Optioning Okajima, Aceves 'pretty tough'

191542.jpg

Optioning Okajima, Aceves 'pretty tough'

By Sean McAdam
CSNNE.com

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- At the beginning of spring training, the Red Sox figured something -- injuries, poor performance -- would help make their bullpen decisions easier.

Then, a funny thing happened: nearly all the candidates pitched pretty well, making for some tough, last-minute decisions, made final Monday morning, a day before the club breaks camp in Florida.

With two spots open in the bullpen, the Red Sox elected to keep lefty Dennys Reyes and righthander Matt Albers, while optioning Aldredo Aceves and four-year veteran lefty Hideki Okajima.

Reyes and Albers were each out of options, which contributed to the decision-making process.

"It was actually pretty tough,'' said Terry Francona. "We came into camp with some extra (arms) and nobody really separated themselves. In the back of our minds, we kept thinking, 'If there's not a big separation, we want to keep the quantity.' "

"In the end,'' GM Theo Epstein told reporters in Fort Myers, "it became hard to distinguish between the final few candidates. The overriding factor was the preservation of pitching depth. (Matt) Albers was out of options. We certainly would have lost him. With the way he threw and the interest in him, he wouldnt have gotten through waivers. Dennys (Reyes) also, we couldnt have kept had he not made the club.''

"But again, its a numbers game. With so many good pitchers in camp throwing so well, this was an unfortunate result for Alfredo, but we told him well see him again, and hes going to play a big part in this club. We really believe that.

Aceves will begin the season in the Pawtucket starting rotation, offering some organizational depth should something happen to the Boston rotation.

"Alfredo Aceves,'' said Epstein, "we still see as a big part of the big league team. he just happens to be starting the year getting stretched out in the Triple-A rotation. Wed be comfortable with him making starts for the big league club. Wed be comfortable with him in a long-guy role. Wed be comfortable with him for a shorter relief role. We know hes going to help this team. It was a tough day having to send him down because he did just about everything you can do to make the club."

Okajima, who has pitched the last four seasons in Boston, will start the season in the Pawtucket bullpen.

"Last year was kind of a struggle,'' said Francona of Okajima. "At the end of the year he did pretty well. This spring, for the most part, he was pretty good. But Reyes has more action on the ball and we just want Okie to go try to get that consistency back. He was pretty good about it.''

Reyes, who had his contract purchased by the Red Sox Saturday, will be the sole lefty in the bullpen to start the season.

"Dennys is our only lefty,'' said Francona. "We're certainly not going to (lift Daniel) Bard and those guys in favor of a lefty. But earlier in a game, if a (starting) pitcher comes out early, (we could use him) to get out a big lefty.''

Albers, meanwhile, will essentially fill the role occupied by Scott Atchison last year -- used in the middle innings, sometimes for more than three outs.

"I think we're hoping that Albers can give us one-plus, with that two-seamer,'' said Francona. "Maybe he can go through a bunch of righties and an occasional lefty and get some ground balls. Maybe when we're down a couple, he could give us a couple of good innings.''

The composition of the bullpen, at least insofar as the Opening Day roster is concerned, represents an overhaul from last year's pen. Only three pitchers on the 2011 roster -- Bard, Jonathan Papelbon and Tim Wakefield -- were on the team's roster at the end of last year.

Reyes, Albers, Bobby Jenks and Dan Wheeler are all new to the Sox.

"I think when the season was over (last year),'' said Francona, "I think we knew we were going to have turnover. It was well-documented that Theo wanted to go get some depth and he did."

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

Bogaerts' "maturity is clearly taking hold"

red-sox-xander-bogaerts.jpg

Bogaerts' "maturity is clearly taking hold"

NEW YORK -- Xander Bogaerts enjoyed a terrific 2015, his second full season in the big leagues.

He finished second in the American League batting race, established himself as a solid defender at short and generally showed immense promise.

