FORT MYERS, Fla. -- The acquisition of reliever Chris Carpenter from the Chicago Cubs Tuesday provides one more candidate to an already long list of pitchers competing for spots in the Red Sox bullpen.
Beyond new closer Andrew Bailey, set-up man Mark Melancon and holdover Matt Albers, few spots are assured to start the season.
Alfredo Aceves almost certainly will make the Opening Day roster, but in what capacity is unclear. Aceves is also in the running for the fifth starter's spot and could either be in the rotation or work in relief.
Further complicating matters is the fact that five Red Sox pitchers are out of options: Franklin Morales, Michael Bowden, Andrew Miller, Felix Doubront and Albers.
If any of that group fails to make the Opening Day roster, the Red Sox will have to expose each to waivers and risk losing him.
It would seem that, regardless of options, Morales and Albers will make the club. Given the investment that the organization has made in Miller, he, too, would seem to on the staff.
It's difficult to imagine the Sox risking the loss of Doubront, since, even allowing for the disappointment of last year, the Sox wouldn't want to lose a young lefty who can throw in the mid-90s.
Bowden, who has been unable to establish himself at the major league level, is likely not a factor. It's unclear what value he would have if he were to be exposed to waivers.
Figure then that the bullpen will consist of Bailey, Melancon, Albers, Morales, Miller and Aceves and one more pitcher -- assuming the Sox elect to begin the season with a dozen pitchers.
That means all the other relievers -- veterans and younger pitchers -- are competing for the final roster spot.
Last year was a reminder that, where the bullpen is concerned, everything is temporary, anyway. Dennys Reyes, who was signed to a minor league deal with an invite to spring training, had his contract purchased in the waning days of spring training.
He appeared in a handful of games on the team's season-opening road trip to Texas and Cleveland, but by the time the club arrived for the home opener a week later, Reyes was on the DL with what some believe was a phantom injury, never to be heard from for the remainder of the season.
Carpenter, meanwhile, would seem to be an arm who could help out in the middle innings, and with 10 games of major league experience, is probably ready to remain in the big leagues.
But because he has options remaining -- and four others whom the Sox would like to continue to control do not -- the likely scenario will find Carpenter beginning the season at Triple A Pawtucket.
Probably not for long, however. That's the way it goes this time of year with bullpen, interchangeable pieces and options.