Cherington, Valentine still determining Bard's role

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Cherington, Valentine still determining Bard's role

DALLAS -- As the Red Sox determine the market for both starting pitchers and closers, they may have an answer to one of those needs already on their roster.

Daniel Bard, who's pitched in a set-up capacity the last two seasons, could be moved from the role to the rotation or to the closer's spot in the ninth inning.

Or, the Sox could leave Bard where he is and where he's flourished -- except for a miserable September.

"We're still talking about it," said general manager Ben Cherington. "Bobby (Valentine) wants to have a conversation with Daniel. There's always the chance that it isn't determined now, but later on, or in spring training. We certainly want to give Daniel a chance to prepare for spring training in the right way, so we'll figure that out."

"It's a factor weighing against different opportunities that out there, (as it relates to) acquiring this pitcher or that pitcher. I don't think (the decision) has to be made now. I think we have to talk about how to prepare for spring training, and that's something we'll need to do pretty soon. But I don't think we need to have his role completely defined.''

Cherington allowed that Bard's role "relates some to decisions we make this off-season. If someone's in one role, it leads to pursuing something else. Or more likely, depending on what we think is available at a better value, then that could influence what we ask (Bard) to do.''

The Sox have had internal discussions about how they view Bard and have had conversations with him, "listening to him, what he believes and his level of conviction on what he can do.''

Cherington has added that Bard has expressed his choice for his role in 2012, though the general manager added: "I'm not going to be the one to say that right now. But he expressed a desire.''

Bobby Valentine told NESN that he thought Bard expressed a desire to start over close, but Bard cleared up those comments: "I really didn't give an actual preference," Bard said via text message to ESPNBoston.com's Joe McDonald. "I did make it very clear to them that I have no reservations about moving to the rotation. I told them I'd take any role they choose to give me and run with it, whether that's starting or closing. I guess by making it clear that I would be willing to start may have made it seem like a preference, but I just want to make it clear that I felt like I could thrive in either role."

One issue remains: if the Sox move Bard into the rotation or into the closer's job, there's no one on the current roster who has proven as adept as Bard in the so-called high-leverage situations in the seventh and eighth innings.

That means that the Sox could well fill one need on the staff -- and create another.

As expected, Red Sox send Swihart to Pawtucket

As expected, Red Sox send Swihart to Pawtucket

Blake Swihart wasn't going to win a job. Monday merely made that official.

Swihart was optioned out as the Red Sox made further cuts, sending a player who could still be the Red Sox catcher of the future -- well, one of them anyway -- to Triple-A Pawtucket, where he's expected to work on his receiving.

Swihart hit .325 in 40 Grapefruit League at-bats.

"Had a very strong camp and showed improvements defensively. Swung the bat very well," manager John Farrell told reporters in Florida.  "For the player that he is and the person that he is, you love him as a person. He's a hell of a talented player.

"He made some subtle adjustments with his setup [defensively]. That gave him a different look to pitchers on the mound. Pitchers talked positively about the look that they got from him behind the plate. I think it softened his hands somewhat to receive the ball better. And there were a number of occasions where he was able to get a pitchers' pitch called for a strike, so the presentation of the umpire was a little bit more subtle and consistent then maybe years' past."

Sandy Leon's hot hitting in 2016 earned him an automatic crack at the lead catching spot for this year. Combined with the fact that Christian Vazquez looks great defensively, went deep on Sunday and is out of options, Swihart was the obvious odd man out.

He had options, the others didn't.

Deven Marrero was also optioned to Pawtucket. Sam Travis -- who, like Swihart, could break camp with the 2018 team -- was reassigned to minor-league camp, as was catcher Dan Butler.

The Sox have 38 players left in camp, 32 from the 40-man roster.

Red Sox reliever Tyler Thornburg likely headed to disabled list

Red Sox reliever Tyler Thornburg likely headed to disabled list

Righty Tyler Thornburg seems a guarantee to join David Price on the disabled list to start the season.

Thornburg, the biggest acquisition Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski made for the bullpen this winter, was scratched Monday because of a spasm in his upper right trapezius — not a great sign for a pitcher who already had throwing shoulder issues this spring.

Sox manager John Farrell told reporters in Florida the spasm was “not shoulder related.”  But the trap, a large muscle along the neck and back, does extend to the shoulder blade.

Dombrowski told reporters it is most likely that Thornburg starts the year on the disabled list. More is expected to be known Tuesday, possibly after an MRI.

Robby Scott could be a replacement for Thornburg. If so, the Sox would likely have three lefties in the bullpen, along with Fernando Abad and Robbie Ross Jr.

"Possibly. Possibly," Dombrowski said of Scott. “We still have to make those decisions. But possibly.”

Dombrowski didn’t indicate a desire to go outside the organization for now.

Thornburg had barely enough time to get ready for Opening Day prior to Monday’s setback. If he indeed starts the season on the DL, Joe Kelly would be the eighth-inning reliever for the Sox — a role Kelly was headed for anyway given Thornburg’s shaky spring.

Thornburg, 28, had a 2.15 ERA last season for the Brewers. The Sox picked him up at the winter meetings in a deal that sent Travis Shaw and prospects to the Milwaukee Brewers.