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Sox sign Joe Nelson to minor league deal

02.01.10 at 8:10 pm ET

A baseball source has confirmed that the Red Sox have agreed to a minor league deal with right-handed reliever Joe Nelson. The deal was first reported by Ken Rosenthal of FoxSports.com (via Twitter).

The move is a low-risk one with some potential payoff for the Red Sox, given that Nelson is two years removed from a season when his numbers were among the best of any National League reliever.

The Sox were looking to add more bullpen arms into a back-end competition that currently includes right-handers Scott Atchinson, Boof Bonser, Ramon A. Ramirez and Robert Manuel and left-handers Dustin Richardson, Brian Shouse and Fabio Castro. Because most of the Sox bullpen is settled (with Jonathan Papelbon at the end, and Hideki Okajima, Daniel Bard, Manny Delcarmen and Ramon Ramirez all but certain to take key set-up roles), it seemed they would likely have a difficult time selling their opportunity to an established reliever.

“We can always add depth and create competition in spots. There is already some competition. With the  numbers in the ‘€˜pen, we have to whittle it down,” GM Theo Epstein said on Friday. “We’€™re always on the lookout for more additions if they make sense. We don’€™t necessarily have great opportunities to sell at this point with certain aspects of our club, but if somebody is prepared for some competition maybe we could be the right landing spot for some guys on a minor-league deal.”

Apparently, Nelson proved open to just such an opportunity.

Nelson, 35, was 3-0 with a 4.02 ERA for the Tampa Bay Rays last year, striking out 36 in 40.1 innings. He suffered command difficulties, however, as he walked 27 batters. That — and his $1.9 million deal in 2009 — came on the heels of a career-best 2008 season, when he had a 2.00 ERA and struck out 60 in 54 innings for the Florida Marlins.

Nelson was previously in the Red Sox system in both 2002 and 2004. Though most of his first stint in the organization was lost to injury, when healthy in 2004, he recorded a 2.96 ERA and 80 strikeouts in 51.2 combined innings in Double A and Triple A, and he appeared in three games (allowing five runs in 2.2 innings) in the majors.

His signature pitch is “The Vulcan,” a changeup that he throws with a grip reminiscent of the greeting offered by Star Trek’s Dr. Spock.

Read More: joe nelson, vulcan,
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