The Red Sox,
meanwhile, were so careful to limit Lester's workload in anticipation of having
him in their rotation in the second half that they kept him on a 60-pitch limit
through his first four starts in Triple A. "He wasn't happy, and he wasn't
pitching particularly well," Epstein says. "It's hard to keep your
secondary pitches sharp when you're only going three, four innings. But I don't
think you're going to win a big league pennant race on a 45-degree night in
April in Pawtucket. However Lester does [in the second half], I don't see
workload being a problem."
What the Tigers are
asking of Verlander and the Giants of Cain--both were on their respective
club's Opening Day rosters--is one of the most difficult assignments in
baseball: to spend the entire big league season in the rotation of a playoff
team as a rookie. Of the 88 postseason teams in the wild-card era only one had
a rookie who won more than 14 games (the 2001 Indians with Sabathia), and only
one made it to the World Series with a rookie throwing the minimum 162 innings
to qualify for the ERA title (the '02 Giants with Ryan Jensen, who, fatigued at
the finish, was dropped from their postseason roster).
Indeed, winning the
World Series with rookie starting pitchers or rookie every-day position players
is so rare (excluding experienced international free agents) that only four
teams in the wild-card era have done so: the 2003 Marlins (with Willis, an
early-season call-up, and outfielder Miguel Cabrera), the '02 Angels
(righthander John Lackey, a midseason call-up), the 1996 Yankees (shortstop
Derek Jeter) and the '95 Braves (third baseman Chipper Jones). The rarity of
such precedents, though, is being challenged in this, the Year of the Rookie.
It is a year in which many clubs' World Series aspirations have a commonly
shared notation: No experience necessary.