Optioning Okajima, Aceves 'pretty tough'

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Optioning Okajima, Aceves 'pretty tough'

By Sean McAdam
CSNNE.com

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- At the beginning of spring training, the Red Sox figured something -- injuries, poor performance -- would help make their bullpen decisions easier.

Then, a funny thing happened: nearly all the candidates pitched pretty well, making for some tough, last-minute decisions, made final Monday morning, a day before the club breaks camp in Florida.

With two spots open in the bullpen, the Red Sox elected to keep lefty Dennys Reyes and righthander Matt Albers, while optioning Aldredo Aceves and four-year veteran lefty Hideki Okajima.

Reyes and Albers were each out of options, which contributed to the decision-making process.

"It was actually pretty tough,'' said Terry Francona. "We came into camp with some extra (arms) and nobody really separated themselves. In the back of our minds, we kept thinking, 'If there's not a big separation, we want to keep the quantity.' "

"In the end,'' GM Theo Epstein told reporters in Fort Myers, "it became hard to distinguish between the final few candidates. The overriding factor was the preservation of pitching depth. (Matt) Albers was out of options. We certainly would have lost him. With the way he threw and the interest in him, he wouldnt have gotten through waivers. Dennys (Reyes) also, we couldnt have kept had he not made the club.''

"But again, its a numbers game. With so many good pitchers in camp throwing so well, this was an unfortunate result for Alfredo, but we told him well see him again, and hes going to play a big part in this club. We really believe that.

Aceves will begin the season in the Pawtucket starting rotation, offering some organizational depth should something happen to the Boston rotation.

"Alfredo Aceves,'' said Epstein, "we still see as a big part of the big league team. he just happens to be starting the year getting stretched out in the Triple-A rotation. Wed be comfortable with him making starts for the big league club. Wed be comfortable with him in a long-guy role. Wed be comfortable with him for a shorter relief role. We know hes going to help this team. It was a tough day having to send him down because he did just about everything you can do to make the club."

Okajima, who has pitched the last four seasons in Boston, will start the season in the Pawtucket bullpen.

"Last year was kind of a struggle,'' said Francona of Okajima. "At the end of the year he did pretty well. This spring, for the most part, he was pretty good. But Reyes has more action on the ball and we just want Okie to go try to get that consistency back. He was pretty good about it.''

Reyes, who had his contract purchased by the Red Sox Saturday, will be the sole lefty in the bullpen to start the season.

"Dennys is our only lefty,'' said Francona. "We're certainly not going to (lift Daniel) Bard and those guys in favor of a lefty. But earlier in a game, if a (starting) pitcher comes out early, (we could use him) to get out a big lefty.''

Albers, meanwhile, will essentially fill the role occupied by Scott Atchison last year -- used in the middle innings, sometimes for more than three outs.

"I think we're hoping that Albers can give us one-plus, with that two-seamer,'' said Francona. "Maybe he can go through a bunch of righties and an occasional lefty and get some ground balls. Maybe when we're down a couple, he could give us a couple of good innings.''

The composition of the bullpen, at least insofar as the Opening Day roster is concerned, represents an overhaul from last year's pen. Only three pitchers on the 2011 roster -- Bard, Jonathan Papelbon and Tim Wakefield -- were on the team's roster at the end of last year.

Reyes, Albers, Bobby Jenks and Dan Wheeler are all new to the Sox.

"I think when the season was over (last year),'' said Francona, "I think we knew we were going to have turnover. It was well-documented that Theo wanted to go get some depth and he did."

Sean McAdam can be reached at smcadam@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Sean on Twitter at http:twitter.comsean_mcadam

Sale gets 9 Ks, Moreland hits home run as Red Sox beat Twins, 4-1

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Sale gets 9 Ks, Moreland hits home run as Red Sox beat Twins, 4-1

BOSTON - The way Chris Sale and the Boston relievers were pitching, the Red Sox didn't need to score a lot.

Sale went 6 1/3 overpowering innings with nine strikeouts, Mitch Moreland hit a solo homer for the third straight game and the Red Sox beat the Minnesota Twins 4-1 on Monday in a matchup of two of the AL's top teams.

"When you've got him on the mound, all you need is a couple and he's going to do the rest," Moreland said. "Obviously, tonight was another example of that."

Dustin Pedroia had two hits and drove in a run and Moreland added a sacrifice fly for Boston, which kept pace with the New York Yankees atop the East.

