Free agency overview: Bullpen

Free agency overview: Bullpen

By Sean McAdam
CSNNE.com

Here is a look at the Red Sox' options in the bullpen. See links at the bottom of the story for an analysis of other positions.

OVERVIEW
Jonathan Papelbon returns as closer, with Daniel Bard as the principal setup man -- and closer-in-waiting for the inevitable free agent departure of Papelbon after the 2011 season.

Scott Atchison returns, having had his option picked up, and will be slotted into middle relief. Expect that Rich Hill, too, will return, as the Sox see some upside for him as a lefty specialist. That would seem to rule out Hideki Okajima, who is arbitration eligible. If Okajima is willing to take a significant pay cut -- from 2.75 million down to, say, 1.2 million or so -- the Sox might bring him back. Otherwise, he's an obvious non-tender candidate.

Unless the Sox want to utilize Felix Doubront out of the bullpen again, that leaves as many as four spots available in the bullpen. The Sox dearly need another trustworthy set-up option so as to not overburden Bard.

The good news: There are plenty of options available on the free-agent market, including many who were targets of the Red Sox at the July 31 deadline.

The bad news: The Sox hate the idea of giving multiyear deals to veteran relievers, believing (correctly) that they're often inconsistent and not sound investments for long-term deals.

Worse, the Sox might end up having to surrender draft picks as compensation since many of the best relievers have been classified as Type A in the Elias Ranking System. It's worth noting, however, that the Sox stand to get picks back should Martinez and Beltre sign elsewhere.

FREE AGENT TARGETS
Scott DownsDowns was the most sought-after reliever at the deadline, but the Toronto Blue Jays held firm for their demand of two top prospects. He's left-handed and a power arm, which will put him in high demand.

Downs had a superb 0.995 WHIP last season, and walked just 14 in 61 13 innings, On the other hand, his strikeouts were down (just 7 per nine innings), and at 34, that's at least a little troublng.

Would the Sox be willing to go, say, two years, 12 million with an option for a third year? That's what it might take.

Grant BalfourBalfour has been a mainstay of the Tampa Bay bullpen for the last few years and, like Downs, will be in demand. He's proven to be durable, but over the last four seasons, here's the breakdown on his ERA: 7.66 in 2007, 1.54 in 2008, 4.81 in 2009 and 2.28 in 2010.

See what we mean about the unpredictability of veteran middle and set-up relievers?

Jason FrasorLike Downs, Frasor has been a big part of the Toronto bullpen in recent years. Over the last two seasons, Frasor has averaged 65 appearances and struck out a batter per innings.

There have been some questions about his toughness, but he won't be asked to close here -- or anywhere else, for that matter.
Brian Fuentes
Fuentes lost his closer's job to Fernando Rodney with the Angels prior to his trade to Minnesota -- just as he lost the closer's role in Colorado previous to that.

It's clear that he thrives more in a set-up capacity than in save situations.

He's left-handed, which adds to his value and to his attractiveness to the Red Sox, who could use some balance and a complement to the late-inning right-handed duo of Bard and Papelbon.

Fuentes doesn't throw as hard as he used to, but he's experienced and can still get hitters out.
Matt Guerrier
Guerrier has been one of the sturdiest relievers in the game in recent years, making 73 or more appearances in the last four seasons. He doesn't throw hard, relying more on a sinker-slider repertoire to induce groundballs, but he doesn't get hit a lot (114 hits allowed in his last 147 13 inning over the last two seasons).

Other names of noteJeremy Affeldt, Jesse Crain, Joaquin Benoit

OUTFIELD---> Will the Red Sox be willing to spend on the bigguns?

THIRDBASE ---> How will Theo Epstein deal with a thinmarket?

FIRSTBASE ---> Could a former Sox slugger be the answer in2011?

CATCHER---> Is there a bargain backstop to be had on thecheap?

BULLPEN---> Which relievers could be headed toBoston?

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

Thursday’s Red Sox-Yankees lineups: Pedroia sits, Owens on mound

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Thursday’s Red Sox-Yankees lineups: Pedroia sits, Owens on mound

The day after clinching the A.L. East title despite a loss, the Red Sox send out a semi-makeshift lineup Thursday night as they look to avoid a three-game sweep by the Yankees in the Bronx. 

Reserve third baseman Aaron Hill is leading off, Dustin Pedroia gets the night off, Deven Marrero starts at second base, and David Ortiz is, somewhat surprisingly, back in there at DH against left-hander C.C. Sabbathia (8-12, 4.02 ERA).

Left-hander Henry Owens (0-1, 7.79) gets the start for the Red Sox in place of Drew Pomeranz, who is bothered by tightness in his left forearm and will work out of the bullpen, if at all, for the final four games of the regular season.

The lineups:

RED SOX

Aaron Hill 3B

Andrew Benintendi LF

Xander Bogaerts SS

David Ortiz DH

Chris Young RF

Jackie Bradley Jr. CF

Ryan Hanigan C

Travis Shaw 1B

Deven Marrero 2B

Henry Owens LHP

 

YANKEES

Brett Gardner LF

Jacoby Ellsbury CF 

Gary Sanchez DH

Starlin Castro 2B

Didi Gregorius SS

Chase Headley 3B

Brian McCann C

Aaron Hicks RF

Tyler Austin 1B

C.C. Sabathia LHP 

Mass. lawmakers propose naming bridge near Fenway for Ortiz

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Mass. lawmakers propose naming bridge near Fenway for Ortiz

One of the biggest gifts David Ortiz could get this weekend as he plays his final regular-season games is a well-traveled area right outside Fenway Park.

Massachusetts lawmakers have taken steps to name the Brookline Avenue bridge that spans the Mass Pike between Newbury and Lansdowne streets near the ballpark the “David Ortiz (‘Big Papi’) Bridge.

The House Ways and Means committee included the proposal as part of a spending bill that the full House could vote on as soon as Thursday and, if approved, send on to the Senate. 

“David Ortiz’s accomplishments and heroics on and off the baseball field have made him a living legend, and his heartfelt contributions to the communities here and in his native Dominican Republic have made him an icon,” said Mass. Gov. Charlie Baker. “As a lifelong Red Sox fan, I am thrilled to be able to help our Commonwealth create a lasting ‘Thank You’ to Big Papi through the renaming of this bridge.”

The proposal calls for a “suitable marker” to be placed on the bridge bearing the new name.

“I’m so excited to be part of this process of giving David Ortiz, one of the greatest Red Sox of all time, his proper due by naming a bridge in his honor,” House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo said. “David has not only been an extraordinary baseball player, he has been an exemplary and inspirational member of our community, most notably after the Boston Marathon bombings. As a fan, I will miss his stride up to the plate followed by a clutch hit and the ballpark exploding into applause.”