FORT MYERS, Fla. -- At least from a contractual basis, Joel Pineiro and the Red Sox are hedging their bets regarding what role he will perform this season.
Pineiro made his second appearance of the spring yesterday and was tagged for four runs on four hits and two walks in an inning and a third of yesterday's 12-9, 10-inning loss to the Philadelphia Phillies at City of Palms Park.
He entered the game in the fifth, walked the first batter he faced, Abraham Nunez, then induced Chris Coste to roll into a 6-4-3 double play. Michael Bourn then beat out a two-out bunt for a single, and Greg Dobbs turned on an 0-and-2 fastball and pulled it over the right-field fence for a home run, one of his four hits on the day.
That cut a 6-2 Boston lead to 6-4. Pineiro came out for the sixth, gave up a leadoff double to Pat Burrell, retired Jayson Werth on a fly ball, then was lifted after giving up an RBI double to Aaron Rowand, who eventually came around to score, the run charged to Pineiro.
Pineiro got knocked around on the same day last year's closer, Jonathan Papelbon, was lights-out in his spring debut, striking out four of the six batters he faced, including slugger Ryan Howard, who went down swinging on some high heat.
"Obviously, you don't like the results," Pineiro said. "The fact is, I got ahead of most every hitter and didn't finish them off. I think I had everybody 0 and 2 and either walked 'em, or whatever happened. I think maybe I'm trying to work on too much stuff, but I think I'm OK, I think I'm almost there.
"They wanted the pitch to Dobbs to be up and in. I think it was up, but I may have left it middle. I'm a guy that tries to finish someone off rather than try to set 'em up for the next pitch. I've got to get together with the catchers on that."
Pineiro said he was mildly surprised when he learned he was going two innings. "At first, they said they wanted me to build up my arm strength. I think their goal is to do that." (Manager Terry Francona said that was precisely the Sox' approach.)
The Sox and Pineiro hold a mutual option for 2008, with a base salary of $4 million, the same as he is being paid this season. The 2008 base can increase based on his performance this season -- if he's a reliever.
The base increases to $4.175 million if he finishes 25 games, $4.35 million if he finishes 30, $4.625 million if he finishes 35, $4.9 million if he finishes 40, $5.225 million if he finishes 45, $5.55 million if he finishes 50, and $6 million with 55 games finished.
There are performance incentives built into his deal for 2008: $175,000 each for 25 and 30 games finished, $275,000 each for 35 and 40 games finished, $325,000 each for 45 and 50 games finished, and $450,000 for 55 games finished. That's another $2 million.
Should Pineiro hit all of those performance levels in 2007 and '08, the Sox will be paying him a total of $12 million. There is an additional incentive: If he finishes 35 or more games in '07 and is not on the disabled list at the end of the season with an injury that could affect him in 2008, the mutual option becomes a player option.
Last season, 15 major league pitchers finished 55 or more games, led by Ryan Dempster of the Cubs, who finished 64. Papelbon had 49 games as a rookie closer last season and almost certainly would have approached or exceeded 55 if he hadn't hurt his shoulder in September.
There is no buyout of the option year if Pineiro finishes fewer than 25 games, but it kicks in at 25 and escalates as follows: $175,000 at 25, $350,000 at 30, $625,000 at 35, $900,000 at 40, $1.225 million at 45, $1.55 million at 50, and $2 million with 55 games finished.
While his 2008 base salary will remain the same if he starts, his salary in each of the next two seasons can increase depending on number of starts. He can earn $150,000 each for 12, 15, 18, and 21 games started, and $350,000 each for 24, 27, 30, and 33 games started. That's $2 million in performance incentives. Thus the maximum he could be paid in each of the next two seasons as a starter is $6 million per year, or a total of $12 million, the same as he could earn as a reliever.
Last season, 35 starters made 33 or more starts, including Boston's Josh Beckett.
"That's the last thing I'm worried about," Pineiro said of his contract structure. "I'll do whatever they want me to do. I just want to stay healthy and go from there.
"I've got to do one of the two, obviously. But like they told me, the main reason I came here was to get the back innings."