John Farrell Deflects Red Sox ‘Ace’ Talk: ‘I Think We Have Five No. 1s’

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FORT MYERS, Fla. — No ace? No problem, according to Red Sox manager John Farrell.

Farrell was asked (again) Sunday about Boston potentially opening the season without a clear-cut No. 1 starter. The skipper downplayed the severity of the issue, instead focusing on the current rotation, which he previously labeled both “talented” and “deep.”

“In the short response, I’m not overly concerned that some might think we don’t have a No. 1,” Farrell said Sunday at JetBlue Park. “I think we have five number 1s. The number 1 for us is going to be that night, the guy that pitches that night.”

Surely, there’s some hyperbole here. The Red Sox have constructed a viable rotation comprised of five pitchers — Clay Buchholz, Rick Porcello, Wade Miley, Joe Kelly and Justin Masterson — who have had success at various points in their respective careers, yet no one can say with certainty that each will perform at or above his peak level as Boston looks to rebound in 2015. Plus, it’s a stretch to say that any of the aforementioned starters, with the exception of Buchholz for two months in 2013, has been an “ace” at any point.

Farrell’s message wasn’t about throwing crap at the wall, though. While it sounds like a textbook example of rallying the troops, Farrell has been consistent throughout the offseason in stressing that Boston’s rotation is good enough as constituted, even if it’s an opinion shared by few outside the organization.

“I don’t know that every team has what many would just label across baseball as a No. 1 starter,” Farrell said. “I think our focus is we, and me personally, I’m happy with the five that we have.

“Whether you want to compare the five here individually to the guys previously that have had that label, guys here have the same talent and abilities. It’s opportunity and how they evolve and perform their way into that role.”

Again, this screams hyperbole. While the quintet could exceed expectations collectively, it’s hard to sit here at the end of February and say the Red Sox have the next Roger Clemens, Pedro Martinez, Josh Beckett or Jon Lester — someone Boston can point to as its next “ace” — firmly in their grasps. There’s too much unpredictability at play.

Plus, the definition of an “ace” is rather subjective.

“I’ve said it many times, it’s the guy that’s on the mound that night,” Farrell said Sunday when asked for his definition. “But there are guys that lead by example. They’re probably 200-plus inning guys that they achieve for multiple years. Win-loss record is irrelevant because it’s out of their control.

“But it’s just the way that they’ve demonstrated a competitive nature and the way that they go about their work each and every day, not just the fifth day in which they start.”

Perhaps Buchholz, Porcello, Miley, Kelly and/or Masterson will assert himself this season and emerge from the pack as Boston’s unequivocal leader. But before running, one must first crawl and then walk, which is the point Farrell continues to drive home when asked about his ace-less staff.

“The talk is always going to be there,” Farrell said. “What matters most is how we work every day.

“Again, I don’t want to be mundane. But at the same time, we’re here to get our work in to get to the point of preparing a group of guys to open up the season. That’s where our main focus is, not on labels or tags of ‘(No.) 1 through 5 starter.’ ”

The Red Sox’s rotation isn’t yet a problem. But is Boston operating on blind faith or justifiable confidence?

That’s the real argument at this point.

Thumbnail photo via Gene J. Puskar/The Associated Press

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