March 29, 2011

Sox change up pitching staff

Red Sox Notebook: Big-league veterans Hideki Okajima and Alfredo Aceves head to Triple-A.

By Kevin Thomas kthomas@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

DUNEDIN, Fla. -— The Boston Red Sox will pack up and leave Florida tonight, readying for the season opener on Friday.

Dennys Reyes
click image to enlarge

Dennys Reyes, who pitched for St. Louis in 2010, was the Sox’s clear choice this spring over Hideki Okajima as a left-handed reliever.

The Associated Press

Hideki Okajima
click image to enlarge

Hideki Okajima will start the year with Pawtucket.

The Associated Press

THE OPENER

WHO: Red Sox (Lester) vs. Texas Rangers (Wilson)

WHEN: 4:05 p.m. Friday

WHERE: The Ballpark, Arlington, Texas

TELEVISION: NESN

THE 2011 RED SOX (for now)

With Monday's transactions, the Red Sox have essentially set their 25-man major-league roster.

STARTERS: Jon Lester, John Lackey, Clay Buchholz, Josh Beckett, Daisuke Matsuzaka.

RELIEVERS: Jonathan Papelbon, Daniel Bard, Bobby Jenks, Dan Wheeler, Tim Wakefield, Dennys Reyes, Matt Albers.

CATCHERS: Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Jason Varitek.

INFIELDERS: Adrian Gonzalez, Dustin Pedroia, Marco Scutaro, Kevin Youkilis, Jed Lowrie.

OUTFIELDER: Carl Crawford, Jacoby Ellsbury, J.D. Drew, Mike Cameron, Darnell McDonald.

DH: David Ortiz.

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.

(Continued on page 2)

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