Still writing about baseball as long as I can … 

THE RED SOX PAYROLL will have a little flexibility next year. According to a wonderfully informative website (mlbcontracts.blogspot.com), Boston already has $100.5 million committed to 2011.

That basically goes to 10 players, plus some bonus players like Jose Iglesias ($2 million) and Junichi Tazawa ($1 million) and deferred payments.

The 10 include (salary amounts are in millions, of course): Josh Beckett (17), John Lackey (15.95), J.D. Drew (14), Kevin Youkilis (12.25), Daisuke Matsuzaka (10.33), Mike Cameron (7.75), Jon Lester (5.75), Dustin Pedroia (5.75), Marco Scutaro (5.5) and Tim Wakefield (2).

Assuming Wakefield retires, Boston still needs 16 players for its major league roster.

If Boston picks up David Ortiz’s $12.5 million option, the payroll is at $113 million.

Four players are eligible for arbitration: Jonathan Papelbon (who made 9.35 in 2010), Hideki Okajima (2.75), Jacoby Ellsbury (0.5) and Jarrod Saltalamacchia (0.4). Okajima is likely gone and so let’s estimate about $15 million for the other three, with Papelbon getting the lion’s share.

The total then is $128 million for 13 players.

Add eight players who come cheap because of their lack of seniority: Clay Buchholz, Daniel Bard, Jed Lowrie, Scott Atchison, Darnell McDonald, Eric Patterson, Rich Hill and Felix Doubront. Hill and Doubront are no locks for the bullpen, but I’m an optimist.

Those eight cost only about $4.5 million. That makes 21 players for $132.5 million.

All Boston needs to find is a catcher, third baseman and two relievers. Based on this year’s $168 million payroll, the Red Sox have some money to invest.

Maybe Adrian Beltre is headed for bigger bucks and the West Coast. But there is always Victor Martinez to throw some cash at.

THE BULLPEN may also include Michael Bowden, but he still has options for the minors in 2011.

Regardless, Boston needs a solid setup arm to go with Bard. The Tampa Bay Rays are cutting payroll for next year. Closer Rafael Soriano may not be interested in coming to Boston, but how about Joaquin Benoit? (He has a 1.39 ERA, and 0.67 walks/hits per inning).

For all the talk about getting a “big bat,” Boston simply cannot have a horrible bullpen like this year.

THAT PERILOUS ‘PEN included Papelbon registering career highs in ERA (4.02), blown saves (eight), walks (26) and home runs allowed (seven).

Papelbon’s talent is there so it appears the Red Sox will cross their fingers with him in 2011.

ONE MORE BULLPEN note concerns Manny Delcarmen. Interesting how his numbers worsened since helping Boston to the World Series title in 2007, with a 2.05 ERA. Since then, his ERA rose to 3.27, 4.53 and then 4.70 with Boston this year until he was dealt to Colorado.

With the Rockies, Delcarmen has allowed 12 hits, four walks and six earned runs over 8 1/3 innings.

SPEAKING OF THE Rays cutting payroll, first baseman Carlos Pena will be a free agent. While Pena, 32, had 28 home runs and 82 RBI, he was batting only .195, heading into the weekend.

Would he be a fit for Boston? What if the Red Sox signed him to a one-year deal with incentives and options (a la Beltre, but cheaper)?

Youkilis could move to third base (if his thumb completely heals), and Pena would serve as a bridge (love that word) to Anthony Rizzo.

REYMOND FUENTES, Boston’s first-round draft pick in 2009, was named the ninth-best prospect in the Carolina league by Baseball America. Fuentes, 19, batted .270 in his first full pro season, recording 42 stolen bases.

Fuentes likely moves to advanced Class A Salem next year. Depending on his performance, he could be in Portland later in 2011, or in 2012.

2014, Fuentes could be the Red Sox starting center fielder at the age of 23.

By the way, Ellsbury, whose agent is Scott Boras, becomes a free agent after the 2013 season.

DAVID MURPHY, the former Sea Dogs and Red Sox outfielder, filled in well for Texas in Josh Hamilton’s absence. Murphy batted .355 in September with three home runs and 17 RBI, until he strained a groin muscle on Sept. 29.

THE SEA DOGS’ schedule was released last week, with the season opener April 7 at Hadlock Field. The road schedule appears kinder to the Sea Dogs with 25 of the 71 road games in New England (either New Britain or Manchester, N.H.)

Tickets go on sale Saturday, Nov. 6 at 9 a.m. Ticket prices remain the same for the fourth straight year — $9 (box seats), $8 (reserve) and $7 (general admission). For seniors (62 and over) and kids (16 and under), the prices are $8, $7 and $4.

THE ALTOONA CURVE, Pittsburgh’s Double-A affiliate, won the Eastern League, and the Curve’s Matt Walbeck was named league Manager of the Year. You would think the Pirates, with their triple-digit losses in the majors, would applaud success. But the Pirates fired Walbeck last week.

Walbeck told Cory Giger of the Altoona Mirror that he was not given a specific reason for his dismissal, “just that it wasn’t going to be a good fit.”

Giger’s take on the situation: “The Pirates simply look bad for not being able to find a place in their organization for a guy who clearly knows how to win. … That’s a big reason why they don’t.”

Staff Writer Kevin Thomas can be reached at 791-6411 or at:

kthomas@pressherald.com