Notes: Sox bullpen decision not getting any easier

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Notes: Sox bullpen decision not getting any easier

By JoeHaggerty
CSNNE.com

LAKELAND, Fla. Terry Francona has his bullpen foundation set in stone, what with Jonathan Papelbon, Bobby Jenks and Daniel Bard forming a power-armed trio around which everything else will be built.

But the Sox have other pieces within that relief corps, and the decision as to which ones to keep is being made more difficult by the way each of those candidates is performing this spring.

Milton native and former Cubs starter Rich Hill has performed well as a potential situational left-hander. Andrew Miller has impressed manager Terry Francona with his mature approach and lively arm. Scott Atchison, of course, earned the trust and respect of the coaching staff last year during the regular season. Matt Albers, with four strikeouts in 4 13 innings, is another player whos forced his way into consideration.

Well have an interesting last week, said Francona when asked about the bullpen. Thats for sure. Weve had some really interesting things happen. Well try to make good decisions not only for Opening Day, but also for our whole organization.

Hill hasnt been scored upon in four innings of work this spring. Atchison has allowed a pair of runs in five innings, which included a rough outing after Josh Beckett was knocked out against the Pittsburgh Pirates on Sunday. Miller has four strikeouts in four innings despite giving up five hits.

By the sheer numbers it would appear Hill has the inside edge but Miller is intriguing as a 6-foot-7 left-hander with a first-round pedigree and, at 25 years old, plenty of time to find his niche. His 5.84 career ERA as a starter in stints with the Detroit Tigers and Florida Marlins isnt much to write home about, but, in this case, past may not be prologue.

I cant sit here and say theres a guy that doesnt deserve to be on the ballclub. Theyve all done pretty well. Rich Hill threw his best innings of the spring against the Yankees Monday night. Albers has been tremendous all spring, said Francona. Atchison just goes and gets em out. Miller is really exciting to us. No matter our decision is at the end, its still going to be good news.

Were probably going to have to tell a couple of guys things they dont want to hear, but I think it bodes well for the organization.

Jacoby Ellsbury continued his torrid spring with another home run, this one smacked off Tigers ace Justin Verlander, as he and Darnell McDonald (solo homer in the 10th inning) provided the offense for the Sox in a 2-1 win at Joker Marchant Stadium.

The only other hit for the Sox =- despite the presence of a handful of regulars who traveled 2 12 hours to Lakeland to take on the Tigers -- was a J.D. Drew single.

Francona was still raving Tuesday about the combined efforts of Bobby Jenks and Jarrod Saltalamacchia to nail Curtis Granderson in a stolen-base attempt Monday night against the Yankees.

Jenks employed a slide step with the runner on base at the behest of the Boston coaching staff. The thinking is that Jenks will be in plenty of tight situations in the late innings with the Sox, and the ability to control the running game something Jenks was never able to do against the White Sox, when he was concentrating on simply closing down ballgames will be paramount to Bostons success.

Last night was probably the most excited Ive been all spring, said Francona. Bobby being the closer with the White Sox, they sometimes fall into that thing where you forget about base runners a little bit. Jonathan Papelbon is the same thing. When youre in for the seventh and eighth inning as Jenks is expected to be this year, those are situations where a team might be a little more apt to steal and Granderson was on first obviously wanting to run.

Jenks threw his pitches, he executed the slide step, he throw over to first and he gave Salty a chance to throw him out. He came off and I grilled him a little bit. He said Im fine. You guys do whatever you want. It was really encouraging because he handled everything. Threw every pitch out of the slide step and felt comfortable. That was good.

Jason Varitek was genuinely touched when apprised the complimentary things that Victor Martinez said about the Sox captain prior to Tuesdays game. Martinez said Varitek was a key figure in the younger backstop transitioning to Boston so quickly, and V-Mart said that Variteks help made him a better baseball player in the long run.

Varitek admitted the two chirped back and forth with each other when Martinez stepped to the plate in the second inning to face Daisuke Matsuzaka, but got serious when talking about Martinezs kind words.

That really does mean a lot to me, said Varitek. Those are the kinds of things that stay with you long after youre done playing.

Former ESPN anchor and MSNBC news host Keith Olbermann is a longtime friend of Francona, and was milling around the Joker Marchant Stadium area prior to the game. He walked over by the Sox dugout during the Sox skippers pregame media availability, and Francona perked up with: Theres my bench coach!

Joe Haggerty can be reached at jhaggerty@comcastsportsnet.com.Follow Joe on Twitter at http:twitter.comHackswithHaggs

Shaughnessy: Red Sox have a chance to flip this around

Shaughnessy: Red Sox have a chance to flip this around

Mike Felger and Dan Shaughnessy discuss the Boston Red Sox bouncing back from their slump with a win over the Tampa Bay Rays.

Quotes, notes and stars: Fourth inning 'a grind' for Porcello

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Quotes, notes and stars: Fourth inning 'a grind' for Porcello

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Quotes, notes and stars from the Red Sox' 8-2 win over Tampa Bay

 

QUOTES

"I can't say enough about the way our position players have continued to grind away. . . Tonight was just another example of that.'' - John Farrell.

"He's been everything that we could have hoped. You look to a starting pitcher to go out and be consistent every fifth day -- he's been a model of that for us.'' - Farrell on Rick Porcello.

"It's nice to come back with a statement game tonight. The past couple of week haven't been good for us, so it was nice to get back on the right track tonight.'' - Travis Shaw.

"Preventing them from scoring first was big and then limiting the big inning. The fourth inning was a grind. I dug myself a hole and had to find a way out of it.'' - Rick Porcello.

 

NOTES

* Rick Porcello became the first Red Sox starter to record a win since David Price beat Seattle on Jume 19.

* Porcello is unbeaten over his last eight starts, going 3-0 with five no-decisions.

* Porcello had gone 19 straight starts without allowing more than two walks, the longest such streak for a Red Sox starter since Curt Schilling went 33 in a row.

* The Red Sox snapped a three-game losing streak and are one of two teams (Cleveland is the other) to not have lost four straight this season.

* Boston has a major league-leading 22 games in which it has scored eight or more runs.

* The first six hitters in the Red Sox lineup were 11-for-24, while the bottom three were a combined 0-for-13.

* Travis Shaw's home run was measured at 449 feet, the second-longest homer by a Red Sox player this season.

* In one night, Travis Shaw had more RBI (five) than he had in his previous 27 games (four).

* David Ortiz tied Frank Thomas in career RBI (1,704); both are in 23rd place.

 

STARS

1) Travis Shaw

Shaw belted out three hits -- including his first homer in the month of June -- and knocked in five RBI, tying a career high.

2) Rick Porcello

In a perfect world, Porcello would have gone a little deeper, but kept the Rays off the scoreboard early and helped set the tone for the night.

3) Hanley Ramirez

Ramirez reached base five times with two hits -- both singles -- and three walks - one intentional - and seemed to be in the middle of every Red Sox rally.