Boston Red Sox and Daniel Bard: Who's in the Bullpen Now?

Benjamin KleinContributor IIIDecember 11, 2011

BOSTON - OCTOBER 11: Pitcher Daniel Bard #60 of the Boston Red Sox reacts after getting a double-play in the sixth inning against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in Game Three of the ALDS during the 2009 MLB Playoffs at Fenway Park on October 11, 2009 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
Jim Rogash/Getty Images

Boston Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine and general manager Ben Cherington both confirmed this weekend that Daniel Bard will go into Spring Training as a starting pitcher.

Bard will join Jon Lester, Josh Beckett and Clay Buchholz in the rotation as Boston still searches for its fifth starter.

With this move, the void at the closer position becomes even bigger since former Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon signed with the Philadelphia Phillies earlier in free agency. 

The next most reliable reliever from last season was Alfredo Aceves, but he has also been linked to rumors of transitioning into a starting pitcher for next season. It would make sense that Boston would only send one of their two best relievers to the rotation, but since a free agent acquisition hasn't been made yet, this could be inevitable. 

Many of the big free agent closers have already been claimed in Heath Bell to the Marlins, Jonathan Broxton to the Royals, Joe Nathan to the Rangers and of course Papelbon to the Phillies.

One name to keep in mind is Ryan Madson, who declined arbitration from the Phillies after they signed Papelbon. Madson would be a nice addition to a bullpen that really needs some work. 

Dan Wheeler is currently on the free agent market as a Type B free agent and could make a return to the Red Sox in 2012. Boston has also already signed Andrew Miller and former Blue Jay Jesse Carlton to deals which could land them in the Red Sox bullpen next season. 

Matt Albers, Scott Atchison and Franklin Morales should all be fighting for a job during Spring Training as well as prospects such as Felix Doubront, Kyle Weiland and Michael Bowden.

Even though Boston has noted that it doesn't think it will re-sign veterans Jason Varitek or Tim Wakefield to new contracts, Wake could land a deal based on a lack of relievers. He would have no problem being a reliever and possibly getting a few starts during the season. Wakefield has also said that he wants to end his career in Boston. 

The last name in the bullpen mix is Bobby Jenks. He only pitched in 19 games in 2011 but could be the favorite to land the closer job if Bard makes it through Spring Training as a starter. Jenks saved 173 games in six seasons in Chicago before signing a two-year deal with Boston last season.

He is the only one with closing experience currently under contract with Boston and could save the Red Sox some money.