Spring training notes while the countdowns continue: Eighteen days until the Sea Dogs’ opener; 12 days until the Red Sox opener; one week until the Press Herald contingent (two of us) arrives in Florida.

THE BOSTON BULLPEN was the one area where there was actual competition for jobs.

But initially, some of those decisions may be based on contracts and minor-league options.

Five relievers are known — Jonathan Papelbon, Daniel Bard, Bobby Jenks, Dan Wheeler and Tim Wakefield.

Of the remaining candidates, only right-hander Matt Albers has no remaining minor-league options. Albers, 28, a free-agent pickup from the Orioles, has pitched well enough this spring (2.45 ERA, 0.95 WHIP — walks/hits per innings pitched).

Right-handers Alfredo Aceves and Scott Atchison, and left-hander Hideki Okajima are on the 40-man roster, but all have options to go to the minors.

Left-handers Dennys Reyes, Rich Hill and Andrew Miller are on minor-league contracts and don’t need an option to be sent to Pawtucket. But Reyes reportedly has a clause in his contract allowing him to opt out if he isn’t soon on the major-league roster.

So who dons a Boston uniform April 1 when the Red Sox play in Texas? The guess here is it will be Albers and Reyes.

Who will be key components of the bullpen later? Look for Aceves and Miller.

Felix Doubront may also factor in the mix, but his elbow soreness slowed him this spring. Once he’s strong enough, Doubront may be Boston’s first choice if a spot start is needed.

JON LESTER has been announced as the opening-day starter for the April 1 game. John Lackey will follow, then Clay Buchholz, Josh Beckett and Daisuke Matsuzaka.

This will be Lester’s first opening assignment in a while. When he was the Eastern League Pitcher of the Year for the Sea Dogs in 2005, he still wasn’t the opening starter. That honor went to Papelbon.

Lester, by the way, pitched the day after Papelbon and gave up two home runs in four innings. But the potential was there — Lester struck out seven.

CUTS CONTINUE in the major-league spring-training camp.

In the first round of cuts, 12 players expectedly were sent to the minors — pitchers Stolmy Pimentel, Jason Rice, Alex Wilson, Kyle Weiland, Tony Pena and Clevelan Santeliz; catchers Ryan Lavarnway and Tim Federowicz, infielders Oscar Tejeda, Hector Luna and Brent Dlugach, and outfielder Che-Hsuan Lin.

All but Rice, Dlugach and Luna could be in Portland this April.

The second round of cuts, made Thursday, had infielders Jose Iglesias, Lars Anderson and Yamaico Navarro, outfielder Juan Carlos Linares and catcher Luis Exposito sent to the minors.

Four of the five were designated to Triple-A Pawtucket. Linares, the only one of the five not on the 40-man roster, was simply “reassigned” to minor-league camp.

The notable move, of course, was the destination for Iglesias. Once thought to be headed back to Portland because of his lack of experience, Iglesias appears ready for Triple-A.

DAN TURPEN, the Sea Dogs’ reliever who was chosen in the Rule V draft last December by the New York Yankees, has been returned to the Red Sox.

Rule V picks must stay on a team’s 25-man major-league roster for a whole season or be sent back.

Turpen, 24, was obtained by Boston last July from the Giants in a trade for Ramon Ramirez. A hard-throwing right-hander, Turpen has potential, but his numbers haven’t been impressive beyond Class A. He appeared in 12 games for Portland last year, recording a 4.91 ERA, and 1.47 WHIP.

He could be back at Hadlock next month.

NATIONAL ANTHEM singers are invited to audition for the Sea Dogs’ season. The auditions will be held from 8 to 9 a.m. April 9 at Hadlock Field. Pre-registration is required. See www.seadogs.com for more information.

PATRIOTS TIGHT END Rob Gronkowski will appear at the Sea Dogs’ game April 12, throwing out the first pitch and being available for autographs.

THIS WEEK’S BOOK review concerns a gem for baseball fans, especially those who root for the Pinstripes. “Derek Jeter From the Pages of The New York Times” is a 224-page coffee-table type book full of photos, stories and quotes about one of the most remarkable players in the game.

The stories span from 1992, when Jeter was drafted, to the summer of 2010. The book became available this month.

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

[email protected]