BOSTON (CBS) – Red Sox GM Theo Epstein announced Monday morning that righty reliever Matt Albers and lefty reliever Dennys Reyes had locked up the final two bullpen and spots on the 25 man roster.
Both decisions were easy for one reason: Roster Management.
The two players that were sent down to triple-AAA Pawtucket, Hideki Okajima and Alfredo Aceves, were the only two of the four players to have options left. So, if they kept Okie and Aceves the Red Sox would have to clear Albers through waivers, while Reyes had it in his contract that he could leave.
It was a simple solution for Theo and it was to basically keep all four under team control.
This way if either Albers or Reyes struggle, they can summon one or both from Pawtucket. And, keep in mind, finding consistent relievers is not an easy thing to do from year to year. Look at last season when Okajima, Manny Delcarmen, and Ramon Ramirez struggled all season long with both Delcarmen and Ramirez being shipped out of town.
The 2011 Red Sox bullpen now looks this way:
Papelbon, Bard, Jenks, Wheeler, Albers, Reyes, and Wakefield.
How good will this group be? Who knows? Papelbon has been measured against one guy his entire career, Mariano Rivera, which is tough as Rivera is the greatest closer in the history of the game. I think Pap will be fine, but if he struggles you’ve got a guy who closed right behind you in Bobby Jenks.
Daniel Bard is one of the best weapons in baseball and owns the eighth inning (and many times the seventh too).
Meanwhile, ask any GM or manager in the game and they’ll tell you that the hardest innings to get through in today’s game are the sixth and seventh. That’s why you had all the turnover this off-season and why Jenks, Wheeler, Albers, and Reyes are here, to fix the problem that plagued the 2010 Red Sox. Jenks should be motivated as he can ink a big deal or become the Sox closer in 2012 if he pitches well. Wheeler is a veteran who will take the ball 55-70 times per season while having already pitched in the tough AL East. Reyes is coming off a solid year with St. Louis while Albers could be the sleeper. Tim Wakefield is insurance and don’t forget that in April, many times starters don’t go deep in a game. Wake can save a pitching staff if he needs to throw several 2-4 inning stints.
So there you have it. Will this bullpen be better than the 2009 group? It should be. However, you just don’t know and that’s why Okajima and Aceves are in Pawtucket.