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Red Sox GM Theo Epstein checks in

02.10.11 at 11:11 am ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — GM Theo Epstein is on hand at the Red Sox minor league training facility. He concluded a morning session with the media to discuss a number of topics. Among them:

The biggest question facing the team

Health has to be the biggest question. It usually is. But in our case, we have so many players coming off of surgery or coming off of injury that we’€™re going to keep a close eye on them and really look forward to having a full squad of healthy players playing out there together.

Medical updates

Epstein repeated that first baseman Adrian Gonzalez has been consistenly on or ahead of schedule while rehabbing from shoulder surgery to repair a torn labrum. ‘€œWe all feel like he’€™ll be ready for opening day,’€ said Epstein, who noted that it remained possible that Gonzalez could beat the projected milestones of swinging by March 1 and playing in games by the third week of March.

As for Dustin Pedroia, Epstein said that the team will ‘€œtake a conservative path’€ with the second baseman, noting that the priority is for him to be playing on Opening Day, rather than in a college exhibition game later this month.

Third baseman Kevin Youkilis is in good shape, since he was hitting without restriction by October, before shutting down and then following a normal offseason program. Epstein noted that because Youkilis was able to resume hitting by the end of last year,he has already ‘€œaddressed some of the mental aspects of returning.’€

Alfredo Aceves

Epstein said that Aceves threw a pair of bullpen sessions and passed a team physical before signing. He enthused about the right-hander’€™s versatility and the former Yankee’€™s proven ability to contribute as a starter in the AL East. Epstein noted that the team was

‘€œHe’€™s a versatile guy who can compete for a job in the bullpen but also provide starting depth for us,’€ said Epstein. ‘€œThat’€™s one area where we don’€™t have a lot of depth, with the composition of our roster and where we’€™re at in the upper levels of our farm system was starting pitching. We really needed to add someone, I think, who can start major league games and compete in the American League East. ‘€¦ His versatility, his strike throwing and the fact that he’€™s pitched well in this division stood out for us and made him a target.’€

On Junichi Tazawa

Epstein said that the right-hander, who underwent Tommy John surgery last April, won’€™t be unrestricted in big league camp. He will be able to throw off a mound, but Epstein noted that ‘€œthe last two to three months of Tommy John rehab are important, and we don’€™t want to rush it by getting him in competitive situations too quickly.’€

The GM said that it remained uncertain whether he might pitch in games this spring, and that the team would know more once it conducts its medical evaluations this weekend.

On the bullpen

‘€œIt’€™s no secret that our ‘€˜pen wasn’€™t very good last year. We kind of ran out of available options of ‘€¦ guys who could compete and throw legitimate bullpen innings for us. That’€™s not a situation you want to find yourself in,’€ said Epstein of the situation that prompted the team to sign Bobby Jenks and Dan Wheeler, as well as Aceves and others.

‘€œWe should be stronger than we have been in a long time at the end of games, with Bard and Jenks setting up Pap. Wheeler, I think, is an important addition as well in the middle,’€ said Epstein. ‘€œWe have the potential to be a really good bullpen, but that doesn’€™t really mean anything. We’€™ve got to go out there and do it.’€

On the Sox’€™ signing of Te Wara ‘€œBeau’€ Bishop, the promising 17-year-old softball catcher from New Zealand:

Jon Deeble, our Pacific Rim coordinator, lives out in Australia. He sees New Zealand a lot, too. He’€™s kind of familiar with the softball community out there. There’€™s not a ton of baseball played in New Zealand, but there’€™s a lot of softball played by men of all ages. My understanding ‘€“ I’€™ve never seen him, just some video ‘€“ is that he’€™s one of the most exciting young softball prospects to come around in the last 20 years, out of New Zealand. He had a lot of people talking, and then Deeble saw him play ‘€“ the size, his athleticism, his swing and his arm strength ‘€“ and thought that he was a pretty interesting prospect. It’€™s a pretty interesting opportunity for us and for him to see what happens.

Read More: adrian gonzalez, alfredo aceves, beau bishop, bobby jenks
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