Red Sox

Francona still unsure of final bullpen spot


Francona still unsure of final bullpen spot

By MaureenMullen

FORT MYERS, Fla. The Red Sox entered spring training with very few roster questions, an enviable position for any team. With just over a week remaining before 25-man rosters must be set for the regular season, one question still remains: Who will get the remaining bullpen spot?

Manager Terry Francona said Tuesday he's not sure which reliever will be the answer to that question.

Francona planned to meet with pitching coach Curt Young, general manager Theo Epstein, and other members of the front office after Tuesday nights game against the Rays to map out a plan to get innings for as many pitchers as possible, as the available innings begin to dwindle.

Were getting to a point where innings are going to be at a premium, Francona said. So certainly there are going to have to be some innings at the minor-league complex, innings in big-league games. So well sit and map that out.

Thursday Clay Buchholz is starting on the road in Jupiter against the Marlins. And if he does what we hope, hes going to get pretty deep into that game. Wed certainly like to see guys pitching in a major-league game, but we also dont want to just take them all the way to Jupiter so they can have a sandwich. That doesnt do anybody any good. So, were trying to map that out a little bit.

Still in the mix are left-handers Felix Doubront, Rich Hill, Andrew Miller, Dennys Reyes, and Randy Williams, and right-handers Alfredo Aceves, Matt Albers, Scott Atchison, Michael Bowden, and Brandon Duckworth. This group assumes Tim Wakefield and Hideki Okajima have bullpen spots.

Hill, Miller, Reyes, Williams and Duckworth are all non-roster invitees and would have to be added to the 40-man roster, which is currently full. So, if one of them gets the job, someone will have to come off the 40-man.

According to a source, the Red Sox released right-hander Albers Wednesday to allow him to play in Japan. The Sox, however, have denied the report. Albers is out of options and must clear waivers if the team attempts to send him to the minors. Earlier this week, Sean McAdam reported the Red Sox were shopping Albers to other major-league teams.

Albers, who signed as a free agent in December, has appeared in seven Grapefruit League games, compiling a 1.80 ERA with one save. He's given up two earned runs over 10 innings with eight hits, no walks, and 11 strikeouts. In five big league seasons, with the Astros and Orioles, he has combined record of 15-25, with a 5.11 ERA in 181 games (23 starts).

Aceves, Atchison, Bowden and Doubront have options and could be sent to Pawtucket to start the season. This would also allow the Sox to maintain pitching inventory within the organization in case of injury or ineffectiveness at the big league level.

Doubront, though, was set back by elbow tightness early this spring and has yet to appear in a Grapefruit League game. He pitched two innings of a simulated game on Monday.

Duckworth, Miller, Hill, Williams and Reyes are on minor-league contracts and could start the season in Pawtucket, though Reyes has an 'out' clause in his contract that would allow him to declare free agency if he's not placed on the major-league roster.

In five games, spanning eight innings, Duckworth has posted a record of 2-0, but with a 5.62 ERA, with five hits, six walks, and six strikeouts. He has allowed runs in three of his five outings. In eight seasons, with the Phillies, Astros, and Royals, he has a combined record of 23-34 (5.28) in 134 games (84 starts).

Miller had a difficult outing Sunday against the Cardinals, facing six batters and not recording an out. In seven games, spanning 7 23 innings, he has a 10.57 ERA. Miller has a clause guaranteeing his 3 million option for 2012 if the Sox designate him for assignment and another team claims him off waivers.

Hill has not allowed a run in seven appearances, spanning 8 23 innings, giving up five hits and three walks with six strikeouts. But he may be better served refining his new sidearm delivery in Pawtucket. He appeared in six games for the Sox last season.

In eight games this spring, spanning 9 23 innings, Williams has given up three earned runs for a 2.79 ERA, with six hits, four walks and 10 strikeouts. He appeared in 27 games for the White Sox last season, posting a record of 0-1 with a 5.40 ERA. At 35, he is the oldest of the lefties, but has just 1 year and 87 days of major league service.

Reyes may be the most intriguing of the group. He got to camp late, delayed by visa issues from his native Mexico. He will turn 34 in April and has pitched for 10 teams over 14 big-league seasons. He has appeared in eight games, spanning eight innings, giving up two runs, one earned, for a 1.12 ERA.

Reyes' 'out' clause kicks in Friday. As of Tuesday, he had not heard anything from the team, but feels hes had ample opportunity to show what he can do.

Pitching-wise, I think I cant do anything else, he said. I do my best. I show them everything I got, and its going to be their decision. Whether they like to keep me or keep somebody else, its their decision.

Late sink, good sink, and a little bit of a late-breaking breaking ball, Francona said of what he has seen from Reyes this spring. Those are the decisions that are hard to make. He does have a pretty good track record. But those are decisions that we have to make, and I think I feel better -- Im glad were going to meet as a group because it usually helps.

Maureen Mullen is on Twitter athttp:twitter.commaureenamullen

Why the Red Sox should sign not one but two relievers


Why the Red Sox should sign not one but two relievers

BOSTON — There is a world outside of Giancarlo Stanton. 

Stanton, at this point, simply doesn’t appear likely to end up in Boston. That should feel obvious to those following along, and so should this: it can change. 

But there are other pursuits. Besides their search for a bat or two, the Red Sox have been actively pursuing left-handed relief options. Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski is a fast mover, but this year’s market has not been.


