Red Sox

Red Sox

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Given how unsettled the Red Sox bullpen situation remains, Matt Barnes couldn't have picked a better time to have what was likely his best outing of the spring.

With closer Koji Uehara (hamstring) uncertain for the opener, the Sox might be able to start the season with another reliever, however

That uncertainty extends to starter Joe Kelly, too. It's still possible that the Sox start Kelly (biceps soreness) on the DL for the first week, giving him more time to recover. The Sox don't need a fifth starter until April 12, giving them that flexibility.

That translates into the possibility of the Sox taking two relievers north that otherwise wouldn't have opened the season with them.

Barnes made a strong case for himself with his longest and best appearance of the spring. He pitched 2 1/3 innings and allowed just one hit while striking out four.

"I definitely felt good,'' said Barnes out of the outing. "I feel happy with how I've thrown the ball.''

"I thought he was very good,'' said John Farrell. "He went to his curveball a little more to get some swing and misses from some quality major league hitters.''

Most impressive was that Saturday marked the first time this spring that Barnes had come into a game in the middle of the inning. When starter Steven Wright hit a wall in the fourth and couldn't get out of the inning, Barnes came in and got an inning-ending groundout.

"It was good to be in a situation like that,'' said Barnes, "coming in in the middle of an inning. I haven't done that in a while, having to pitch through that. I was happy with that. I think one of the things you have to learn is how to control as a reliever is inheriting runners and not trying to let your energy levels spike.''

In the sixth, he finished with a flourish by striking out the side.

"We have some pending situations,'' acknowledged Farrell. "We're trying to keep all of our options open to us. There's a couple of spots in the pen that's there competition for. The way he's thrown and the way Robbie Ross has come on in the last three outings, we've got some good options from which to choose.''

"Not trying to think about that at all,'' said Barnes of the possibility of breaking camp with the team. "You start thinking about that, you kind of get ahead of yourself. The only thing I can control is going out there and pitching. I'm focused on that, getting the work in between outings and let [the organization decide].''