Francona still unsure of final bullpen spot


Francona still unsure of final bullpen spot

By MaureenMullen

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

David Price improves command, indicates he's pitching through ailment


David Price improves command, indicates he's pitching through ailment

BOSTON — David Price and Rick Porcello showed improvement on back-to-back nights Friday and Saturday, important signs for the Red Sox after a difficult month for both pitchers prior to this homestand.

Price on Saturday night went six innings and allowed three runs, two earned, in a 6-3 loss to the Angels. He fanned five and his velocity has been consistently better this year than last year.

But the most important number was his walk total: one. He walked three batters in his previous start, and four in both of his starts prior.

“Two outings ago, the first start here in Fenway,” Sox manager John Farrell said. “There was better timing in his delivery and overall better separation over the rubber. And he carried that through I thought, even though there's a higher pitch count in Houston, and has been able to maintain it here. I can't say there was one specific thing. It's been more the timing over the rubber. And you're seeing him pitch out of the stretch exclusively. Just less moving parts in a better position to repeat it.”

After Price’s final inning, the telecast captured Price calling pitching coach Carl Willis into the tunnel. Neither Farrell nor Price detailed the conversation. 

“Yeah, everything was fine,” Farrell said of the conversation. “Everything is OK there.”

Price made it sound like he’s dealing with some sort of physical ailment, but was vague.

“There's a lot of stuff going on right now,” the pitcher said when asked about the desire to stay out there. “You don't want it to linger into the next start, or two or three weeks from now, and that's why we did what we did.”

Asked to elaborate, Price reinforced that the decision was to save his body for another day.

“You never want to come out of a game. But you have to look forward at the time,” Price said. “You don’t want today to cost you your next start or you know, the start after that. So that’s what happened.

“It has nothing to do with my elbow or anything like that. This is — you get past one thing and there’s another So that’s what it is.”

Price in New York in early June felt a blister develop on his ring finger. He missed an in-between start bullpen because of it.

Asked about the blister Saturday, Price said, “That one’s gone.”

Farrell indicated the blister was diminished, if not entirely gone.

“He's been dealing with that,” Farrell said. “I think while it's still present and maybe not as severe as it was when it first happened, I'm sure he's going to check on it occasionally."

Red Sox threaten late, but can't come back in 6-3 loss to Angels


Red Sox threaten late, but can't come back in 6-3 loss to Angels

BOSTON - JC Ramirez rebounded from his shortest career start with six solid innings, Cameron Maybin doubled home a run and scored another and the Los Angeles Angels held off the Boston Red Sox 6-3 on Saturday night.

The Angels look for their fifth series win in their last six on Sunday.

Mitch Moreland hit a solo homer for the Red Sox, who lost for only the third time in their last 13 home games.

Ramirez (7-5) allowed one run and four hits with five strikeouts after lasting just three innings and giving up five runs in his previous start.

Blake Parker struck out pinch-hitter Chris Young with the bases loaded for the final out for his first save of the season after Boston scored twice in the ninth.

Red Sox manager John Farrell was ejected by third-base umpire and crew chief Bill Miller after Fernando Abad was called for a balk, scoring a run that made it 5-1 in the seventh.