Robbie Ross Jr. and Fernando Abad are both free agents, leaving Robby Scott as the lone incumbent southpaw from last season's primary group. Brian Johnson is bound for the pen, with Roenis Elias as a depth option too.  Still, even if Johnson’s transition pans out, the Sox still have an opening for a late-inning reliever with the departure of free agent Addison Reed. 

Reed is a righty, but between Matt Barnes, Joe Kelly, Heath Hembree, Carson Smith, and Craig Kimbrel, the Sox have more right-handed choices than left. Coming back from surgery, Tyler Thornburg, should be in the mix eventually too, but it's difficult to expect too much from him.

What the Red Sox should do: sign one of each for the bullpen, one righty, and one lefty. And then trade a righty or two. Turn some of that mishmash into an addition elsewhere. Be creative. 

Because inevitably, come midseason, the Sox will want to add another bullpen arm if they sign just one now. Why wait until you have to give up prospect capital when you can just add the piece you want now?

Go get a near-sure thing such as Pat Neshek, a veteran who walks no one and still strikeouts a bunch. At 37 with an outgoing personality, Neshek also brings leadership to a team that is looking for some. He walked just six guys in 62 innings last season. Entering his 12th season in the majors, he’s looking for his first ring.

All these top of the market relievers may be handsomely paid. But relievers are still something of a bargain compared to position players and starting pitchers. One of the key words for this winter should be creativity. If there’s value to be had in the reliever market, capitalize on it. 

Comeback kid Mike Minor, Jake McGee and Tony Watson headline the crop of free agent lefties available. Brad Hand of the Padres could also be had by trade but his market isn’t moving too quickly (and he won’t come cheaply).

Minor, 29, who posted a 2.55 ERA in 2017 after health issues kept him out of the majors in 2015-16, is expected to be paid handsomely. He is also open to the idea of potentially starting if a team is interested in him doing so. The Royals reportedly could give him that shot.

McGee’s American League East experience could be appealing.

He's 31 and had a 3.61 ERA with the Rockies in 2017 and has a 3.15 ERA lifetime. He’s not quite the strikeout pitcher he was earlier in his career — he had an 11.6 K/9 in 2015 — but a 9.1 K/9 is still very strong, particularly when coupled with just 0.6 homers allowed per nine.

For what it’s worth: McGee has also dominated the Red Sox, who have a .125 average, .190 on-base percentage and .192 slugging against him in 117 regular-season plate appearances. 

McGee throws a mid-90s fastball with a low-80s slider. He can operate up in the zone, and he actually has been even more effective against righties than lefties in his career, including in 2017. McGee’s been a closer, too, with 44 career saves.

The Sox had the second-best bullpen in the majors by ERA in 2017, at 3.07. Yet, come the postseason, there wasn’t a sense of great confidence or even a clear shape to the pecking order behind one of the absolute best relievers in the game, Kimbrel. 

HOFer Joe Morgan's letter urges voters to keep steroid users out of Hall


HOFer Joe Morgan's letter urges voters to keep steroid users out of Hall

Hall of Fame second baseman Joe Morgan is urging voters to keep “known steroid users” out of Cooperstown.

A day after the Hall revealed its 33-man ballot for the 2018 class, the 74-year-old Morgan argued against the inclusion of players implicated during baseball’s steroid era in a letter to voters with the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. The letter from the vice chairman of the Hall’s board of directors was sent Tuesday using a Hall email address.

Read the full text of Morgan's letter here. 

“Steroid users don’t belong here,” Morgan wrote. “What they did shouldn’t be accepted. Times shouldn’t change for the worse.”

Hall voters have been wrestling with the issue of performance-enhancing drugs for several years. Baseball held a survey drug test in 2003 and the sport began testing for banned steroids the following year with penalties. Accusations connected to some of the candidates for the Hall vary in strength from allegations with no evidence to positive tests that caused suspensions.

About 430 ballots are being sent to voters, who must have been members of the BBWAA for 10 consecutive years, and a player needs at least 75 percent for election. Ballots are due by Dec. 31 and results will be announced Jan. 24.

Writers who had not been covering the game for more than a decade were eliminated from the rolls in 2015, creating a younger electorate that has shown more willingness to vote for players tainted by accusations of steroid use. Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens each received a majority of votes for the first time in 2017 in their fifth year on the ballot.

Morgan said he isn’t speaking for every Hall of Famer, but many of them feel the same way that he does.

“Players who failed drug tests, admitted using steroids, or were identified as users in Major League Baseball’s investigation into steroid abuse, known as the Mitchell Report, should not get in,” Morgan wrote. “Those are the three criteria that many of the players and I think are right.”

Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines and Ivan Rodriguez were inducted into the Hall of Fame in July. They were joined by former Commissioner Bud Selig and retired Kansas City and Atlanta executive John Schuerholz, who were voted in by a veterans committee.

Some baseball writers said the election of Selig, who presided over the steroids era, influenced their view of whether tainted stars should gain entry to the Hall.

Morgan praised BBWAA voters and acknowledged they are facing a “tricky issue,” but he also warned some Hall of Famers might not make the trip to Cooperstown if steroid users are elected.

“The cheating that tainted an era now risks tainting the Hall of Fame too,” he wrote. “The Hall of Fame means too much to us to ever see that happen. If steroid users get in, it will divide and diminish the Hall, something we couldn’t bear.”

© 2017 by The Associated Press