THIS STORY HAS BEEN FORMATTED FOR EASY PRINTING

Hoping to show good side

If Reyes can get out lefties, he has chance

By Peter Abraham
Globe Staff / February 27, 2011

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FORT MYERS, Fla. — Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton had nine extra-base hits and nine RBIs in 45 plate appearances against the Red Sox last season.

Fellow lefthanded hitters Robinson Cano, Nick Markakis, and Luke Scott weren’t quite that frightening. But each had an OPS over .900 against the Sox.

So arriving at camp 13 days late because of a visa issue in his native Mexico is not something Dennys Reyes should worry too much about. If the 33-year-old lefthanded reliever shows he still can pitch effectively to lefties, the Sox will find a spot for him on the roster.

Reyes looked tired when he finally arrived yesterday, having landed in Florida only a few hours earlier. He started his journey in Mexico City and connected through Houston, where there was a delay.

Reyes took his physical, played catch, and was sent home to rest before the Sox beat Boston College, 6-0, in the first game of a doubleheader. The coaches will get a better look at him today.

“We’ll just kind of gauge where he is,’’ said manager Terry Francona. “I think he looks good.

“But he’s beat, he had a couple of long days. As soon as he gets ready, and not before, we’ll throw him right into the mix.’’

Reyes is one of six lefthanded relievers in camp competing for what is likely to be one spot in the bullpen. Barring injury, the Sox have a good idea who 24 of their 25 players will be on Opening Day. The only need, and it’s a significant one, is an effective lefty reliever.

Felix Doubront, who impressed the Sox in his 12 appearances last season, has been shut down with a tight elbow and will not pitch for at least two weeks.

Doubront also sat out the final month of last season with muscle tightness near his shoulder, meaning the team will be cautious with him.

That leaves Reyes, Hideki Okajima, Rich Hill, Andrew Miller, and Randy Williams. Only Okajima has a major league deal, but he is coming off the worst season of his career.

Reyes was an unexpected addition. He was close to a major league contract with Philadelphia in December but negotiations broke off. Reyes said it was more a matter of contract language than money.

Reyes settled for a lesser deal with the Sox just before the start of spring training. He expressed no regrets.

“Over the last four or five years, I’ve been looking for a team that’s always in contention, and I had the opportunity to join the Boston Red Sox,’’ he said. “I had a chance to make the team and had a chance to go to the postseason. You kind of get excited for it, and I can’t wait.’’

Reyes is in camp on a minor league deal that includes an out on March 25. So the Sox will have to give him some kind of indication of his status by then.

“It’s going to be a great competition,’’ he said. “I know most of the guys. I respect them. It’s not going to be our decision. It’s going to be their decision. You just have to do the best you can.’’

Reyes said he used his time in Mexico well. He started throwing in December and got in some simulated games near the end of January, pitching to players from a semi-pro team close to his hometown of Higuera de Zaragoza.

“I’m close,’’ Reyes said. “I think it’s going to take a bullpen or two, batting practice, or something to be in the game. So it won’t take too much. I don’t have the time, anyway.’’

Reyes has been one of the game’s better specialists in recent years, shifting from team to team before settling in for three years with the Twins (2006-08), followed by a two-year stint with the Cardinals.

Last year was an odd one for him as lefties hit .307 against him and righthanders .177.

Reyes explained that he lost command of his sinker, a pitch he developed a few years ago while playing for the Twins. The pitch cut instead of dropping down and in, leaving it over the plate for lefty hitters.

“I had problems from the middle of the year,’’ he said. “It’s hard to recover because you pitch only so many innings.’’

Reyes was sharper the final month of the season once he regained control of his sinker.

“You don’t see many lefties throwing in against lefties,’’ he said. “It’s hard to do. It’s my main pitch. When you lose your main strength, it’s kind of hard. But now I think I’m ready. I want to stay here.’’

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

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