FORT MYERS, Fla. The Red Sox entered spring training with very few roster questions, an enviable position for any team. With just over a week remaining before 25-man rosters must be set for the regular season, one question still remains: Who will get the remaining bullpen spot?
Manager Terry Francona said Tuesday he's not sure which reliever will be the answer to that question.
Francona planned to meet with pitching coach Curt Young, general manager Theo Epstein, and other members of the front office after Tuesday nights game against the Rays to map out a plan to get innings for as many pitchers as possible, as the available innings begin to dwindle.
Were getting to a point where innings are going to be at a premium, Francona said. So certainly there are going to have to be some innings at the minor-league complex, innings in big-league games. So well sit and map that out.
Thursday Clay Buchholz is starting on the road in Jupiter against the Marlins. And if he does what we hope, hes going to get pretty deep into that game. Wed certainly like to see guys pitching in a major-league game, but we also dont want to just take them all the way to Jupiter so they can have a sandwich. That doesnt do anybody any good. So, were trying to map that out a little bit.
Still in the mix are left-handers Felix Doubront, Rich Hill, Andrew Miller, Dennys Reyes, and Randy Williams, and right-handers Alfredo Aceves, Matt Albers, Scott Atchison, Michael Bowden, and Brandon Duckworth. This group assumes Tim Wakefield and Hideki Okajima have bullpen spots.
Hill, Miller, Reyes, Williams and Duckworth are all non-roster invitees and would have to be added to the 40-man roster, which is currently full. So, if one of them gets the job, someone will have to come off the 40-man.
According to a source, the Red Sox released right-hander Albers Wednesday to allow him to play in Japan. The Sox, however, have denied the report. Albers is out of options and must clear waivers if the team attempts to send him to the minors. Earlier this week, Sean McAdam reported the Red Sox were shopping Albers to other major-league teams.
Albers, who signed as a free agent in December, has appeared in seven Grapefruit League games, compiling a 1.80 ERA with one save. He's given up two earned runs over 10 innings with eight hits, no walks, and 11 strikeouts. In five big league seasons, with the Astros and Orioles, he has combined record of 15-25, with a 5.11 ERA in 181 games (23 starts).
Aceves, Atchison, Bowden and Doubront have options and could be sent to Pawtucket to start the season. This would also allow the Sox to maintain pitching inventory within the organization in case of injury or ineffectiveness at the big league level.
Doubront, though, was set back by elbow tightness early this spring and has yet to appear in a Grapefruit League game. He pitched two innings of a simulated game on Monday.
Duckworth, Miller, Hill, Williams and Reyes are on minor-league contracts and could start the season in Pawtucket, though Reyes has an 'out' clause in his contract that would allow him to declare free agency if he's not placed on the major-league roster.
In five games, spanning eight innings, Duckworth has posted a record of 2-0, but with a 5.62 ERA, with five hits, six walks, and six strikeouts. He has allowed runs in three of his five outings. In eight seasons, with the Phillies, Astros, and Royals, he has a combined record of 23-34 (5.28) in 134 games (84 starts).
Miller had a difficult outing Sunday against the Cardinals, facing six batters and not recording an out. In seven games, spanning 7 23 innings, he has a 10.57 ERA. Miller has a clause guaranteeing his 3 million option for 2012 if the Sox designate him for assignment and another team claims him off waivers.
Hill has not allowed a run in seven appearances, spanning 8 23 innings, giving up five hits and three walks with six strikeouts. But he may be better served refining his new sidearm delivery in Pawtucket. He appeared in six games for the Sox last season.
In eight games this spring, spanning 9 23 innings, Williams has given up three earned runs for a 2.79 ERA, with six hits, four walks and 10 strikeouts. He appeared in 27 games for the White Sox last season, posting a record of 0-1 with a 5.40 ERA. At 35, he is the oldest of the lefties, but has just 1 year and 87 days of major league service.
Reyes may be the most intriguing of the group. He got to camp late, delayed by visa issues from his native Mexico. He will turn 34 in April and has pitched for 10 teams over 14 big-league seasons. He has appeared in eight games, spanning eight innings, giving up two runs, one earned, for a 1.12 ERA.
Reyes' 'out' clause kicks in Friday. As of Tuesday, he had not heard anything from the team, but feels hes had ample opportunity to show what he can do.
Pitching-wise, I think I cant do anything else, he said. I do my best. I show them everything I got, and its going to be their decision. Whether they like to keep me or keep somebody else, its their decision.
Late sink, good sink, and a little bit of a late-breaking breaking ball, Francona said of what he has seen from Reyes this spring. Those are the decisions that are hard to make. He does have a pretty good track record. But those are decisions that we have to make, and I think I feel better -- Im glad were going to meet as a group because it usually helps.
Maureen Mullen is on Twitter athttp:twitter.commaureenamullen