix Doubront? This being the Red Sox, and this being Bobby Valentine, you knew there was no way the process was going to go smoothly.
It started last week with Curt Schilling opening his mouth. Shocking, I know. Schilling accused the Red Sox of botching Bard's transition, saying he was being "mismanaged on an epically horrible scale." He also predicted doom and back pages for Valentine:
"I thought that the manager that managed the Mets that I was not a big fan of was now going to be a different manager, and I don't think there's anything different at all. And I don't think that that is going to be conducive to doing well here. There's a lot of things I think that are happening not just from his perspective, but when you talk to these guys - and I'm still talking to some of these guys - I don't think this is going well. And I think it's going bad quicker than I expected it to."
(Responses to Schilling were swift and fair. Valentine: "I just consider the source when I hear stuff like that." Beckett: "I haven't seen him around this year. Is he one of our pitchers?" Lucchino: "Fortunately Curt Schilling is not part of the governance and decision-making apparatus of the Red Sox.")
This weekend it was announced that Bard and Doubront would be the fourth and fifth starters. Aceves was demonstrably pissed off when told, briefly getting into it with pitching coach Bob McClure. And he can't have been much But Aceves had one ace up his sleeve. A day later, he confided to reporters that he was getting ready to start the second game of the season if needed, because Josh Beckett had a thumb injury.
This was news to the assembled media, because Valentine hadn't mentioned anything about Beckett being hurt. Valentine went into damage control, assuring everyone that Beckett will probably be fine, but revealing two unpromising facts: Beckett has been dealing with the injury for two weeks, and has currently flown to San Antonio to see a specialist to give him a third opinion on treatment options.
Aceves still has a shot at being named closer in the absence of Andrew Bailey, who will miss most of the season after surgery on his own thumb injury. Give Bobby Valentine credit for handling these various situations just about as well as we could expect from him. We have every confidence that he'll be able to keep the Red Sox from imploding in an orgy of hatred, at least until the season begins.