DUNEDIN, Fla. -— The Boston Red Sox will pack up and leave Florida tonight, readying for the season opener on Friday.
Two veteran pitchers won’t make the trip.
The Red Sox sent relievers Hideki Okajima and Alfredo Aceves to Triple-A Pawtucket on Monday, opting to keep lefty Dennys Reyes and right-hander Matt Albers.
“We’re a day away from packing and it’s hard,” Boston Manager Terry Francona said. “It’s a good situation for the ballclub … I know it’s hard on the players, but it’s nice to have some depth.”
It should be a sign of improvement for the Red Sox that they don’t need Okajima, who has pitched for Boston the past four years, and that they can wait a while before they will need Aceves.
Part of the decision-making came down to contracts. Aceves, a right-hander, had minor-league options remaining, while Albers did not. If the Red Sox did not keep Albers on the roster, another team would likely grab him.
“Albers’ stuff is so good, we didn’t want to lose him,” Francona, said before Boston’s last road exhibition against the Blue Jays. None of the four pitchers affected by Monday’s decision made the trip.
Albers, 28, had a 3.55 earned-run average as a reliever for the Orioles last year. He has a 2.70 ERA this spring.
“We’re hoping Albers can give us one-plus (innings) with that two-seamer and get us some ground balls,” Francona said.
Aceves, 28, had an injury-plagued year with the Yankees in 2010, appearing in only 10 games. He will be stretched out as a starter in Pawtucket, making him available for either the rotation or bullpen if Boston needs him.
Reyes, 33, pitched for the Cardinals last year, posting a 3.55 ERA. He also was out of minor-league options, but he was a clear choice over the other lefty, Okajima.
“Reyes has more action on the ball,” Francona said. “We want Okie to go (to Pawtucket) and get that consistency back, so when he does come back, we can use him.”
Okajima, 35, starred in the 2007 championship season with a 2.22 ERA, but his numbers have climbed each year, reaching a 4.50 ERA last year. He had a 5.14 ERA this spring.
THE SOX TRIMMED another pitcher from their major league roster when left-hander Felix Doubront was placed on the disabled list. He was shut down earlier this spring because of tightness in his left elbow.
Doubront has since started throwing again, but the Red Sox are going slow with him. He is expected to eventually be assigned to Pawtucket, although he could begin the season in extended spring training.
Doubront, 23, began last season with Portland and worked his way up to the majors.
THE PAWTUCKET pitching staff is getting crowded with the additions of Okajima and Aceves. But Tommy Hottovy, 29, continues to fight for a job. Hottovy, who has pitched parts of the last five seasons with Portland, was a minor league free agent in the offseason but elected to re-sign with the Red Sox.
“With the Red Sox, they know me. They’ve invested time in me,” said Hottovy, who made the trip to Dunedin but did not pitch.
Hottovy has tinkered with his delivery and is now a side-armer, hoping to become a lefty specialist.
“It’s like I’m a whole new pitcher,” Hottovy said.
Although he was not invited to major league camp, Hottovy has still appeared in three major league spring training games (12/3 innings, no runs, two hits, two strikeouts, two walks).
Hottovy and his wife are expecting their first child this summer.
THE LOSING STREAK is no more as Boston snapped its 10-game slide with a 3-2 win over the Blue Jays in a rain-shortened seven innings. Outfielder Jeremy Hazelbaker’s two-run homer in the seventh was the difference.
“He’s getting stronger,” Francona said. “To see that swing, I’ll take that bus ride any day. That ball came off his bat good.”
Hazelbaker, 23, was a fourth-round draft pick out of Ball State in 2009. He is expected to begin this season with Class A Salem. Good numbers could push him to Portland this summer.
Mike Cameron recorded the other RBI with a single. Seth Garrison, a pitcher likely headed to Salem, pitched two scoreless innings and got the win. John Lackey had been scheduled to start but was scratched and stayed in Fort Myers because of the wet weather.
BRIAN BUTTERFIELD of Standish remains a constant with the Blue Jays coaching staff. Butterfield, 53, is now working for his fourth Toronto manager with the arrival of John Farrell.
“It’s always difficult to compare and contrast because everyone has their strength,” Butterfield said. “I know that John has an awful lot of strengths.
“I’m having an awful lot of interaction with him because we both get here early. It’s been a lot of fun.”
Butterfield, who was born in Bangor and played for the University of Maine, is in his 10th year with Toronto, now serving as the third-base coach.
He previously worked on the major league staffs of the Diamondbacks and Yankees.
Butterfield spends his offseason in Standish. He flew out of Maine on Feb. 12.
“There was a lot of snow there when I left,” he said. “And I hear there’s been a lot of snow since.”
Staff Writer Kevin Thomas can be contacted at 791-6411 or at: email@example.com