Two pieces remain for bullpen puzzle
FORT MYERS, Fla. — There are two spots open on the Red Sox roster and four players in contention after the latest series of cuts yesterday.
Scott Atchison was optioned to Pawtucket, while Rich Hill, Andrew Miller, and Randy Williams were reassigned to the minor league camp. That leaves Alfredo Aceves, Matt Albers, Hideki Okajima, and Dennys Reyes waiting to see who makes it.
Aceves and Albers are righthanded and Okajima and Reyes lefthanded. Manager Terry Francona liked the idea of having two lefties in the bullpen, but the choice is expected to be one of each.
Reyes can opt out of his minor league contract today. He did not help his cause last night, giving up three runs on two extra-base hits and a walk in one inning as the Sox ran their losing streak to eight with an 11-8 setback against the Blue Jays.
Aceves and Okajima have minor league options remaining, which could come into play. It did for Atchison, who had a 1.28 WHIP in 43 appearances with the Red Sox last season.
“He may feel it’s unfair. I think it’s not unfair to the organization,’’ Francona said of Atchison. “We had good competition. If it’s close, which it is, if a guy’s got an option, that’s kind of the way it is.’’
Atchison was sent to Pawtucket three times last season.
“You try and be prepared for anything,’’ he said. “I’m fine. I’ll work to get myself back here.’’
Miller will work as a starter for Pawtucket. The 25-year-old former first-round draft pick has a 5.84 career ERA over parts of five seasons with the Tigers and Marlins. The Sox were impressed with his velocity and the sharpness of his slider this spring, but both sides acknowledge there is work to be done.
“He buys in,’’ Francona said. “He can always pitch in the bullpen. But he gets starters’ innings [in Pawtucket], he’s stretched out, and it’s good for him.’’
Hill, a Milton, Mass., native, is working on a sidearm delivery that could make him an effective specialist. He did not allow an earned run in 8 2/3 innings this spring.
“I think he needs to stay with it. It’s still a little bit of a work in progress,’’ Francona said. “Statistically, he’s had a great spring. Just think there needs to be a little bit more strike throwing.’’
The Sox also optioned outfielder Ryan Kalish to Pawtucket and reassigned righthander Brandon Duckworth, who is slated for the Pawtucket rotation.
Infielders Drew Sutton and Nate Spears will be assigned to Pawtucket but will remain with the team through Wednesday’s exhibition game in Houston.
Lefthander Felix Doubront, who was sidelined with a sore elbow for several weeks, will pitch his first inning Tuesday. The Sox are determining whether he will start the season in extended spring training or with a minor league team.
Wakefield returning For the first time, Francona tacitly acknowledged that 44-year-old Tim Wakefield had made the team.
Wakefield was 4-10 with a 5.34 ERA last season and has been hit hard in spring training. But the Sox place value in his ability to start when needed.
“The hardest thing is for me to try and figure out how to use him and get the most out of him,’’ Francona said. “The starting part is easy. He gives that unique ability where he can come in on a day and pitch and probably pitch pretty well and not screw up the rotation and the bullpen.
“But trying to figure out how to use him in the bullpen when things are going good is a little tricky, because there’s always that chance of a passed ball or stolen base. So, we’ve got to figure that out. But there’s a definite way he can help us.’’
Dice-K donation Daisuke Matsuzaka contributed $1 million to the Japanese Red Cross Society via the Red Sox Foundation to help the victims of the earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan March 11.
The Red Sox have raised an additional $300,000 through fans, players, team partners, and sponsors. Sox pitchers Okajima, Junichi Tazawa, and Itsuki Shoda also made personal donations through the team charity.
A fond reunion Francona, general manager Theo Epstein, and farm director Mike Hazen were on the field before the game against Toronto, exchanging pleasantries with John Farrell, the new Blue Jays manager. Farrell was with the Red Sox for four years as the pitching coach.
“He’s one of my all-time best friends,’’ Francona said.
Farrell takes over a team that hasn’t made the playoffs since 1993.
“It’s a much broader scope, particularly being involved on the offensive side. That’s been new obviously,’’ he said. “But it’s been a lot of fun.’’
Farrell expects much of his managerial style will borrow from Francona.
“I’m forever indebted for the opportunity provided and the things he’s offered over time,’’ said Farrell, who stays in contact with Francona via text messages.
Beckett rocked Josh Beckett is 0-4 with a 6.64 ERA in five spring training starts after allowing seven runs on 11 hits in six innings against the Jays. “Results aside, I felt like I did some things we’ve been working on and I felt like they were comfortable for the first time,’’ he said. “I’ve got to take some positives away from that.’’ . . . Daniel Bard hit Toronto’s Corey Patterson in the helmet with a fastball in the eighth inning. He was down for several minutes but walked off the field . . . Aceves pitched four innings for Single A Salem, allowing one run on two hits with four strikeouts and three hit batters. It was a better day than he had on Thursday. Aceves dropped his phone into the ocean while fishing with Bobby Jenks. “I wanted to jump in after it and they told me there were sharks,’’ he said . . . Jon Lester will pitch in a minor league game in Fort Myers tomorrow with Jason Varitek catching . . . Kevin Youkilis, who has had a rocky spring, will play in a minor league game Monday to get extra at-bats.