February 23

Kevin Thomas: Red Sox up in arms, and that’s good

Veteran left-hander Chris Capuano’s a good gamble for Boston.

One guarantee for failure in baseball is clear cut.

No pitching? No chance.

But when Red Sox right-hander Ryan Dempster semi-retired this past week, there was little concern since Boston still has five proven starters, and promising arms in Triple-A and Double-A.

That did not satisfy General Manager Ben Cherington, who immediately signed another pitcher, veteran left-hander Chris Capuano.

Capuano, who made 33 starts in 2012 (3.72 ERA) seems like a steal at a $2.25 million salary, with incentives that could boost it to $5 million.

But the gamble comes when considering Capuano, 35, was injured three times last year, including a strained muscle in his shoulder.

Like the signing of oft-injured center fielder Grady Sizemore, the Capuano signing is another low-risk, high-upside move.

If Capuano does not initially crack the rotation, he is capable of giving the bullpen depth while also being a spot starter.

When looking at the rest of the American League East, the Red Sox can hardly rest. 

THE ORIOLES just signed Ubaldo Jimenez to a four-year, $50 million deal, after adding South Korean right-hander Suk-min Yoon.

With Chris Tillman and Miguel Gonzalez back, Baltimore could have a contending rotation if its starters come through.

Could. If. Those are words used often in spring training. Think about Boston last year. Could Jon Lester rebound … if John Lackey returned to his old form … could Clay Buchholz come through … if Felix Doubront …

The Red Sox featured plenty of doubt last spring and celebrated in the fall.

ONE MORE Orioles note concerns second base. Ryan Flaherty of Portland is the leading candidate to replace Brian Roberts (now a Yankee). Flaherty had been a utility player the past two seasons but now appears to get his chance as an everyday player.

“It’s a great opportunity,” Flaherty told the Baltimore Sun. “You’ve got to take advantage of it.” 

MUCH HAS BEEN written about the Yankees’ signing of Masahiro Tanaka as New York attempts to build a rotation that appears iffy.

A lot of ifs, a lot of coulds …

The Yankees could crash this year, but they could also soar if Tanaka is the real deal, CC Sabathia returns to form, Hiroki Kuroda does not fade like last year, and both Ivan Nova and David Phelps continue developing their talent.

Then there is Michael Pineda, the power arm New York acquired from Seattle only to watch him on the disabled list for two years. He’s coming back from shoulder surgery and could be just what the Yankees need. 

TAMPA BAY IS starting spring training with the same doubts that follow the financially challenged team every season, despite the fact the Rays have reached the postseason four of the last six years.

Here is the reason why it might be five of the last seven years: David Price, Alex Cobb, Matt Moore and Chris Archer. The Rays always have arms. 

TORONTO WAS the flop of 2013, finishing last after making a splash with free-agent signings.

The Blue Jays were quiet this offseason. But Toronto still has R.A. Dickey, Mark Buehrle and Brandon Morrow (who is coming back from a forearm injury that shelved him last May).

If those three come through …

Kevin Thomas can be reached at 791-6411 or at:

kthomas@pressherald.com

Twitter: ClearTheBases

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