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Bard pleased with this bullpen setup

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By Peter Abraham
Globe Staff / February 11, 2011

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FORT MYERS, Fla. — The Red Sox had one reliable setup man last season, Daniel Bard. Getting the ball to closer Jonathan Papelbon was a high-wire act unless the 25-year-old righthander was in the game.

Manny Delcarmen, Ramon Ramirez, and Hideki Okajima were among those who failed in the role. That prompted general manager Theo Epstein to undertake a massive bullpen renovation, signing four relievers to major league contracts and five others to minor league deals that included invitations to spring training.

Count Bard among the relieved.

“We’ll have more help down there than we had last year,’’ he said yesterday after an informal workout at the team’s player development complex. “That’s kind of what I felt we needed down there, some guys who you kind of know what you’re getting out of them.’’

Bard is particularly pleased with the additions of Bobby Jenks and Dan Wheeler. After making 73 appearances last season, fifth most in the American League, he is looking forward to the help.

“If you cut down my appearances by five, that’s huge when it comes down to September and October,’’ Bard said. “I think those guys will definitely be able to do that.’’

Bard does not envision his role changing much. Whether it’s the seventh or eighth inning, he’ll be pitching with the game on the line. But having Jenks around should make his workload easier. Instead of being asked to get four or five outs, he could be done after three.

“Throwing an inning-plus, that kind of wears on you throughout a season,’’ Bard said. “Having Jenks there can break that up. We can both get two outs or three outs or whatever it takes to fill that seventh-, eighth-inning gap to get the ball to our closer.’’

Aceves adds options Alfredo Aceves threw two bullpen sessions for the Sox and then passed his physical, proving he was clear of the hip and back issues that restricted him to 12 innings last season with the Yankees.

Epstein envisions Aceves competing for a job in the bullpen or being developed as a starter in Pawtucket.

“We really needed to add somebody who could start major league games and compete in the American League East. He has the opportunity to do that for us,’’ Epstein said. “The fact that he’s pitched well in the division stood out for us and made him a target.’’

Aceves was 14-1 with a 3.21 earned run average in three seasons with the Yankees before he was nontendered.

Beau peep Epstein called the signing of 17-year-old New Zealand softball catcher Te Wara “Beau’’ Bishop an “interesting opportunity.’’

Men’s softball is one of New Zealand’s most popular sports. Epstein was told that Bishop was considered the country’s best prospect in 20 years.

Via e-mail, Pacific Rim scouting coordinator Jon Deeble offered this scouting report: “He has showed us good raw power and good defensive skills. He will need to make some adjustments, we just need to be patient with him. He is a strong young man.’’

No vacancy Epstein said the Sox are “pretty full at this point’’ and he does not expect any more signings before the start of camp . . . Outfield prospect Ryan Westmoreland, who is recovering from brain surgery, kicked a soccer ball around as part of his rehabilitation . . . Junichi Tazawa, who had Tommy John elbow surgery last April, is throwing off a mound but still has another few months of rehab before he gets into competitive situations . . . The Red Sox re-signed lefthander Tommy Hottovy, who had a 4.90 ERA in 41 relief appearances for Double A Portland and Pawtucket last season.

Peter Abraham can be reached at pabraham@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @peteabe.

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