The Red Sox started fast, grabbing a 2-0 lead just four batters into the first.

"When the guys score early for you, it's nice," Sale said. "It settles you down a little bit and allows you to throw strikes."

Coming off a three-game sweep in Cleveland that had jumped them over the Indians into first in the Central, the Twins' offense was stymied by Sale and three relievers. The loss coupled with Cleveland's win over Texas moved the Indians back a half-game ahead.

Sale (10-3) gave up one run and four hits, increasing his major-league strikeout total to 155. Craig Kimbrel pitched the ninth for his 21st save after Matt Barnes struck out three in the eighth. Heath Hembree faced one batter, getting a double play.

The 6-foot-6 Sale relied on his usual sharp-breaking slider and fastball in the mid-to-upper 90s to fan eight over the first six innings, getting the initial half dozen with his breaking pitch.

"It's what we've seen many times. He had a nice mix," Twins manager Paul Molitor said. "I think the biggest trouble we had was with that slider, especially down and in to righties."

Jose Berrios (7-2) allowed four runs and eight hits in 6 1/3 innings. Chris Gimenez had a solo homer for Minnesota.

"When you go against a guy like Chris Sale, you try to give 110 percent," Berrios said through a translator.

Boston jumped ahead when Moreland homered into the first row of Green Monster seats after the first run scored on a double-play grounder.

Berrios had given up just two runs in each of his previous four starts, and six of eight since being promoted on May 7.

Gimenez's homer completely left Fenway Park over the Monster.

Red Sox do not need Sonny Gray, and they know it

Red Sox do not need Sonny Gray, and they know it

BOSTON — Sonny Gray is not what the Red Sox need.

As of Monday, the power rankings of their trade targets should go as such: 1. Third baseman 2. Reliever 3. Back-end starter.

When he was addressing the addition of Doug Fister three days ago, Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski noted that a premier starter is not what he lacks.

“Unlike maybe some other clubs, I don't believe that we need to add a top-of-the-rotation-type starter,” Dombrowski said. “We have [Chris] Sale. I think David Price continues to make strides to come back. His stuff is good he's just got to get back. [Drew] Pomeranz has thrown well for us. [Eduardo] Rodriguez has thrown well. We know Rick Porcello is a good pitcher.

“So we're not, maybe other clubs are looking for that No. 1, No. 2 type starter. That's not really important for us. I think it's more important to be in a position where we add depth for us, somebody that can help us win major league games if needed.”

Yahoo’s Jeff Passan on Monday reported that the Red Sox “have quietly sent some of their most respected evaluators to his last two starts. This could fall under standard due diligence, but one source familiar with their intentions said the Red Sox are keen for Gray – and when president Dave Dombrowski targets a player, the price for other teams jumps accordingly.” 

Due diligence is indeed all the Red Sox are up to, a baseball source with knowledge of the team’s thinking told CSNNE.com on Monday.

The Red Sox’ trade chips are limited, if they don’t want to drastically diminish their farm system. Gray is very close with David Price, but Gray's 4.45 ERA isn’t inspiring. He has a 3.60 FIP — fielding independent pitching — and has great talent. But again, he doesn’t play the hot corner.

Offense on a whole is a greater need. The Sox entered Monday with the third lowest slugging percentage in the AL. Hanley Ramirez is now battling some left knee pain as well as his shoulder issue, after he took a pitch off the knee Sunday.

It’s warmed up, but the Sox power bats have not also warmed up.

“I wouldn’t hinge this all on just temperature,” manager John Farrell said Monday. “And I don’t know that we use that as an excuse prior. . . Over the last three or four weeks, it’s kind of stagnated a little bit. I think the biggest thing for us as a group is to still maintain a consistent approach at the plate. When we think about getting too much muscle in a swing, eventually the strike zone expands, you don’t get the pitch that you’re looking for. We can’t afford to maybe go away from that approach for the sake of maybe trying to drive the ball with greater consistency.”

Tzu-Wei Lin was starting for the Sox on Monday, yet another in the third-base carousel. Jhonny Peralta and Pablo Sandoval (rehab assignment) are going to alternate time at third base starting Tuesday with Triple-A Pawtucket. 

That’s where they need help.

The bullpen can’t be overlooked either. Carson Smith started a throwing program again Monday, but it’s unclear when he’ll be able to return, or at what effectiveness.