As usual, Theo Epstein has effectively overloaded the 2010 Red Sox rotation, with Jon Lester, Josh Beckett, and John Lackey owning the front end and Daisuke Matsuzaka, Clay Buchholz, Tim Wakefield, and maybe Boof Bonser competing for the final two spots.
The bullpen, led by the still-dominant Jonathan Papelbon, is not quite so prohibitively predetermined, but remains crowded. Hideki Okajima, Manny Delcarmen, Ramon Ramirez, and Daniel Bard have probably already locked up their spots, if only due to experience.
Those who fail to make the starting rotation would most likely fill the remaining bullpen openings. However, injuries and unreached expectations are an integral part of rotations and bullpens alike.
These young-gun, non-roster invitees don’t have much hope before September, but if they are to get an early call, their work in the spring could play an important role.
All of these players have been reassigned to minor-league camps.
Hometown: Sarasota, Fla.
Casey Kelly boasts a pitching arsenal composed of a low-90s fastball, a hard 12-6 curve, and a deceptive changeup.
Pitching his spring debut in his native Sarasota, the 20-year-old righty fanned two during a no-hit inning against the Baltimore Orioles.
Drafted 30th overall in the first round of the 2008 MLB Draft, Kelly chose professional baseball over college football. Once in the Red Sox organization, the versatile Kelly settled on toeing the rubber over flashing his shortstop leather.
During 2009, Kelly pitched for the Greenville Drive (A) and the Salem Red Sox (High A) and produced varying degrees of success.
With the Drive, Kelly went 6-1 with a 1.12 ERA over 48.1 innings. He issued nine free passes while striking out 39.
At Salem, Kelly was slightly less dominant, but still successful. Over 46.2 innings, Kelly posted a 3.09 ERA with 35 strikeouts and seven walks.
Hometown: Albuquerque, N.M.
Kyle Weiland commands a low-90s fastball and complements it with low-80s sliders and changeups.
Most recently, Weiland delivered two perfect innings against the Tampa Bay Rays in his Spring Training debut.
After graduating from Notre Dame, Weiland finished out 2008 with the Lowell Spinners (Low A). In Lowell, Weiland left his early mark with a 1.50 ERA over 60 innings, during which he walked 10 batters and fanned 68.
Advancing to the Salem Red Sox (High A) in 2009, Weiland followed a similar progression to Kelly. While his numbers remained impressive at the next level, Weiland wasn’t quite such a knockout, which is to be expected.
During 2009, Weiland dealt 132.2 innings and managed a 3.46 ERA while striking out 112. His primary problem was a walk ratio that ballooned from 1.50 to 3.87 walks per nine innings.
Hometown: Hagerstown, Md.
Although his high-80, four-seam and two-seam fastballs and supplementary sinkers, changeups, and sliders are nothing to write home about, Adam Mills can paint the corners and is known for his excellent ability to put the ball where he wants it.
In a particularly unimpressive spring training, Mills surrendered nine earned runs during three innings of work against the Tampa Bay Rays.
An eighth-round draft pick in 2007, the 25-year-old Mills has since spent time with the Lowell Spinners (Low A), Lancaster JetHawks (High A), Portland Sea Dogs (AA), and Pawtucket Red Sox (AAA).
At Single-A Lowell, Mills posted a strong 2.04 ERA in 35.1 innings while fanning 37.
Once promoted to Lancaster, and later to Portland, Mills didn’t dominate as hoped. For the Portland Sea Dogs, Mills could only muster a 4.24 ERA over 110.1 innings last year.
However, there is something about this kid that encourages optimism in Boston's front office, and Mills didn’t let them down when elevated to Triple-A Pawtucket last year. Through 31 innings, Mills lowered his ERA to 3.48 while striking out 16 and walking just four.
Presumably returning to Pawtucket for 2010, Mills can only hope his Spring Training performance is forgotten when the Sox need a call-up.
Hometown: West Covina, Calif.
Being a southpaw gives him an advantage competing for a big-league spot, but starter Kris Johnson has demonstrated inconsistent control, which could land him a specialist role against lefties if he ever makes the show.
In one pitching appearance against the Tampa Bay Rays this spring, Johnson failed to execute his fastball, curve, or changeup to the tune of two earned runs on two hits while recording zero outs. Johnson took the loss in that outing.
With the Lowell Spinners (Low A) in 2006, Johnson got off to a strong start, dropping a 0.88 ERA during 30.2 innings.
The following year, Johnson was mediocre with the Lancaster JetHawks (A+), but he rebounded nicely in 2008, when he delivered a 3.63 ERA and 108 strikeouts over 136.1 innings with the Portland Sea Dogs (AA).
The season in 2009 spelled a significant downturn for the Wichita State graduate. Splitting time between Portland and Pawtucket (AAA), Johnson rendered a career-worst 6.35 ERA at both levels.
His 2010 spring-training performance hasn’t helped Johnson’s image, which needs a strong 2010 with the Pawtucket Red Sox if it’s to be refurbished.
Hometown: Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
Ground-ball pitcher Randor Bierd is 26, and his high-80s fastball isn’t picking up any speed. But his slider fools righties, and his changeup may be his most effective pitch.
The Dominican and former Oriole, acquired via a 2009 deal that sent David Pauley to Baltimore, is on the verge of not being young anymore.
During 1.1 innings this spring against the Minnesota Twins and St. Louis Cardinals, Bierd achieved an ineffective 13.50 ERA, allowing four hits.
Though growing into a career minor-league pitcher, Bierd didn’t horrify anyone with his 4.91 ERA over 36.2 innings for the 2008 Orioles.
However, during his most recent appearance in the Red Sox farm system with the 2009 Pawtucket Red Sox (AAA), Bierd delivered an average 4.55 ERA in 61.1 innings.
Bierd is probably the least likely of all these young guns to ever make the big-league club.