Jon Lester, Red Sox Pitchers’ Struggles Can Be Partly Attributed to Jason Varitek’s Absence

Jon Lester, Red Sox Pitchers' Struggles Can Be Partly Attributed to Jason Varitek's AbsenceWhile Bobby Valentine and the Red Sox continue to search for more consistency, Boston's biggest bat inches closer to making his return.

David Ortiz, who has been out since July 16 with an Achilles sprain, is getting ever so close to 100 percent. And his return would give the Red Sox their first look at what was expected to be their roster heading into 2012.

With the likes of Jacoby Ellsbury, Carl Crawford and Dustin Pedroia back in the lineup, Boston has looked stronger offensively. But while Ortiz would add even more stability to MLB's second-most productive offense, the pitching staff remains the big issue.

The Sox are a combined 13-23 in games starter by Jon Lester and Josh Beckett this season, and the trend appears set to continue, as neither pitcher has taken great strides forward in recent weeks. Felix Doubront is still showing signs of inexperience, and Clay Buchholz, no matter how good he throws, appears to have lost the run support that carried him to an 8-3 record.

There are so many storylines to point to, yet no clear remedy in sight.

So, while the Red Sox continue to be a reality show every day for us, a real reality show was in town at Fenway recently and is my picture of the week. Check out this great shot with Joan Rivers and Melissa Rivers.

Jon Lester, Red Sox Pitchers' Struggles Can Be Partly Attributed to Jason Varitek's AbsenceNow that we've had some fun, let's dive into the old mailbag and answer some of your burning Red Sox questions.

Do you see the Red Sox trading Josh Beckett? Or anyone, for that matter?
— Pat Bradley

I am not sure. I think everybody is available if the Red Sox get a good deal back that can them help immediately. I do not think they are in the market for prospects. This is a hard one to read. I think it depends on how the rest of this trip goes. As it stands, they are buyers, not sellers, I think. On one hand, if everybody is healthy, things should get better fast. On the other, if the Sox make a big move and shake some things up like at the deadline in 2004, they can make a run. Long answer. I am not sure.

Come the trade deadline, do you think the Red Sox would go for a No. 1 starter like Zack Greinke, or will they go for someone like Matt Garza, who has experience in the American League East?
— Aidan Breen

I don't think Zack Greinke would be a good fit here on the big stage in Boston. It seems he prefers smaller markets with less scrutiny. I would be in favor of Matt Garza for many reasons but certainly for the reason you mention, that he is indeed AL East battle-tested. The issues I see are Garza's health and Theo Epstein. In Theo's case, he knows, obviously, what the Red Sox have to trade, and he will not likely take many of the options that other teams might. He may be too knowledgeable in this area to do business with the Red Sox. 

Why do you think the Red Sox are so inconsistent from day to day?
— Chris Conforti

For me, it is all about starting pitching. Not that the offense has done much lately, but the starters are making things very difficult. Too often the Red Sox have been down big early in games. The first inning continues to be a huge problem for the them. It has been said a thousand times, but if Beckett and Jon Lester do not return to the pitchers they have been in the past, the Red Sox are not likely going anywhere.

How much do you attribute the starting pitching struggles to the absence of Jason Varitek?
— Sam Slater

I imagine it is part of the changes the pitchers have gone through. Yes, even when Jason Varitek was not starting, he was very involved in preparation for a series and the starters, helping both Victor Martinez and Jarrod Saltalamacchia when both were taking away his playing time. More importantly, I think it's important to note the fact that this set of pitchers has had three different pitching coaches in three years. It does not matter who is in the job — it is tough to have three different voices in three years.

Why shouldn't Cody Ross be the everyday right fielder?
— Gerry Davis

I think you have a better shot at this when David Ortiz returns. Right now Cody Ross can either play right field or DH and have Ryan Sweeney play in right at times. Cody has been great this year and has enjoyed a very good bounce-back season. To me, he seems like one of those guys who flourishes on the big stage of Boston and brings his game up a level in this atmosphere.

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