FORT MYERS, Fla. — Last year at this time, the Red Sox had personnel in Oregon scouting veteran lefty Alan Embree, whom they would sign to beef up the bullpen competition. Just a few days later, Scott Schoeneweis was brought into the fold.
As Terry Francona so aptly put it Friday morning in Fort Myers, the club was "scrambling" to find suitable candidates to fill out the relief corps.
That is not the case in March 2011. The club has a "good problem" on its hands. There are many options to choose from after an offseason spent fishing for several available arms and then seeing them all perform well in Grapefruit League play.
"Nobody's really separated themselves in a bad way," Francona said. "Everybody's kind of done what we hoped they would do."
The ax may fall in the next few days. The team is currently going through a rather hectic portion of the schedule with two games Friday (afternoon vs. Detroit, evening at Tampa Bay) and trips to Bradenton on Saturday and Clearwater on Monday.
When the dust clears and Opening Day sits less than two weeks away, it will be time to make those "tough decisions."
"Once we get through that, we'll probably pare the number down here in camp," Francona said.
The fact that so many of the candidates have performed very well increases the possibility that there will be some disappointment over the final week-plus in camp.
Francona was pressed a bit more on the potential winners and losers in the race, but he did not want to get into making any announcements at this time.
"These guys have a stressful couple of weeks ahead of them, I'm not going to make it worse," he said.
Still, the team knows that the stress and disappointment are indications of a great competition. In 2010, there was almost too little of that.
"Any time we have a chance to aggravate somebody because [of a roster cut], that means that something's going right," Francona added.
Much of it will depend upon not only how well guys pitch in the final days of spring training, but also what the club feels is best in terms of a bullpen configuration. Do they want two lefties? If so, is one strictly a left-on-left specialist while the other is utilized in a more general sense? Will two pitchers with the ability to go several innings or even start (Tim Wakefield and Alfredo Aceves) both make the Opening Day roster?
"Those are all, they're good questions," Francona said. "We just need to answer them."
There may be some answers in the coming days.
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