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Filling the final roster spots

Posted by Peter Abraham, Globe Staff  March 23, 2010 01:24 PM

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Here is what we know about the 2010 Red Sox:

Adrian Beltre, Mike Cameron, J.D. Drew, Jacoby Ellsbury, Victor Martinez, David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia, Marco Scutaro and Kevin Youkilis will be the starters. It's also safe to say that Bill Hall, Jeremy Hermida and Jason Varitek will be on the bench.

We can be fairly sure that Josh Beckett, Clay Buchholz, Jon Lester, John Lackey and Tim Wakefield will be the starting pitchers. Daisuke Matsuzaka is headed for the DL and Wakefield has passed every test presented to him.

It's also a good assumption that Daniel Bard, Hideki Okajima, Jonathan Papelbon and Ramon Ramirez will be in the bullpen.

That's 21 players accounted for. Where are the other four coming from? Let's break it down:

BENCH
There is room for one player and it'll probably be an infielder with all due apologies to Roy Hobbs Reddick, who has crushed every ball he sees. The choices are Tug Hulett, Mike Lowell, Angel Sanchez or somebody soon to be acquired via trade or off waivers.

Lowell could be on the team, put on the DL or traded. The indications are the team still plans to trade him, but that might not be possible until April. So let's say Lowell takes that spot.

BULLPEN
Ostensibly, Manny Delcarmen has his place in the bullpen. But the pride of Hyde Park has yet to recover his fastball and would be wise to start recording some 93s and 94s before too long. Let's say he makes it, that leaves two spots open. The candidates are:

Scott Atchison: A well-paid reliever in Japan, the Sox have him on the 40-man roster and liked what they have seen of him. Atchison throws strikes (one walk in 8.2 innings) and is durable.

Boof Bonser: Long reliever candidate had a big setback Monday when he was tattooed by the Rays and then reported pain in his right groin. He is out of options but the Sox could stash him on the DL.

Michael Bowden: He has looked much better this spring than he did in his limited big-league stints last season. The question is whether the Sox want him waiting for chances in the bullpen or developing as a starter in Triple-A? Bowden does have swing-and-miss stuff and could profile as a strong reliever.

Alan Embree: Everybody in the clubhouse loves him and he has that 2004 stamp of approval. But Embree is 40 and last year put put 41 runners on base over 24.2 innings for Colorado before breaking his leg. Lefties hit .326 against him as well. I'd bet on him starting the season in the minors so they can get a better idea of what he has left, if anything.

Joe Nelson: He handled lefties well last season (.298 OPB against) and has that "Vulcan" change-up working. He's a strong favorite to make the team.

Brian Shouse: His fate was probably sealed when they decided to sign Embree.

Junichi Tazawa: John Farrell said the Sox like him as a reliever and often the best way to find a quality reliever is to convert a minor-league starter. But Tazawa has not done nearly enough to merit a spot on the 25-man roster. His fastball is not much.

The others: Fernando Cabrera, Fabio Castro, Ramon A. Martinez and Jorge Sosa are still in camp but would appear to be ticketed for Pawtucket.

I'll say Atchison and Nelson make it for now. Keep in mind, the bullpen is the easiest part of the team to change. Who the Red Sox have on April 4 may not be who they have on April 14.

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