Sox’ final two bullpen spots comes down to numbers

The Boston Red Sox had two openings in their bullpen to fill, with four established major leaguers vying for the roles. What it boiled down to in the end was simply a case of numbers, and options.

Keith Allison via Creative Commons license

Sox manager Terry Francona informed Hideki Okajima and Alfredo Aceves that they would not be included on the Red Sox Opening Day roster, and both were optioned to Triple-A Pawtucket.

It literally came down to options, as both relievers had options remaining. However, for Dennys Reyes and Matt Albers, neither had minor league options remaining, and would have had to clear waivers before being demoted, an unlikely proposition given other teams’ interest in acquiring established veterans for added depth.

It’s really a win-win situation for the Sox, as they can continue to keep players as insurance while at the same time making sure both Okajima and Aceves get regular work to stay fresh.

Okajima fell out of favor after struggling through a difficult 2010 campaign during which he posted a 4.50 ERA and 1.72 WHIP, and was largely inconsistent throughout the season.

Reyes had an option in his contract that gave him an out if he was not included on the 40-man roster by March 31. After being added to the roster over the weekend, it became a foregone conclusion that Reyes would indeed be headed north on Opening Day.

“Last year was kind of a struggle,” Francona said about Okajima. “At the end of the year, he did pretty well. This spring he showed, for the most part, he was pretty good. But Reyes has more action on the ball, and we just want Oki to go try and get that consistency back so when he does come back, we can use him and not stay away from him. And he was pretty good about it.”

It’s a huge change for Okajima, who sparkled in his first three seasons with the Red Sox, posting a 2.79 ERA from 2007-09.

Albers had an outstanding spring for the Sox, posting a 2.84 ERA and striking out 13 over 12.2 innings. Francona plans to use Albers in more long relief situations.

Depth is never a bad thing, and while both Okajima and Aceves may be disappointed for now, no question the two will contribute at some point this season for the Sox.

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