Reyes still competing, battle could go to the wire

191542.jpg

Reyes still competing, battle could go to the wire

By Sean McAdam
CSNNE.com

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- His status in limbo for much of the spring, lefty reliever Dennys Reyes had his contract purchased by the Red Sox, bringing him a step closer to making the Opening Day 25-man roster, but still, without any firm guarantees.

Reyes had an opt-out clause in his original minor league deal, allowing him to pursue other opportunities if he wasn't added to the 40-man roster by Friday. At the Red Sox' behest, Reyes agreed to push back that "out'' another 24 hours, and by mid-afternoon Saturday, the move paid off when he was added to the team's roster.

However, the Red Sox emphasized, that merely meant that Reyes would remain in competition -- with fellow lefty Hideki Okajima and righthanders Matt Albers and Alfredo Aceves -- for the final two spots in the seven-man bullpen.

"They haven't said to anybody (that they've won) the two spots they need to fill in,'' said Reyes. "I'm still competing.''

"I know a lot of people think we're playing games here and the bullpen is decided,'' said one Red Sox official. "Trust me -- we're not. We're still trying to decide (who's going to make it).''

Francona said weeks ago that the club could go down to the final day of camp -- or theoretically, beyond -- before finalizing its final roster.

By forgoing his own opt-out clause and deciding, for now, to remain with the Red Sox, Reyes didn't forfeit much, said a person with knowledge of the situation. If the Red Sox designate him for assignment, he is out of options and if claimed, must be placed on a major league roster. On the other hand, if he should clear waivers, he would still receive his full major league salary (900,000) while at Pawtucket.

"The season hasn't started yet," cautioned Terry Francona. "We still have some guys in camp and he's one of them. We still have decisions to make. We like his movement, his track record and his ability to compete.''

The Sox, Francona said, are sifting through a number of factors, including "depth in the organization, how we set up our team, not being redundant...just have ourselves set up as good as we can.''

Albers is out of options; Okajima and Aceves have options. But although Aceves has pitched well, the Sox might be better off optioning him to Pawtucket, where he could stretch out as a starter and be ready to step in if the Sox lose someone in the rotation to injury or ineffectiveness.

Then there is the matter of whether the Sox need to have two lefties. Francona won't use either in the late innings for matchup purposes because Daniel Bard is tough on both lefties and righties.

Being out of options may work to Albers' advantage. If the Sox can't find a suitable deal for him, they may opt to keep him and worry about roster consequences down the road.

By now, Reyes is accustomed to late-spring indecision, having played for 10 different teams over his 14 major league seasons. Waiting until the final few days to learn of his fate is hardly anything new.

"A lot of times...a lot of times,'' said Reyes. "The last time was in 2004 with Kansas City. It went to the last day, after the game, they decided to keep me. It's tough. The last four or five days gets tougher. You get used to being around the guys and getting to know everybody. It is hard.

"But at the same time, this is a business. And as a business, you have to take it and see what comes out of it. You think about (the uncertainty) a few times during the day. If you start thinking like that, you're done. You put that in your head, then when you come out to pitch, instead of thinking about the (hitter) you have in front of you...that's the one who's going to hurt you, not (the process), because you don't have control over that.''

Reyes allowed a three-run homer to Toronto catcher J.P. Arencibia Friday night and knows that, this late in camp, every at-bat is scrutinzed.

"You think about that,'' he admitted. "Everything that goes wrong, you know that it's going to hurt. But you realize it was a good pitch. It was a low pitch. You have to give him credit. He put up a hell of an at-bat against me. He got me. That's the way it is. You need to show them consistency. And if that means I have to come in tomorrow and go 1-2-3, I will try to do that.

"But you try not to think the bad stuff. As a reliever, you need to have a short memory with the bad outings that you have.''

Even though he is guaranteed nothing, Reyes has made it quite -- in words and action -- that he wishes to remain with the Sox.

"They have unbelievable talent,'' said Reyes. "It seems like everybody gets along together. Tito, the pitching coach, the whole coaching staff -- they've been great to me and everybody else. I think this is a great organization to be part of. I'm really proud of it and I'm going to try to do my best to win a spot.''

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

Kelly's a potential weapon in the Red Sox bullpen

Kelly's a potential weapon in the Red Sox bullpen

Joe Kelly’s ascent to the eighth inning has been pretty darn rapid.

Tyler Thornburg’s questionable right shoulder and the loss of other relievers elsewhere -- remember Koji Uehera, now of the World Champion Cubs? -- have thrown him into the spotlight.

That doesn’t make Kelly anything close to a certainty, though.

Entering spring training, even Craig Kimbrel, one of the very best closers around, faced some doubt after control flare-ups a year ago.

In Kelly, the Sox have an overpowering righty who couldn’t harness his stuff in the past. Someone who conspired with Clay Buchholz in making the Red Sox rotation look dismal midseason.

Kelly’s ineffectiveness last year, in fact, was one of the reasons they traded for Drew Pomeranz on July 14. And, logically, one of the reasons the Red Sox did not want to subsequently rescind the trade for Pomeranz.

The last start Kelly made with the Red Sox (and possibly in his big-league career) was on June 1 against the Orioles. He allowed seven runs in 2 1/3 innings and was immediately demoted.

He didn’t make it back to Boston until late July.

The best reasons to believe in Kelly now, in Thornburg’s absence, are straightforward: he was awesome at the end of last year, and he is overpowering.

In an eye-opening September, he held hitters to a .180 average in 14 innings. He gave up one earned run, carrying a 0.64 ERA, struck out 20 and walked just three.

That’s awesome potential.

He’s always had that, if nothing else, though: potential. What’s to say Kelly lives up to it? He might. There’s just not a lot to hang your hat on.

In eight innings this spring, Kelly has as many walks, seven, as he does strikeouts.

“The point we’re trying to stress to him, no one in this game is perfect,” Sox manager John Farrell told reporters Monday, including the Boston Herald. “He doesn’t have to be perfect with every pitch located. He has premium stuff. Trust it, and get ahead in the count a little bit more frequently.”

Early in spring training, Kelly talked about how he was still learning on the job, as you’d expect. That’s going to continue to be the case, and he'll continue to have to prove he's at last arrived.

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.