Roster moves start to clear up bullpen picture

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Roster moves start to clear up bullpen picture

By Sean McAdam
CSNNE.com

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- In trimming their roster Friday, the Red Sox' bullpen picture didn't get entirely clarified, but it sure came into sharper focus.

The Sox optioned Scott Atchison and returned Rich Hill and Andrew Miller to minor league camp, thinning the list of candidates for their available bullpen spots.

The moves effectively left four pitchers -- two righties and two lefties -- in contention for the two spots: left-handers Dennys Reyes and Hideki Okajima, along with right-handers Alfredo Aceves and Matt Albers.

Hill and Miller's demotions weren't terribly surprising. Hill had been adjusting to a new delivery, one which he tweaked as recently as this week, and could use some time adjusting to his mechanics. The Sox believe Miller has great upside as a starter, but are in no hurry to rush him, especially since he is out of options.

If there was a surprise, it was the optioning of Atchison, who spent much of 2010 with the Red Sox, and by the final two months of the season, had earned Terry Francona's unending respect and trust. Resillient, versatile and durable, what hurt Atchison is likely the same factor which cost him a spot on the Opening Day roster last spring: having remaining options, allowing the Sox to summon him from -- and return him to -- Pawtucket without risk of exposing him to waivers.

Of the four remaining pitchers, the one most likely to be with the major league team on April 1 is Reyes. Reyes had an out in his contract which would have allowed him to leave camp in pursuit of another major league job if he was not added to the Sox' 40-man roster.

The Red Sox asked Reyes to push back his deadline until Saturday, giving them an additional day to consider their various choices and scenarios. It seems unlikely that Reyes will not be part of their plans, especially after his agent, Oscar Suarez, told the Providence Journal that his expectation is that Reyes will make the team.

That leaves one final spot, to be decided among Okjaima, Aceves and Albers.

Aceves has pitched well enough to warrant a spot in the bullpen, but the club might prefer him to go to Pawtucket to get stretched out as a starter, where he could have more value, given the team's lack of rotation depth.

Okajima's presence, in tandem with Reyes, would give the Red Sox two lefty relievers, providing Francona with some late-inning flexibility.

Now in his fourth year with the Red Sox, Okajima's salary is guaranteed and he has remaining options, meaning he could be sent to Pawtucket. Okajima's 2010 was his worst since joining the Red Sox, but he pitched better in September, earning a new deal.

Finally, there is Albers, who has a major league contract, but no remaining options. Albers has pitched well in Grapefruit League actions, but the Sox would be effectively locked into keeping him, since he could be claimed off waivers if the Sox tried to send him to Triple A.

As many as five teams have called to inquire about Albers, but have been unwilling to offer much of value in return.

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

Quotes, notes and stars: Betts has first career five-hit night

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Quotes, notes and stars: Betts has first career five-hit night

BOSTON - Quotes, notes and stars from the Red Sox' 6-3 loss to the Kansas City Royals

QUOTES:

"We continually do a great job in creating opportunities and I'm confident that (the struggles with men in scoring position) will turn.'' - John Farrell

"When you start off with a five-run spot in the first, that's a tough deficit to overcome.'' - Steven Wright.

"That's how it goes sometimes. Sometimes, we score when we're not expecting to and then when we need to score, sometimes it doesn't happen.'' - Mookie Betts on the team going 4-for-15 with RISP.

 

NOTES:

* The loss was just the third in the last 13 series openers for the Red Sox.

* The game marked the first time in 20 home games in which the Sox never led.

* Boston was 4-for-15 with runners in scoring position.

* The first four hitters in the order were 13-for-19 (.684). The fifth-through-nine hitters, however, were just 2-for-21 (.095).

* Mookie Betts (five hits) leads the majors with 55 multi-hit games.

* Dustin Pedroia has reached base in each of his last eight plate appearances.

* David Ortiz's double was the 625th of his career, passing Hank Aaron to move into 10 place in MLB history.

* Ortiz leads the A.L. in doubles (41) and extra-base hits (72).

 

STARS:

1) Eric Hosmer

Hosmer cranked a three-run homer into the Monster Seats four batters into the game, and the Royals were off and running with a five-run inning.

2) Ian Kennedy

The Royals starter wasn't dominant, allowing nine hits in 5 1/3 innings, but he bailed himself out of a number of jams and limited the Sox to just two runs.

3) Mookie Betts

Betts had his first career five-hit night and knocked in two of the three Red Sox runs, though he also got himself picked off first base.

 

First impressions: Royals' five-run first inning dooms Red Sox in 6-3 loss

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First impressions: Royals' five-run first inning dooms Red Sox in 6-3 loss

First impressions from the Red Sox' 6-3 loss to the Kansas City Royals:

 

Steven Wright recovered nicely after the first inning, but the damage was done.

Wright's last five innings featured just three hits allowed -- one in the infield. But the first inning did the Red Sox in -- two walks followed by a three-run homer, then a single and a two-run homer.

Whether this was a matter of rust for Wright -- who last pitched three weeks ago Friday night -- or an early inability to command his knuckleball is uncertain.

The fact is, Wright dug an early hole for his teammates, and he had the misfortune to do so against a team with the best bullpen in baseball.

To his credit, Wright kept the game somewhat within reach thereafter, but the five-run head start proved too much of a jump.

 

It's time to worry a little about Jackie Bradley.

Bradley was just 7-for-40 in the just-completed road trip, and things didn't get any better on the first night of the homestand.

In the first, he came up with two on and two out and struck out swinging to strand both baserunners. In the third, he came to the plate with runners on the corners and, again, struck out swinging.

We're seeing the same kind of slump that Bradley fell into in previous seasons, where even contact is hard to find, with nine strikeouts in the last 16 at-bats.

Problem is, with Andrew Benitendi on the DL, there aren't a lot of options for John Farrell with the Red Sox outfield.

 

Trying to get Fernando Abad and Junichi Tazawa back on track in low- leverage mop-up didn't work.

Tazawa had a perfect seventh, but gave up a monster shot into the center field bleachers to Lorenzo Cain to start the eighth.

Abad entered, and while he did record a couple of strikeouts, also gave up a single, a walk and threw a wild pitches before he could complete the inning.

Getting some work for the two was the right idea, given that the Sox were down by three runs at the time. A good outing might help either regain some confidence and turn the corner.

But not even that could be accomplished Friday night.