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

Hernandez has chance at Red Sox opening day roster after Rutledge injury

Hernandez has chance at Red Sox opening day roster after Rutledge injury

Infielder Marco Hernandez may make the Red Sox roster after all.

Fellow infielder Josh Rutledge, the presumptive 25th man on the Red Sox, suffered a left hamstring strain on Tuesday against the Pirates, according to reporters in Florida, including Jason Mastrodonato of the Boston Herald.

If Rutledge isn’t ready for opening day, Hernandez, a left-handed hitter, may have his crack. 

The question is whether the Sox would be comfortable without a right-handed bat to complement both Pablo Sandoval and Mitch Moreland on the corners. Rutledge was going to give the Sox that right-handed look they sought. (When Hanley Ramirez's shoulder will be healthy enough to play first base is unclear, but isn't expected to be too long.)

Neither Rutledge nor Hernandez has played first base in the majors or minors.

A big-league rookie last year, Hernandez has done decently against lefties at the upper levels of the minors, hitting .328 vs. them at Triple-A Pawtucket last season in 67 at-bats. He hit .315 in 54 at-bats at Pawtucket, with a .318 average against them that season in 88 at-bats for Double-A Portland.

Rutledge is a Rule 5 draft pick who has to remain on the major league 25-man roster the whole season or the Sox risk losing him. Placement on the disabled list doesn’t affect his status unless he’s on the disabled list for a very lengthy time.

An alternative option is Steve Selsky, who has first-base experience, but he's already been optioned.

Farrell defends Sox' shoulder program, but he first raised the issue

Farrell defends Sox' shoulder program, but he first raised the issue

Red Sox manager John Farrell didn’t scream “fake news" on Tuesday,  but he might as well have.

The only problem is he seems to be forgetting his own words, and his reliever’s.

Righty Tyler Thornburg is starting his Red Sox career on the disabled list because of a shoulder impingement. 

Another Dave Dombrowski pitching acquisition, another trip to the disabled list. Ho hum.

But the reason Thornburg is hurt, Farrell said, has nothing to do with the Red Sox’ shoulder program -- the same program Farrell referenced when talking about Thornburg earlier this month.

“There’s been a lot written targeting our shoulder program here,” Farrell told reporters on Tuesday, including the Providence Journal’s Tim Britton. “I would discount that completely. He came into camp, he was throwing the ball extremely well, makes two appearances. They were two lengthy innings in which inflammation flared up to the point of shutting him down. But in the early work in spring training, he was throwing the ball outstanding. So to suggest that his situation or his symptoms are now the result of our shoulder program, that’s false.”

Let’s go back to March 10, when Farrell was asked in his usual pregame session with reporters about Thornburg’s status.

"He is throwing long-toss out to 120 feet today," Farrell said that day. “He’s also been going through a strength and conditioning phase, arm-wise. What we encounter with guys coming from other organizations, and whether it's Rick [Porcello], David [Price], guys that come in, and they go through our shoulder maintenance program, there's a period of adaptation they go through, and Tyler’s going through that right now. We're also going to get him on the mound and get some fundamental work with his delivery and just timing, and that's soon to come in the coming days. Right now it's long toss out to 120 feet.”

So Farrell volunteered, after Thornburg was taken out of game action, that the shoulder program appeared involved. 

Maybe that turned out not to be the case. But Farrell's the one who put this idea out there.

On March 11, Farrell was asked to elaborate about other pitchers who needed adjusting to how the Red Sox do their shoulder program.

“Rick Porcello is an example of that. Joe Kelly,” Farrell said. “And that's not to say that our program is the end-all, be-all, or the model for which everyone should be compared. That's just to say that what we do here might be a little more in-depth based on a conversation with the pitchers, that what they've experienced and what we ask them to do here. And large in part, it's with manual resistance movements on the training table. These are things that are not maybe administered elsewhere, so the body goes through some adaptation to get to that point. 

“So, in other words, a pitcher that might come in here previously, he pitched, he’s got recovery time and he goes and pitches again. There's a lot of work and exercise in between the outings that they may feel a little fatigued early on. But once they get those patterns, and that consistent work, the body adapts to it and their recovery times become much shorter. And it's one of the reasons we've had so much success keeping pitchers healthy and on the field.”

Except that Kelly has had a shoulder impingement in his time with the Red Sox, last April, and so too now does Thornburg.

In quotes that appeared in a March 12 story, Thornburg himself told the Herald’s Michael Silverman that he didn’t understand the Red Sox throwing program.

Thornburg said that after the December trade, he was sent a list of exercises from the training staff. The message he did not receive was that all of the exercises were to be performed daily.

“I kind of figured that this is a list of the exercises they incorporated, I didn’t think this is what they do all in one day,” said Thornburg. “I thought, ‘here’s a list of exercises, learn them, pick five or six of them,’ because that was pretty much what we did in Milwaukee.”

But according to Farrell, Thornburg’s current state has nothing to do with the program -- the same one Farrell himself cited when directly asked about Thornburg before.

Maybe the program was the wrong thing to point to originally. But Farrell did point to it.

"This is all still in line with the shoulder fatigue, the shoudler impingement and the subsequent inflammation that he's dealing with. That’s the best I can tell you at this point," Farrell said Tuesday. "Anytime a player, and we've had a number of players come in, when you come into a new organization, there's a period where guys adapt. Could it have been different from what he's done in the past? Sure. But to say it's the root cause, that’s a little false. That’s a lot false, and very short-sighted."

Hey, he started it.

Thornburg is not to throw for a week before a re-evaluation.