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Red Sox Notebook

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Competition among relievers could be fierce

Email|Print| Text size + By Amalie Benjamin
Globe Staff / February 18, 2008

FORT MYERS, Fla. - In a relatively quiet spring training so far, there are few spots on the Red Sox' regular-season roster that appear to be up for grabs. Besides the two center fielders, Jacoby Ellsbury and Coco Crisp, and the fifth spot in the rotation, there might be just one opening left on the roster, which could be the last man in the bullpen.

Barring injuries or surprises, that spot could bring some competition between players with big league experience, like Dan Kolb or David Aardsma, or a minor leaguer potentially ready to move up, like Craig Hansen.

Pitching coach John Farrell has said the team is likely to break camp with 12 pitchers. In addition to the five starters, that leaves seven slots for relievers. Jonathan Papelbon, Hideki Okajima, Manny Delcarmen, Mike Timlin, Julian Tavarez, Kyle Snyder, and Javier Lopez all are coming off lengthy stints with the Red Sox last season.

The first five are all but assured to end up on the roster, and the last two both signed one-year deals at less than $1 million as arbitration eligibles this offseason. Tavarez and Snyder also will be auditioning for the fifth-starter spot, along with Clay Buchholz, so that could change the bullpen mix.

"There's no denying there is some competition for maybe a spot in the bullpen," manager Terry Francona said yesterday. "I mean hopefully it's only one spot. You never know how health goes as the spring progresses, but I think it's healthy to have some competition. I don't think we want to come in and have eight openings, but I think it will be healthy."

Door prize?

Driving by Dustin Pedroia's? Look for an unusual piece by the garage.

It seems the second baseman isn't all that awed by his Rookie of the Year award. Nice? Of course. But, unsurprisingly, Pedroia isn't putting too much stock in praise from anyone other than his teammates, even if he might have been kidding about a possible new garage door ornament.

"That's just something that sportswriters voted on," he said. "I don't think I was the best rookie. I didn't really think about it. The only thing I knew is I got an opportunity to play in the World Series and we won. That's what our goal was all year. The whole Rookie of the Year thing, I'm not really concerned about it. In fact, I might put a little holster on it, hold up my garage door."

Long, short of it

Francona said he anticipated seven to eight pitchers getting starter's innings when spring games start. But that number will not include Papelbon. Despite Papelbon's stated interest in working through spring training as he did last season, when he was preparing to be a starter, Francona said that won't exactly be the case. "He'll be lengthened out," the manager said. "Now when we say lengthened out, we're probably talking 35 pitches. What we're trying to stay away from is having him come in and pitch the eighth, come in and throw nine pitches, maybe misfire on six, him not getting anything out of it. We'll stretch him out." . . . After spending five days a week in the gym with his wife's brother, a personal trainer, Delcarmen got up to 220 pounds after starting at around 208. Though he said he might be too strong, he was ready to get out on the bullpen mound yesterday. Establishing his curveball, which wasn't up to his standards last season, will be a focus. "He looks so good," Francona said. "This is a kid who, last year, we kind of pounded on him in the winter. He showed up a little chunkier maybe than we had hoped. He goes to Triple A, then does a great job from there. Now all of a sudden he gets some responsibility in the major leagues and he takes it and runs with it. He's lean. He looks really good. I think that's maybe just the normal maturation process of young people. He's learning responsibility. We're thrilled watching how he's shown up."

Carter country

Chris Carter, the player to be named in the Wily Mo Peña deal, has been a ubiquitous presence around the minor league complex. Since arriving in Fort Myers Jan. 18, he's been getting to work at around 5 each morning, sometimes earlier. Carter often beats the coaching staff to the complex to get in extra work before most of the rest of the players appear. Regarded by scouts as a designated hitter-type with exceptional offensive skills, both for average and power, Carter has heard little praise about his fielding. To combat that, he has been doing double sessions in the field, taking balls at first base and in the outfield. But at least there are some familiar faces. He played against Pedroia in high school and college and was a Stanford teammate of Jed Lowrie's, before being drafted in the 17th round by Arizona . . . Ownership is expected to arrive today . . . All the players came through the first two days of throwing and conditioning in good shape. Director of performance enhancement Don Kalkstein, who pulled a hamstring Saturday, ended up as the only injury . . . Pitchers are scheduled to begin to throw to live batters on the second day position players are in camp, which would be Saturday.

Amalie Benjamin can be reached at abenjamin@globe.com.

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