In fact, the Sox are leaning on their second-year left-hander earlier than expected after Javier Vazquez put his teammates through some misery in 34-degree weather Wednesday night by walking four batters and hitting another in five innings of a mostly listless 7-2 loss at Cleveland.
And the Sox felt even more comfortable placing Vazquez between the two because of his 15 victories in 2007 and his strong spring training. In fact, manager Ozzie Guillen briefly considered him as the Opening Day starter.
Instead, the four walks equaled the most issued since April 7, 2007, when he managed to beat Minnesota because he allowed only one hit through 62/3 innings.
Guillen at least was pleased his players battled at the end and wasn't concerned whether his players' confidence would waver with another poor start reminiscent of last season.
"If they do, they're a bunch of losers," Guillen said. "If they think that way, they'd better pack their stuff and leave. There are 160 games to go. We don't come here to win 162. I like the enthusiasm of the ballclub."
As part of his ongoing steps toward improving on his 2007 season, pitching coach Don Cooper has suggested Vazquez throw inside to right-handed batters with more regularity so they don't get comfortable in the batter's box.
But Vazquez paid dearly for every bout of wildness. A two-run single by Grady Sizemore in the second came after Vazquez hit Franklin Gutierrez and walked David Dellucci and No. 9 hitter Kelly Shoppach, who was starting in place of the injured Victor Martinez.
With two out in the fifth, Vazquez allowed a hit to Travis Hafner, prompting Cooper to make a visit. That only delayed the misery, as Vazquez walked Ryan Garko to load the bases before issuing another walk to Gutierrez to force in a run and extend the Sox deficit to 4-1.
"He couldn't get out of the jams, and they got him," Guillen said.
Mike MacDougal's control problems also resurfaced, as he walked the leadoff man in the sixth that fueled a two-run rally.
The Sox forged only four hits in seven innings against Fausto Carmona, a 19-game winner last season.
"We made him go deep in the count, but he made big pitches when he had to," Guillen said.
The pitching woes overshadowed a hot start from A.J. Pierzynski, who hit a single in the fifth and scored on Joe Crede's hit. Pierzynski has five hits in his first two games.
In the ninth, Pierzynski hit a home run off reliever Jorge Julio, extending his mastery over him to five hits in eight at-bats with four home runs.
Alexei Ramirez then had his first big-league hit —a broken-bat single to center.