In Sox bullpen battle, past may determine future

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In Sox bullpen battle, past may determine future

By Sean McAdam
CSNNE.com

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- From the beginning of spring training, the lone bit of Red Sox roster competition has centered on the final two spots in the bullpen, and with less than two weeks left in the Grapefruit League schedule those spots are no closer to being decided.

About eight pitchers are battling for those spots: lefties Dennys Reyes, Randy Williams, Rich Hill, Andrew Miller and Hideki Okajima, and right-handers Matt Albers, Alfredo Aceves and Scott Atchison.

"Fortunately, everybody's done well," said Terry Francona. "It's pretty exciting. It's going to be difficult because there are going to be a couple of guys who don't make this team who deserve to. If you go straight on spring performance, there are going to be guys who don't make the team who should -- there's no getting around it.''

Francona said past performance will be a factor in the decision-making.

"You certainly want to watch how guys are throwing," said Francona. "That's important. But if you go on five or six or seven spring-training innings, I think you're setting yourself up for a mistake.''

With the club's starters being stretched out -- Jon Lester tossed 4 23 innings Wednesday -- innings are going to be at a premium for the many relievers in the mix. Some will have to get their work in, and be evaluated in minor-league games.

Albers is the one veteran in the group out of options and one talent evaluator predicted that the Sox would likely deal Albers before the end of the month rather than risk exposing him on waivers and losing for nothing.

"He's going to pitch in the big leagues somewhere," said the evaluator. "If it's not in Boston, might as well get something for him."

Atchison is thought to have something of an advantage among the right-handers because he pitched with the Sox most of last season and is capable of giving the team multiple innings in middle relief.

Reyes, meanwhile, has some leverage in that his contract has a March 26 out clause if he isn't yet on the roster.

"Some guys have different outs in their contracts,'' agreed Francona, "and we'll have to address that when the times comes. But if it's a problem (trying to select the bullpen), it's a nice one. I'd much rather have that than have guys eliminate themselves."

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

Quotes, notes and stars: Swihart flashes power and speed

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Quotes, notes and stars: Swihart flashes power and speed

BOSTON - Quotes, notes and stars from the Red Sox' 10-3 win over the Colorado Rockies:

 

QUOTES

"I felt a little cramp. I'm fine. I appreciate John and everybody looking out (for me). We obviously don't want anything to happen like last year, but I'm good.'' - Dustin Pedroia, who left the game in the fifth after experiencing some tightness in his right hamstring.

"It's nice to be able to get deep into the game. That's my goal every time. My goal is nine innings, so if I don't get nine innings, I'm a little disappointed because I want to be able to go out there and pitch as many innings as I can.'' - Steven Wright.

"I think my release point was just a little off. That definitely makes it hard, especially when it's moving, because it's not a consistent release point.'' - Wright on the early-inning unpredictability of his signature pitch.

"Even when I was catching, I pride myself on running. I want to be an athlete back there. I want to run the bases, steal bases, things most catchers aren't known to do.'' - Blake Swihart, who hit two triples.

 

NOTES

* Jackie Bradley Jr. extended his hitting streak to 29 games.

* Xander Bogaerts extended his hitting streak to 18 games.

* David Ortiz tied Paul Molitor for 12th on the all-time doubles list with 605.

* Ortiz has driven in multiple runs in three straight games

* Dustin Pedroia has a career batting average of .340 in interleague play, the highest ever for someone with 500 or more at-bats.

* Travis Shaw drove in three runs and now has 68 RBI in his first 111 games since Fred Lynn and Jim Rice in 1974-75.

* Blake Swihart became the third Red Sox hitter this season to post two triples in the same game.

* The Red Sox clinched their fifth straight home series win.

* The Sox are 21-8 since April 24 and are 13-2 in their last 15 home games.

 

STARS

1) Steven Wright

Backed by some rare run support, Wright evened his record at 4-4 with seven-plus innings and his eighth quality start this season.

2) Travis Shaw

Shaw produced two hits and knocked in three runs, making him the fourth Red Sox player this season to reach 30 RBI.

3) Blake Swihart

Swihart got to flash both his power and his speed by hitting two triples to the triangle, motoring around the bases.

 

First impressions from Red Sox' 10-3 win over Rockies

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First impressions from Red Sox' 10-3 win over Rockies

BOSTON- First impressions from the Red Sox' 10-3 win over Colorado:

 

Steven Wright is the very picture of consistency.

In nine starts this season, Wright has pitched at least six innings and allowed two earned runs or fewer eight times. In the one start in which he failed to do so, he was pitching in a mini-monsoon and unable to properly grip his signature pitch.

On Wednesday, he battled some early-inning wildness with the knuckler, resulting in two wild pitches and four passed balls, but eventually settled down.

His 4-4 mark hardly represents how well he's pitched. A more telling stat is the 60 2/3 innings he's pitched in nine outings, just shy of seven per game.

 

It could be a costly night for injuries.

Ryan Hanigan left the game after 2 1/2 innings because of illness. Dustin Pedroia came out in the fifth as a precaution after experiencing some tightness in his right hamstring. And Xander Bogaerts jammed his thumb in the eighth.

Let's assume that Hanigan's illness is a temporary thing, and since Bogaerts remained in the game, that, too, seemed minor.

But the Pedroia hamstring is potentially a red flag, since it was that same hamstring that sidelined him for almost half of last season.

 

For the past 19 home games, the Red Sox have averaged more than eight runs per game.

Nineteen games isn't exactly a small sample size. In fact, it's almost exactly one-quarter of the home schedule. To average more than eight runs per game over that long a stretch, covering parts of three different homestands, is pretty remarkable.

 

Blake Swihart's speed is something else.

Swihart hit two triples to the triangle Wednesday night, and on the second, to see him shift into higher gear as he approached second base was really something to see.

It's difficult to think of another catcher -- and yes, I understand that Swihart has been playing left field exclusively of late; but he remains primarily a catcher -- who ran as well as Swihart does.

When the Sox and other independent evaluators remark about Swihart's athleticism, that's one of the things to which they're referring.