Notes: Tavarez in mix to be fifth starter

Notes: Tavarez in mix to be fifth starter

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- With Curt Schilling out of the mix for the foreseeable future with right shoulder woes, top prospect Clay Buchholz is perceived as the favorite to be the fifth starter for the Red Sox at the start of the season. But Red Sox pitching coach John Farrell reminded people not to forget Julian Tavarez, the man who broke camp last year as the fifth starter.

"The two very clear candidates for that are Clay and Julian Tavarez. I think we can't [forget to] recognize what Julian provided for us last year," said Farrell. "In the first two-thirds of the season, he was a very key component to our starting rotation. He gave us not only very good individual outings, but when you look at 125 to 135 innings that he pitched for us last year, that's a key role for us."

Once Jon Lester supplanted Tavarez in the rotation, the rubber-armed righty seemed to lose his way and lost the rhythm he showed in the early months of 2007.

"It will be our challenge to make sure that we prepare him, regardless of it's as the fifth starter or a guy in the bullpen, that he's of the mind-set to give us above average performance," said Farrell.

Then there is Buchholz, who has electric stuff and already a no-hitter on his resume.

"Well, there were rules for Clay last year," said Farrell. "We had a target number of innings before the season started last year that we'll have again this year. It will certainly be an increase over the 150 innings that we had targeted last year. I think it's a reasonable number to think that Clay is going to be in line for 180 to 190 innings, in that range. But I think he's ready for certainly a full season at the Major League level and he's got the talent to back that up."

Farrell also spoke of the indefinite loss of Schilling, who is in the process of rest, rehab and strengthening.

"I think any time any club, whether it's the Red Sox or any other ballclub, you're without a pitcher of that kind of capability, that kind of experience level and certainly the kind of leadership he can provide, it's a loss," Farrell said. "But I think we all plan coming into every Spring Training that you're looking at anywhere from seven to nine starting pitchers to provide that depth in the event of an injury. What we have to do going forward is understand what happened is behind us, map out a very concise plan to get him back to contribute to us sometime in the middle of the season."

Early birds: Two days before reporting date, the Red Sox had a strong representation of Major League pitchers on the practice field on Tuesday.

Among those in attendance were Josh Beckett, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Jon Lester, Buchholz, Manny Delcarmen and lefty specialist Javier Lopez.

Manager Terry Francona also roamed the complex a bit, as did Farrell and some other coaches.

Dice-K broadening horizons: Matsuzaka, who spoke to the media on Monday, has added a new method to his workout routine. The right-hander is throwing a football, which is something that a lot of Major League pitchers do. It is not part of the training in Japan, which is why Matsuzaka was hesitant to do it last year.

Matsuzaka told Japanese media members that he can throw spirals from time to time, but it's a work in progress.

The most interesting thing from Matsuzaka's Monday media session was the pitcher's admission that the rigors of his first Major League season wore him down.

"I think what happened last year was that the peak of my fatigue arrived at a time when I wasn't exactly expecting it to arrive, not at the time that it usually arrives, and I think that was part of the difficulty last season," Matsuzaka said. "I think in Japan, it usually comes around June or July. I adjust myself for that so that in June or July when I feel the most tired I can build myself back up toward the end of the year and toward the playoffs. But what happened last year was I couldn't time it as well, so I just felt the fatigue just dragged on gradually, all the way throughout September, so I wasn't able to readjust."

That explains why Matsuzaka was 10-6 with a 3.84 ERA in the first half of last season, compared to 5-6 with a 5.19 ERA after the break.

Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.