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Red Sox Notebook

Valentine eyes bullpen puzzle

By Peter Abraham
Globe Staff / March 20, 2012
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FORT MYERS, Fla. - Bobby Valentine is getting ready to make some decisions about his pitching staff.

“We’re going to collectively map this thing out now,’’ he said Monday after the Red Sox lost to the Twins, 8-4, at JetBlue Park. “It’s about time to really figure it out. Probably going to make some cuts again so that we’re down to a real manageable number and we’ll have a pretty definite spot that they’re going to pitch in.’’

Valentine said he’s “not happy’’ with the bullpen because nobody has pitched in the role they’ll be in once the season starts.

“I’m a bit confused with the whole bullpen situation only because we haven’t been able to fit any pieces together,’’ he said. “Confusion is filtering [down] and everyone is something other than settled. That’s where we have to go from here.

“I think all the pieces are there, but some of them are contingent upon the starters. We need to start making it look like something other than a bunch of pitchers getting their work in.’’

Valentine said the narrowing-down process would start in a few days.

Doubront battles

Part of being a successful starter is learning how to minimize damage when you don’t have full command of your pitches.

In that context, Felix Doubront had a successful outing against the Twins.

The lefthander put nine runners on base in 4 2/3 innings but surrendered only two runs. He left with a 3-2 lead.

“I liked a lot and I wished for more,’’ said Valentine, who wanted to see Doubront be more aggressive on two-strike pitches. “I think there’s still a step. It repeated itself today a lot and the other games a few times. He has a good changeup and a good curveball and a good fastball and he locates and gets ahead. But we need that other thing that’s going to force them to put it in play weakly or strike them out.’’

Mark Melancon and Andrew Bailey also pitched in the game. It was a rocky outing for Melancon, who gave up three runs on three hits and a walk to take the loss. Two of the hits were doubles.

“I thought he backed up the bases really well,’’ Valentine said. “He had that down.’’

On a more serious note, Valentine said Melancon’s fastball has been lacking in bite.

“He has to be able to have that downward plane as we say, which he really hasn’t consistently had yet this spring. His fastball seems to be flat from my angle,’’ the manager said. “He’ll climb the ladder and throw high. But it will be [with] a purpose, a high pitch that rides out of the zone. Not a flat pitch that’s high.’’

Bailey had an effective seventh inning, giving up only a walk and recording a strikeout.

“This time I was working on offspeed stuff. Next time I’ll start taking it like a normal game situation,’’ he said.

Melancon and Bailey are scheduled to face the Yankees Thursday night.

Kalish in the swing

Ryan Kalish didn’t wait to get in the batting cage. He took his 10 swings early in the day, taking solid cuts at balls on a tee.

The outfielder, who turns 24 March 28, swung a bat for the first time since undergoing shoulder surgery in November.

“Actually pretty strong,’’ Kalish said when asked how he felt. “It was great.’’

Kalish has already started throwing. So now, after months of rehab work, he is working on his baseball skills. Those 10 swings will evolve into soft toss, batting practice against coaches, and batting practice against pitchers. Then he’ll get into a game.

“It’s great to be back doing baseball stuff,’’ Kalish said.

Iglesias returns

Jose Iglesias, who had been out since March 10 because of a groin strain, started at shortstop and was 0 for 3 with an RBI in seven innings. Iglesias said he felt fine and did not have any physical restrictions . . . Outfielder Ryan Sweeney, who hasn’t played since March 12 because of a strained left quad, is close to returning. He has started to run the bases . . . Carl Crawford took 20 swings in the cage and continued his throwing program. His left wrist has responded well . . . Aaron Cook, who is trying to catch up in the chase for a rotation spot, has a mild groin strain and will be limited to three innings Thursday night. Cook threw 3 1/3 innings against the Orioles Saturday . . . Lefthanded reliever Franklin Morales is expected to make his spring debut Wednesday. He was slowed because of a heart issue that had to be checked out in Boston. He also had questions about the strength of his shoulder.

Minor step for Aceves

Alfredo Aceves pitched what amounted to five innings in a Triple A game against Tampa Bay. He gave up three runs on eight hits with no walks and three strikeouts. Aceves threw 73 pitches, 54 for strikes. “He seemed to be making some pitches they were hitting,’’ Valentine said . . . Righthanded reliever Will Inman, who appeared in three games, was reassigned to the minor league camp . . . Kevin Youkilis, a University of Cincinnati graduate, is thrilled that the basketball Bearcats are headed to Boston for the NCAA Sweet 16 but sorry he won’t be able to attend. Valentine is rooting for North Carolina in the tournament. His wife, Mary, is a UNC graduate.

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

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