|Matt Albers loves to pitch in Fenway — and he just may get to do it on a regular basis. (File/Elsa/Getty Images)|
Albers a viable option in pen
There may be spot for former Oriole
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — Terry Francona reiterated yesterday that there are going to be some tough decisions made on the final two spots on the Red Sox pitching staff because of the excellent competition that has taken place. The major credit should go to Allard Baird and Jared Porter, the team’s top two major league scouts, who recommended some interesting names to general manager Theo Epstein.
Among the bright spots are Matt Albers, Alfredo Aceves, Dennys Reyes, Rich Hill, Andrew Miller, and Randy Williams.
One of the problems in evaluating relievers now is that starting pitchers are being stretched out, so the number of innings shrinks.
Albers, a former Oriole, has a great shot at sticking.
“One of the things in my favor was they moved the non-tender day up,’’ said Albers. “We were able to talk to all the teams interested at the winter meetings and get a feel for it.
“Once the Red Sox were interested, it wasn’t hard for me. Playing against them, going to Fenway is one of the better places to pitch. The atmosphere is great, it’s sold out every night and loud. The fans are passionate.
“At Camden Yards, it seemed like 70 percent of the fans were rooting for the Red Sox when they were in town. That made it an easy decision for me.
Albers is out of minor league options, which could play in his favor.
“I’ve been in this position the last few years with Baltimore,’’ he said. “I had to earn a spot. Nothing is too different. I’ll try to pitch my best and see what happens.’’
Francona said Aceves is very much in contention for a spot.
“He’s done really good,’’ said the manager. “We just have to figure out how best to put our bullpen together while at the same time having depth in the organization. He’s a real interesting guy, can do a lot of things.’’
And the lefties?
“They’ve done well,’’ said Francona. “There are some guys who have different outs [in their contracts] that we have to address when the time comes. It’s a nice problem to have — much better than guys eliminating themselves.’’
Scutaro strong Marco Scutaro feels like a new man and he hopes he’ll play like one. He homered in his first at-bat yesterday as the leadoff hitter and made a nice diving play. He popped back up and made a strong throw to first — a throw he may not have made a year ago given the condition of his neck and shoulder. “Oh yeah,’’ he said. “You guys saw the last month when I told the Red Sox to play me at second because I couldn’t get my arm back. I worked hard in offseason. On the shoulder program. Got the muscles around the shoulder stronger.’’ Scutaro said all of his natural mechanics have returned to normal. He said the first time he tried to throw in camp, he was still pushing the ball, not rearing back, but he told himself, “Hey bro, rear back.’’ Scutaro said, “I’m just looking forward to being healthy. Its not like when I’m healthy I can hit 150 homers, 199 RBIs. Just waking up and feeling like I can compete is important. Last year, it was tough for me to do extra work. There were days I didn’t think I had a chance to play. I had to go through so much to get ready.’’
Deal in the future? Adrian Gonzalez’s agent, John Boggs, is coming to Sox camp Monday. While neither side is saying whether they’ll resume negotiations on an extension (if they haven’t already) it will mark the first time Boggs and Epstein are face-to-face. The sides discussed parameters for an extension but were not able to come to a full agreement when they broke off their short window in December. Gonzalez could be in line for a deal similar to one signed by Mark Teixeira with the Yankees (eight years, $180 million), but it’s unclear whether the Sox would go that far . . . Patriots coach Bill Belichick was at the ballpark yesterday with his son watching the game. He spoke to Francona and Dustin Pedroia before the game.
Wheeler working Dan Wheeler threw two scoreless innings for Single A Greenville in a minor league game back in Fort Myers. Facing Baltimore prospects, he hit a batter, had one strikeout, and threw 18 pitches (11 strikes) . . . Outfielder Juan Carlos Linares (biceps tendinitis) hopes to start playing again in a few days. “It feels better today,’’ he said . . . John Lackey will face the Mets at City of Palms Park today as the Sox don their green St. Patrick’s Day uniforms and caps.
Nick Cafardo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @nickcafardo; Peter Abraham contributed from Fort Myers, Fla. He can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @peteabe.