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‘Interesting decisions’ to make on Tim Wakefield and the Red Sox bullpen

03.18.11 at 10:33 am ET

FORT MYERS, Fla. — In several different ways and on several occasions, Terry Francona was asked Friday morning about the role – and future – of Tim Wakefield on the Red Sox.

Francona has been around long enough to avoid stepping on that landmine.

Asked about the intense competition among the team’s relievers, Red Sox manager Terry Francona said Friday the next two weeks leading up to Opening Day in Texas will be ‘stressful’ for he and the pitchers in the bullpen.

“I would never sit here and talk about someone being [on the roster],” Francona said. “I can’t do that. That’s so disrespectful to players. I would never do that. That would be awful. You guys [media] are going to start nitpicking and try to make the bullpen.”

The projected pieces of the Red Sox bullpen includes closer Jonathan Papelbon, set-up men Daniel Bard and Bobby Jenks, righty Dan Wheeler with righties Wakefield, Alfredo Aceves, Matt Albers and Scott Atchison and lefties Hideki Okajima, Andrew Miller and Dennys Reyes competing for the final one or two spots.

“If I sit here and tell you everybody that’s in the bullpen, then whoever’s not, is going [to know]. That’s not a good way to do it.”

Francona was asked specifically about the plans for the knuckleballer Wakefield, who could share middle and long relief roles with Aceves if the team chooses to keep both.

“These guys have a stressful couple of weeks ahead of them. I’m not going to make it worse,” Francona said when asked if Wakefield’s spot on the roster was assured. “We’re going to have decisions to make. It’s going to be tough on some guys because they probably deserve to make the team.”

[Terry Francona explains the intense competition for spots in the Red Sox bullpen, including Wakefield.]

Wakefield will start Friday night’s split squad game against the Rays in Port Charlotte. Wakefield will be making his fourth appearance of the spring but his first start. He has had an effective spring, allowing nine hits and only two earned runs in 6 2/3 innings for a 2.70 ERA.

Aceves is 0-1 with a 3.48 ERA in four appearances, including two starts. He has allowed 10 hits in 10 1/3 innings.

“Their styles aren’t similar but they both can pitch out of the bullpen and they both can start. We’re going to have some interesting decisions to make here come this last week. Fortunately, guys have really shown well and it’s going to be interesting.”

Of course, those “interesting” decisions won’t be made by Francona alone as GM Theo Epstein, asst. GM Ben Cherington and pitching coach Curt Young will all have input.

“Curt and I and Theo and Ben will sit down – as we have been – and try to make the best decisions, not only for Opening Day but for the organization. It’s going to be tough,” Francona reiterated.

Wakefield is 44 while Aceves is 29.

“In the past, we’ve had real tough decisions,’ Francona said. “I just think this year it’s a little different because I think we feel like we have good depth. Sometimes you’re making decisions out of ‘Uh oh, somebody’s gotta emerge here,’ or you’re scrambling. Last year, we brought [Scott] Schoeneweis in late. This year, we feel like we’ve got a lot of good decisions to make. It’s going to be tough on some guys because they probably deserve to make the team.

“Nobody has really separated themselves in a bad way. Everybody has kind of done what we’d hope they’d do. We’re going to have decisions to make and it’s tough for guys but I think it’s a good way to set up your team. Anytime we have a chance to aggravate somebody, that means something is going right.”

Wakefield has been with the Red Sox since 1995 and is the longest-tenured current player in the organization. Only Chipper Jones, who broke in with the Braves in 1993, has a longer tenure with one team in MLB. Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera and Jorge Posada all debuted with the Yankees in 1995.

The team opens the 2011 season on April 1 against the defending American League champion Rangers in Arlington, Tex.

In other news, Ryan Kalish will be excused from the team on Saturday following the death of his grandfather. He will return Monday night. Minor league catcher Luis Exposito, who was cut and optioned to Triple-A Pawtucket on Thursday, was in Miami for the birth of his daughter. He is expected back in Fort Myers within the week.

Read More: 2011 Spring Training, alfredo aceves, ben cherington, Boston Red Sox
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