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Spring training preview: Relief pitchers

Posted by Peter Abraham, Globe Staff  January 29, 2013 09:45 AM

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Second in a series of spring training roster breakdowns this week. Monday: Starters. Today: Relievers. Wednesday: Infielders. Thursday: Outfielders. Friday: Catchers and DHs.

As the Red Sox prepare for spring training, here is a look at their relief pitchers:

Expected bullpen: RHP Joel Hanrahan (closer); RHP Andrew Bailey, LHP Craig Breslow, RHP Junichi Tazawa, RHP Koji Uehara, LHP Andrew Miller, LHP Franklin Morales or RHP Alfredo Aceves.

In the mix: RHP Daniel Bard, RHP Clayton Mortensen.

Prospects of note: RHP Alex Wilson, RHP Brock Huntzinger, RHP Aaron Kurcz

Organizational depth: RHP Oscar Villarreal, RHP Pedro Beato, RHP Anthony Carter, RHP Jose De La Torre.

Breakdown: The Red Sox have 10 relievers generally deserving of a roster spot and probably only seven openings available in the bullpen. Something has to give. Hanrahan, Breslow and Uehara are sure things if healthy. Tazawa proved he belonged last season with a strong 37 appearances (1.43 ERA, 45 strikeouts in 44 innings). Bailey and Aceves are trade candidates, as are Miller and Morales. Or will the Sox keep three lefties? Bard is a wild card after last season's disaster and Mortensen is out of options. He is a candidate to get dealt, too.

What's good: There's lots of depth and plenty of arms with strikeout stuff. ... Hanrahan has 76 saves the last two seasons along with 128 strikeouts in 128.1 innings. ... The underrated Uehara was signed as a free agent after a terrific 2012 season. ... Breslow shackles lefties but fares well against righties, too. ... Miller and Morales have big-time fastballs. ... Aceves, when focused, can do just about anything required of a pitcher and Bailey is much better than he showed last year.

What's bad: Hanrahan is a career National Leaguer who has yet to pitch for a team with a winning record. Now he's going right in the deep end. ... Bullpens thrive on set roles. So who is the set-up man? There are many candidates. ... How will Bailey handle being demoted from closer? ... Aceves was a troublemaker last season. John Farrell has made it clear he won't stand for that. ... Tazawa, for all his good work last season, was pitching for a team going nowhere last season and the pressure was slight. This season will be more of a true gauge of his potential.

Theme song: "Too Much Of Anything" by The Who.

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