Much has been made of the starters already in the Red Sox rotation. And should one of them go down before a possible Schilling return, Julian Tavarez could temporarily fill a place in the rotation. He pitched the majority of the 2007 season in the rotation, but I don't consider him a quality option for an extended period of time.
There's always the possibility of a trade for someone like Joe Blanton or Ben Sheets. But the Red Sox would be wise to look to their farm system first, where they could find a quality replacement. Going into the season, here are some of the major in house candidates.
Devern Hansack - Hansack is a now 30-year-old prospect that the Red Sox scooped up as an international free agent. Since the Red Sox acquired him prior to the 2006 season, he's had a 1.19 WHIP and a 3.36 K/BB over 272 innings of work at the Double-A and Triple-A level.
Hansack's would be an ideal candidate for a call up because he throws a lot of strikes. He rarely issues walks and is a pretty good strikeout pitcher. Hansack features a low 90's fastball, an above average change up and a plus slider which generates a lot of strikeouts.
Michael Bowden - Bowden is 21-year-old strikeout pitcher who is one of the Red Sox top rated prospects. On the back of a solid Double-A performance last year, Bowden posted mind blowing numbers in Lancaster to begin the season. He posted an ERA of 1.37, a strike out an inning and a WHIP of 0.93 in one of the more hitter friendly parks in professional baseball.
But he struggled at the end of 2007, when he was promoted to Double-A Portland. He actually allowed more hits than innings pitched for the first time in his career. His ERA inflated to 4.28 and his WHIP to 1.43. Bowden features a low 90's fastball, a hard curve, a plus slider and an average changeup. Bowden's pitches are considered very advanced for his age and he's a hard worker so I'd expect to see him on the Red Sox soon.
Justin Masterson - Masterson is a 22-year-old sinkerball pitcher who also ranks as one of the Red Sox best prospects. Despite pitching most of last year in the freakishly hitter friendly environment of Lancaster, he managed to hold it together and get a promotion to Double-A. At the Double-A level he then allowed 7.6 hits per 9, stuck out more than a batter an inning and had a WHIP of 1.16.
What makes Masterson unique is that not only is he very effective at inducing ground balls, but he's also a strikeout pitcher. Last year at Double-A, the amount of outs that he got on ground balls was more than three times the amount of outs he get in the air. For reference, Derek Lowe was the only pitcher able to do that at the major league level last year. He features a sinker, a hard sinker (there's a 10 mph difference between the two), a plus slider and an average changeup.
Craig Breslow - Breslow is a 27-year-old lefty. He's spent two years at Triple-A Pawtucket since the Red Sox acquired him in 2006. In 2006 he had an ERA of 2.69, struck out more than 10 batters for every nine innings of work and had a WHIP of 1.09. But in 2007, Breslow struggled a bit. While his other stats remained rather consistent, his hit rate jumped from 6.58 H/9 to 9.17 H/9.
Perhaps the largest knock on Breslow is that he can be inconsistent. At the same time, he's had previous success at the major league level in limited innings. Over 28.1 innings of major league work, he has an ERA of 2.86, has stuck out more than a batter an inning, and has a WHIP of 1.31. He features a high 80's fastball, an average changeup and a plus curveball.