DALLAS — The Red Sox are prepared to let Daniel Bard spend the offseason preparing to pitch as a starter next year, knowing that he can make the adjustment to relief work after spring training begins.
They also believe Alfredo Aceves could help the team as either a starter or a reliever. He will also prepare to start, getting himself prepared to start camp stretched out. An ultimate decision on whether he starts or relieves will come later.
Yesterday, the team re-signed Andrew Miller for a year. Miller went 6-3 with Boston a year ago, spending time as both a starter and a reliever. He will arrive in spring training as a starter, but his ultimate role on the team will be decided later.
Do you notice a trend here? The Sox may lead the league in pitchers with undefined roles here in December. As manager Bobby Valentine pointed out Wednesday, there are only so many innings to go around over seven weeks of spring training.
"Right now we have 33 games, so that means we have 297 innings," said Valentine. "If we're playing at home, that means you don't have a ninth inning 10 games. And two of those games, it's not really 297 because two of the games are seven‑inning games. So take off two more, it's 293, so we're down to 283 innings. To get four starters at 30 and two starters at 25 and get your seven innings for those other seven guys, and then we have I think another 18 guys in camp that at least you want them to pitch an inning, well, we're using up 282 innings, probably 279 innings in that. Huh? So I should write it down. I think I'm missing ‑‑ but yes. The answer is you could have too much of that because you don't have enough of the other stuff. The stuff you don't have is innings, and for a lot of these guys they have to be quality competition innings, and I don't know if B.C. and Northeastern qualify there, and sometimes these split squad games don't necessarily qualify, and sometimes the fifth inning through the ninth inning don't qualify. So we're really down to a tough situation."
Sounds complicated, but it's not really. You've got to find innings — meaningful innings — to see what these pitchers can do in a starter's or reliever's role. Throwing innings during an intrasquad scrimmage might not be enough.
What makes it worse is the difficulty in replicating late-game, high-pressure situations. You want to see if someone can be a closer? That's tough to do when your opponent is fielding a Triple-A lineup out there from the fifth inning on.
In other words, Valentine is already hard at work trying to figure out how to get all the requisite work needed by all of his pitchers. That goes for starters, relievers … and the handful of pitchers who don't know what they'll be doing next summer.
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