FORT MYERS, Fla. (AP) — The "no vacancy" sign is up for the Red Sox rotation.
With five veteran starters, the World Series champions have no openings. But if they did, there would be several outstanding young candidates competing for them — and others not too far away.
Coming off a brilliant postseason, Jon Lester leads the starting staff after pitching a career-high 213 1-3 innings. Clay Buchholz, John Lackey, Jake Peavy and Felix Doubront complete the group that should have little trouble weathering Ryan Dempster's decision not to play in 2014 for physical and personal reasons.
Brandon Workman heads the young group after a year in which he wasn't even in the major league camp yet went 6-3 with the Red Sox. Manager John Farrell showed faith by having him pitch the eighth inning — he retired St. Louis in order — of Boston's clinching Game 6 of the World Series.
The more pitching, the better.
"I don't think any of us have any false confidence or an embarrassment of riches because we've seen that pitching is a game of attrition," Farrell said Friday. "We went through 20-something relievers last year so we were fortunate, with the exception of maybe Clay's situation, we were relatively healthy in the rotation. But that can change in a moment's notice."
Like when Dempster surprised management about two weeks ago with his decision not to play the final year of his contract.
So the Red Sox added left-hander Chris Capuano to work in the bullpen and as insurance for the rotation.
The starting staff "could definitely be as good as any I've been on," said Lackey, entering his 12th season. "We were the last ones standing last year, so that says something."
Lackey missed the 2012 season following Tommy John surgery, had a 3.52 ERA and then allowed one run in 6 2-3 innings of Boston's 6-1 win that clinched its third championship in 10 years.
They did it even though Buchholz, who went 12-1 with a 1.74 ERA, was sidelined for three months. So they got Peavy from the Chicago White Sox at the trade deadline to fill his spot.
"I love the fact that we have a ton of experience, a ton of depth," Peavy said. "I think we have one of the best staffs in baseball and can pitch with anybody."