Part Four: Assess the bullpen options

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Part Four: Assess the bullpen options

4) Assess the bullpen options.

As intrigued as they are with the promise of Andrew Miller, he can hardly be counted on to start the season with the major league team. For now, the Sox have few spots set in the bullpen beyond Jonathan Papelbon and Daniel Bard.

FoxSports.com's Ken Ronsenthal reported Monday that the Sox are sending signals that they would be willing to move Felix Doubront (right), but some baseball officials have heard the opposite -- that the Sox see Doubront as an important part of the 2011 staff. Doubront could be a late-inning, lefty compliment to Bard, or, in the event of injury or a trade of Matsuzaka, the team's fifth starter.

Either way, the Sox need relief inventory. The problem is, most of the best free agent relievers (Scott Downs, Grant Balfour) are Type A free agents who will 1) cost the Red Sox a first-round pick as compensation and 2) require a multi-year commitment.

The latter goes against Epstein's instincts, believing, as he does, that middle- and set-up relievers are too inconsistent and unpredictable to deserve multi-year deals.

With the need to upgrade the bullpen, he may have to suspend that theory for at least one deal. And, given that Beltre and Martinez appear headed elsewhere, the Sox stand to get first-round picks back in compensation, easing the blow at least a little.

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

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