Red Sox Bullpen Situation Comes Into Focus After Several More Roster Cuts

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March 26, 2011

Red Sox Bullpen Situation Comes Into Focus After Several More Roster Cuts FORT MYERS, Fla. — The battle in the Red Sox bullpen is essentially down to five guys fighting for two spots after a series of cuts pared down the roster on Friday.

Six pitchers were either optioned to Triple-A Pawtucket (Scott Atchison, Michael Bowden) or reassigned to the minor league camp (Rich Hill, Andrew Miller, Brandon Duckworth, Randy Williams).

That essentially leaves Hideki Okajima, Matt Albers, Dennys Reyes, Alfredo Aceves and Felix Doubront in the mix. The fact that Doubront has been hampered by elbow issues and has yet to pitch in a Grapefruit League game (he will make his debut Tuesday) may mean he is on the outs at the current time, but manager Terry Francona indicated that Doubront’s situation has not been finalized. He could be placed on the disabled list to start the year, and when healthy he may get stretched out as a starter or remain in the bullpen.

As for whether the team will use those last two spots for a righty and a lefty, or two lefties, that also remains to be seen.

What is clear is that while several guys were disappointed to learn they had not made the Opening Day roster, the organization is in pretty good standing with the amount of available arms it will have at Pawtucket.

“It’ll be more depth than we’ve had in a long time,” Francona said.

Among the more difficult decisions involved Atchison, one of the pleasant surprises of the 2010 season after he emerged as a trusted arm for Francona. The right-hander, who turns 35 next week, had hoped that would help him make the club this time around, but knew that because he had an option remaining it would be easier for him to be sent down.

“I felt like I showed them what I could do,” Atchison said. “I knew I had an option so that’s part of it. I know a couple of guys maybe threw a little better this spring, but I felt like I showed them what I can do. I’ll go down there and do my thing and when they need someone I’ll be ready to go.”

Atchison gave up six runs on 11 hits and four walks in 8 1/3 innings this spring.

“It’s hard. He may feel it’s unfair, I think it’s not unfair to the organization,” Francona said. “We had good competition and again if it’s close, which it is, the guy’s got an option. That’s kind of the way it is.

“There were some days where I thought he got outpitched but it doesn’t come down to that. Saying that, we don’t dislike him, we like him as much today, if not more, he’s just going to start out at Triple-A.”

One guy who outshined Atchison, at least on the stat sheet, was Hill, who did not allow a run in 8 2/3 innings. He said just last week that he felt as good as he ever has physically, but the organization wanted him to continue to refine a new delivery that has him dropping his arm slot to the side, with the intent on utilizing him as a lefty specialist down the road.

“I think he needs to stay with it,” Francona said of the sidearm motion. “He’s still a little bit of a work in progress?I think there’s enough there to really like.”

Francona said that Hill was hitting 92 on the radar gun, plenty to cause troubles for left-handed hitters with the delivery and movement.

Two of the cuts, Miller and Duckworth, will allow them to begin to get stretched out as starters in anticipation of their spots in the PawSox rotation. Those hurlers, along with Aceves, Doubront and Tim Wakefield will make up the bulk of the starting pitching depth if and when someone needs to step in.

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