Forgive me if this is a bit dated for some of you....I'm still very much catching up on the smaller baseball stories since returning from the far East (ITM note: I actually chanted USA, USA, USA! when landing in Boston...it's so nice to be back). Buster Olney, who in my opinion is Peter Gammons in waiting, recently detailed his preseason top 5 pitching staff on ESPN Insider....
1-Red Sox: Josh Beckett, Jon Lester, John Lackey, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Clay Buchholz, No. 6 Tim Wakefield. On paper, a strong group -- if Beckett has a season worthy of a contract drive, if Lackey succeeds in making the transition to the American League East, if Matsuzaka can finally get on the same page as the Red Sox staff and if Buchholz continues to improve.
2-Yankees: CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, Andy Pettitte, Javier Vazquez, Phil Hughes. As usual, Burnett is the key for this group; it could be the best if he pitches at an elite level.
3-White Sox: Jake Peavy, Mark Buehrle, John Danks, Gavin Floyd, Freddy Garcia. Peavy looked great in his three starts down the stretch this past season. More on that in Wednesday's blog.
4-Angels: Jered Weaver, Scott Kazmir, Joe Saunders, Ervin Santana, Joel Pineiro. Lackey is gone, but if Santana is healthy, this could be an excellent group.
5-Cardinals: Chris Carpenter, Adam Wainwright, Kyle Lohse, Brad Penny, somebody else. Penny, by the way, appears to be in great shape and is motivated to have a big season.
While I'm certainly not going to disagree with Onley's choice for number one, I do wonder how he can keep the Phillies off the list with a rotation of Halladay (in the NL remember), Cole Hammels, JA Happ, Joe Blanton, and 63 year old Jamie Moyer. And did he really mention Brad Penny being motivated and in shape? I'm not buying it....he burned me bad last season.