Contenders: Junichi Tazawa RHP, Clay Mortensen RHP, Andrew Miller LHP, Daniel Bard RHP, Alfredo Aceves, RHP
With Ben Cherington recently announcing that the team will only carry seven relievers instead of the anticipated eight, the already crowded bullpen will be squeezed even further.
Barring any unanticipated injuries, the first five spots in the bullpen are secured by: Joel Hanrahan, Andrew Bailey, Koji Uehara, Craig Breslow and Franklin Morales, assuming he doesn’t win a rotation spot.
The five aforementioned pitchers are proven veterans, all of whom have extensive late-inning experience, and two of whom are All-Stars.
The question remains—of the five contenders—which pair of pitchers will land the final two bullpen spots?
Tazawa moved up the Red Sox system as a starter and was converted to relief work in 2012. After having huge success in Pawtucket, Tazawa was called up to the majors, where he performed even better. He posted a 1.43 ERA over 44 innings of work. Tazawa has proven to be a dominant force.
Mortensen was an up-and-down major league swingman before he was shipped to Boston in the Marco Scutaro deal. While his stuff is far from overpowering, his sinker has proven effective and his changeup should elicit the occasional swing and miss. However, Mortensen’s alarming 4.1 walk rate and his very poor track record may make him expendable. He is out of options, however, so Boston would have to expose him to waivers to move him to the minors.
Former first round pick, Andrew Miller, finally found success in 2012. Routinely hitting the upper 90s on the radar gun, the lanky left-hander posted a 3.35 ERA last season and checked in a team leading 11.4 K/9 rate. Miller’s recent discovery of his astronomical potential and his value as a lefty may earn him a roster spot.
Bard and Aceves are certainly the trickiest cases. After a failed transition to the rotation, Bard was unable to regain success as a reliever in the minors. He lost several ticks on his formerly explosive fastball in the process. He has two options remaining, so starting the season in Pawtucket to regain his former dominance is likely the best approach.
After the first half of the season, Aceves fell to pieces later in 2012, exposing not only his inconsistent pitching but also his fierce temper in the clubhouse. Furthermore, his recent altercation in spring training has manager John Farrel concerned. The limited space and the fact that Aceves has an option remaining suggests that he may be left off the roster. Who knows, maybe he can be groomed as a starter in Triple-A and serve as injury insurance to the rotation.
Projected Winners: Tazawa, Miller