While Jonathan Papelbon remains the closer for the upcoming season -- there's no talk about inserting him into the starting rotation this year -- because of the Red Sox determination not to put too much stress on his shoulder, he'll need backup.
His backup as closer could come in two forms this season, apparently, though there's always the chance that another pitcher could emerge as a setup guy (yes, Craig Hansen, that's your second reference in this space today). Hideki Okajima was the guy turned to most last season when Papelbon needed an offday, though he tired late. Manny Delcarmen could end up helping out in those situations, as well.
"We've had a number of conversations already this winter, to challenge [Delcarmen] with an increased role, increased importance, not to think that last year's ERA or performance that he had is the Manny Delcarmen," pitching coach John Farrell said. "I think there's still room for improvement, certainly with his fastball command, that can continue to improve.
"I'd like to think at some point we can begin to expose him in that closer's role. And I say that because we probably are going to take a similar approach with the use of Jonathan this year, so there are going to be opportunities that both Manny and Hideki will again assume."
In a completely unrelated note -- though perhaps not for hunting enthusiast Papelbon -- the Suncoast Gun Show will be hitting Fort Myers on Feb. 16 and 17. The Globe does not endorse attendance, I just couldn't overlook the gigantic billboard that towers over my morning commute to the minor league complex. And I thought you all might be interested...