Roster moves start to clear up bullpen picture


Roster moves start to clear up bullpen picture

By Sean McAdam

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 Follow Sean on Twitter at http:twitter.comsean_mcadam

Red Sox secure playoff with 6-4 win over Rays


Red Sox secure playoff with 6-4 win over Rays

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - Dustin Pedroia hit his fourth career grand slam to help Rick Porcello get his major league-leading 22nd win, and the Boston Red Sox clinched a playoff berth by beating the Tampa Bay Rays 6-4 Saturday night for their 10th consecutive win.

Boston maintained a 5 1/2-game lead over Toronto for the division title and ensured no worse than the AL's second wild card. While the Red Sox technically have a magic number of one, the Blue Jays and Baltimore Orioles play each other three times in the season's final week - meaning only one of them can win match Boston's 91 wins.

Among the other wild-card contenders, only Detroit can reach 91 victories.

Pedroia stopped an 0-for-17 skid with a single in the sixth and gave Boston a 6-3 lead with a seventh-inning drive off Danny Farquhar.

Porcello (22-4) gave up three runs, eight hits and struck out nine over 6 1/3 innings. He just missed getting his 12th consecutive start of seven or more innings and three runs or fewer, which would have moved him past Cy Young (1904) and Pedro Martinez (2000) for the longest stretch during the same season in franchise history.

Craig Kimbrel, the fifth Boston reliever, reached 30 saves for the sixth straight season despite allowing Logan Forsythe's solo homer in the ninth.

Brad Miller hit a two-run double in a three-run second that put Tampa Bay up 3-1 and gave him 80 RBIs.

Tampa Bay threatened in the second but failed to score due to two nice defensive plays. Pedroia made a throw from just in front of the outfield grass at second base on Mikie Mahtook's grounder to get Corey Dickerson at the plate. Third baseman Brock Holt made a solid play along the line on Alexei Ramirez's grounder and threw him out at first to end the inning.

Farrell: Sandoval could possibly return to Red Sox for postseason


Farrell: Sandoval could possibly return to Red Sox for postseason

Thought to be lost for the season after shoulder surgery this past spring, Pablo Sandoval could possibly return to the Red Sox for the postseason, Red Sox manager John Farrell told reporters Saturday.

Sandoval joined the team in St. Petersburg, where the Red Sox are playing the Tampa Bay Rays. Farrell said Sandoval had played in instructional league games in Florida and was "well ahead of schedule."

He could be an option to be activated if another player is injured. 

“One of the things I put in my mind that I have to work,” Sandoval told Boston Herald. “I learned a lot of things about this surgery so I had to work hard to be on the field as soon as possible.

“There are a lot of things I’ve been doing, working out, doing things so I can get better and better everyday.”

Sandoval, 30, is in the second year of a five-year, $95 contract. He lost his starting third base job to Travis Shaw in spring training and in April an MRI revealed he needed surgery on his left (non-throwing) shoulder, which was to have ended his season.

He appeared in only three games this season and hit .245 with 10 homers and 47 RBI in 126 games in 2015.