FORT MYERS, Fla. -- The Red Sox announced Monday that Jon Lester would pitch their season opener, to be followed by Josh Beckett, and, one would think, Clay Buchholz. They know, too, that Andrew Bailey will close games.
But the other eight spots on the pitching staff remain something of a mystery, one Bobby Valentine and pitching coach Bob McClure hope to solve in the coming days.
The expectation is that Dainel Bard will fill the fourth spot in the rotation, with a number of candidates -- including Andrew Miller, Vicente Padilla, Alfredo Aceves, Aaron Cook and Monday's starter, Felix Doubront -- battling for the fifth spot.
Valentine declined to identify Doubront -- who blanked the Yankees for four innings last week and limited damage by yielding two runs on eight hits in 4 23 innings to the Twins Monday -- as the "favorite" for the battle for the fifth spot.
"I don't know if he is the favorite, no," said Valentine. "I see him as a guy who's going to pitch for our team sometime this year. I don't know if that's at the beginning of the season or not . . . I think there's still a step (he has to make)."
Another complicating factor: both Doubront and Miller are out of options and must make the 25-man roster or risk being exposed to waivers before they can be re-assigned to Pawtucket.
That's just one more variable as Valentine assembles his staff.
"It's about time to figure (things) out," said Valentine on the makeup of the staff. "I'm a bit confused about the whole bullpen situation only because we haven't been able to fit any pieces together. I think that confusion is filtering (down). Everyone is something other than settled. That's where we have to go from here.
"I think all the (bullpen) pieces are there, but some of them are contingent on the starters. (We have) to start making it look like something other than pitchers getting their work in."
Part of the confusion stems from the fact that as many as six pitchers -- Bard, Doubront, Cook, Padilla, Miller, Aceves -- are competing for two starter spots. At least two of those candidates will likely earn spots as relievers should they fail to the rotation.