Opening Day roster set?

TAMPA — The Red Sox still have three days remaining in Florida, but the club appears to be finalizing its potential Opening Day roster as its days in Fort Myers dwindle.

Barring any last-minute acquisitions via the waiver wire, the Sox appear to be leaning toward the lefthanded-hitting Chris Carter over the righthanded-hitting Jeff Bailey for the final position spot on the 25-man roster. Assuming Nick Green remains in place as the utilityman, Carter would give manager Terry Francona two lefthanded hitters (Carter, George Kottaras) to go along with two righthanded hitters (Green, Rocco Baldelli) on his bench when the season begins.

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Carter and Bailey both have had sensational springs and neither must be exposed to waivers in order to be demoted. Bailey is signed to a minor league contract, meaning the Sox would have to place him on their 40-man roster, but the team has the roster space to make that move without any difficulty. Carter has minor league options remaining and is already on the 40-man roster. He could be demoted more easily when Mark Kotsay is eligible to return from the disabled list, another factor working in his favor at this stage of the season.

Both players were likely to spend time with the major league club this year regardless of who broke camp with the team.

Acquired in the 2007 trade for Wily Mo Pena — he, in turn, was acquired for Bronson Arroyo — Carter is batting .359 with 10 RBIs and a team-leading six home runs this spring. Bailey is batting .356 with one homer and eight RBIs, albeit in 10 fewer at-bats.

Assuming Carter and Green make the team — and that Brad Penny is ready to make his first scheduled start April 12 — here is what the Opening Day roster currently projects to look like:

STARTING LINEUP
(L) Jacoby Ellsbury, CF
(R) Dustin Pedroia, 2B
(L) David Ortiz, DH
(R) Kevin Youkilis, 1B
(L) J.D. Drew, RF
(R) Jason Bay, LF
(R) Mike Lowell, 3B
(S) Jed Lowrie, SS
(S) Jason Varitek, C

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BENCH
(R) Rocco Baldelli, OF
(R) Nick Green, IF-OF
(L) George Kottaras, C
(L) Chris Carter, IF-OF

STARTING ROTATION
(R) Josh Beckett
(L) Jon Lester
(R) Daisuke Matsuzaka
(R) Tim Wakefield
(R) Brad Penny

BULLPEN
(R) Jonathan Papelbon (closer)
(R) Takashi Saito
(L) Hideki Okajima
(R) Justin Masterson
(R) Manny Delcarmen
(R) Ramon Ramirez
(L) Javier Lopez

DISABLED LIST
(R) Julio Lugo, SS
(R) John Smoltz, P
(L) Mark Kotsay, OF

Update (12:20 p.m.): Club officials told both Green and Carter that their chances of breaking camp with the team were looking good, though things could change if, for example, another player is claimed on waivers.

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