Tight rein needed early on Martinez, Lowe

4/5/2003 - Boston Red Sox

Red Sox manager Grady Little has been blessed this season with two great pitchers. Pedro Martinez was 20-4 last year while Derek Lowe went 21-8 and if everything goes well they can repeat their success this season. In order to keep them injury-free and ready for that August-September period when the games mean more Little has to pace them.

Because as they go so go the Red Sox.

If the Red Sox get to a point where one of these guys appears to be tired and fatigued, it would be difficult to pull them from a start or to make them skip one -- unless they're extremely sore or injured. It's imperative to keep these two in the flow of things so Little must stay cognizant of how they're throwing and what they're doing.

Early in the season, if I were Grady, I'd give them a 75-pitch game once in a while to let them recuperate from high pitch counts. One game in June or July isn't going to be the breaker for the season. Little needs these guys healthy at the end of the year if the Red Sox are going to make any kind of noise at all.

Last season Martinez pitched 199 innings and Lowe pitched 219 -- expect the same production this season. Before last season, Lowe was a unknown, no one knew if he could make the transition from closer to starter much less pitch an incredible 200 innings. To his credit, Lowe is a guy who's more apt to get a lot of ground ball outs and be economical with his pitch count. He won't try and strike out hitters and incur the resulting higher pitch counts and that's why he'll probably pitch more innings than Pedro again.

Martinez is a competitor and he's going to want to go out there and finish what he starts, so controlling his pitch count is a major factor. Little has to control the amount of pitches Martinez throws, especially if the Red Sox score a lot of runs. Early in the season, to keep him fresh, it's OK to pull him after five or six innings if the game is already in hand.

Luckily for Little, pitch selection doesn't come into play for these two because neither relies on a breaking ball. Pedro throws mainly fastballs and changeups with an occasional breaking ball and Lowe's the same way except he has a sinker instead of a changeup.

There are going to be a few games -- particularly crucial games -- where the Red Sox are going to need a win and Pedro is going to take the mound. And Little will have to ride him for eight or nine innings and 125 pitches. That's when the effects of the early-season planning will be noticed.

ESPN baseball analyst Tom Candiotti won 151 games pitching in 16 major-league seasons. He writes a weekly column for ESPN.com.