The only thing he didn't do was show much home run power, limited to just seven homers.

This past spring, both manager John Farrell and Chili Davis expressed confidence that the home runs would come, and that they would come organically.

And so they have. In Thursday night's loss to the New York Yankees, a solo homer in the fifth by Bogaerts represented the only Red Sox run of the night in a 5-1 loss. It also gave Bogaerts 21 homers for the year, exactly triple his output from a year ago.

"The maturity is clearly taking hold," said John Farrell of Bogaerts' growth. "You start to get a couple thousand at-bats at the major league level, you're starting to understand your swing, you're picking out certain counts in which to leverage a little bit more. He's been able to do that.

"Home runs are up across the board. But with Xander in particular, he's physically maturing and he's maturing as a major league player as well."

Bogaerts took the advise of Davis and others and didn't set out to try to hit more homers this year. He knew they would come in time.

"Maybe not this quick," he said of the big increase, "but probably in the future, yeah. That's what I did in the minor leagues, so it's kind of something that I thought might translate to the big leagues, too."

Bogaerts is hard-pressed to put his finger on any on factor to explain the big uptick. After all, he didn't change his swing or his stance.

Rather, the homers came as a result of him understanding himself better as a hitter and consistently taking the right approach at the plate.

"It's just (a matter of) taking good swings in good counts," he offered. "Sometimes, you're looking for one. But overall, it's just being a more mature hitter and looking for the right spots to pick and choose."

It hasn't hurt that he's surrounded by quality hitters in the Red Sox lineup, with Mookie Betts and Dustin Pedroia ahead of him earlier in the year, and now Pedrioa ahead of him and David Ortiz behind him.

In addition to seeing better pitches because of who's surrounding him, Bogaerts has also benefitted from listening to Ortiz, who watches his at-bats and offers advice when called for.

Still, most of the credit belongs to Bogaerts himself, who has grown into his power naturally -- just as his manager and hitting coach forecast.

Quotes, notes and stars: "It seems like everybody was happy that I'm leaving"

red-sox-david-ortiz-yankees.jpg

Quotes, notes and stars: "It seems like everybody was happy that I'm leaving"

NEW YORK -- Quotes, Notes and Stars from the Red Sox' 5-1 loss to the Yankees:

QUOTES

* "It seems like everybody was happy that I'm leaving." David Ortiz, unaccustomed to ovations and cheering at Yankee Stadium.

* "I thought he threw a high number of strikes. There was good swing-and-miss to his changeup and he took the opportunity and showed well." John Farrell on Henry Owens.

* "It's just taking good swings in good counts. It's just being a more mature hitter and looking for the right spots to pick and choose." Xander Bogaerts, who has tripled his homer output since last year.

NOTES:

* With his fourth-inning homer, Xander Bogaerts tripled his home run total from last year, improving from seven to 21.

* The season series between the Red Sox and Yankees ended with the Sox winning 11 of the 18 games.

* The Boston bullpen has given up eight runs in the last two nights after allowing only seven this month before Wednesday night.

* The Sox suffered only their second sweep of the season. They were also swept by the Tigers in July.

* Jackie Bradley Jr. has reached base safely in his last 13 games.

* Junichi Tazawa has contributed seven straight scoreless outings.

* Robbie Ross Jr. allowed a season-high three walks -- all in the same inning.

* Henry Owens has a career ERA of 8.53 against the Yankees.

* David Ortiz went hitless (0-for-11) in his final series at Yankee Stadium.

STARS:

1) CC Sabathia

Sabathia turned back the clock and looked like a far younger version of himself, pitching into the eighth and allowed just a run on four hits while striking out eighth.

2) Jacoby Ellsbury

Ellsbury had a hand in the first Yankee run -- walk, stolen base, run scored -- and doubled home the second run in the fifth inning.

3) Xander Bogaerts

The Sox had little offense on the night, but Bogaerts smoked a solo homer in the fourth to account for their only run.