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UPDATE: Red Sox purchase Reyes’ contract, but still deciding on Opening Day bullpen

03.26.11 at 3:24 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — Hours before the deadline to make a decision about whether he would opt out of the minor league contract he signed in Jan., the Red Sox purchased the contract of left-hander Dennys Reyes, thus adding him to the 40-man roster. That said, manager Terry Francona also suggested that the move does not mean that Reyes necessarily has won a spot in the team’s Opening Day bullpen.

“The season hasn’t started yet. We still have some guys in camp and he’s one of them. We still have decisions to make,” said Francona. “Everybody likes the movement [of Reyes' pitches], his track record, his ability to compete. That’s kind of what we told him.”

The move gives the Sox more time to decide which two of the four pitchers still in competition (Reyes, Matt Albers, Hideki Okajima and Alfredo Aceves) for a spot on the Opening Day roster will be with the club on April 1. The Sox, said Francona, will make their decision based on what is not just in the Opening Day interests of the Sox, but also the team’s depth for the long haul.

“I don’t think that it’s a pitchoff,” said Francona. “I think it’s maybe more of us trying to determine where we best set up, not only for now, but for down the road, and how to go about that.”

Of the four pitchers still competing, the Sox can option Okajima and Aceves to the minors while keeping them in the organization. Reyes and Albers both are out of options, meaning that other teams would have the opportunity to claim them on waivers if they are not on the Opening Day roster. In terms of long-term depth, then, the Sox would likely be in their best position if they were to retain those two while stashing Aceves and Okajima in the minors, though if the team determines its best bullpen featured either Aceves or Okajima, they would not necessarily let contract status constrain them at this point.

Francona suggested that his theoretical preference is always to have two relievers, but that given the ability of his late-innings setup men — Daniel Bard and Bobby Jenks — to retire both lefties and righties, the need for a second lefty is somewhat diminished.

“I would say that it’s always nice to have two [lefties], just because it saves wear and tear on the one,” said Francona. “[But] we’re not taking Bard out when a lefty comes up. … And you can’t have a 14-man pitching staff. Sometimes you have to make those decisions.”

Reyes has allowed five runs (three earned) in nine innings for a 3.00 ERA while striking out eight and walking four this spring. Traditionally, he has been a matchup left-hander, though Francona said that he has also shown at times an ability to retire righties — as he did last year, when Reyes was uncharacteristically ineffective against lefties (.307 average, .862 OPS against) but tremendous against righties (.177, .481) — that could make him more than a “matchup guy.”

Before it was disclosed that Reyes’ contract had been purchased, the left-hander said that he is sympathetic to the Sox’ position in deciding the final composition of the roster.

“They have great pitchers, great pitchers competing. I think it’s a hard decision,” said Reyes. “It’s a hard thing for them to say. We’re going to have to wait.”

Okajima has allowed four runs in six innings (6.00 ERA), striking out six and walking one this spring. While the deception involved in his delivery has diminished as a result of the league’s familiarity with him, Francona suggested that the 35-year-old can still be valuable when he locates his pitches.

“When he pitches like he can, he’s terrific,” said Francona. “He doesn’t have a lot of margin for error because his velocity is what it is. When he’s hitting his spots and changing speeds, he’s actually terrific. If he hangs an offspeed pitch or he doesn’t locate his fastball, he gives up sometimes a long one. But he manages the running game. the game never speeds up on him. So there’s a lot of good things there.”

Albers (3 runs in 11 1/3 innings, 2.38 ERA, 13 strikeouts, no walks) has been able to get swings and misses with increased frequency this spring owing to his increased comfort in using both his slider and curveball as complements to his two-seamer to both sides of the plate. Albers said that he dusted off the slider in 2010, and became more adept with the pitch as the year progressed.

Aceves (6 runs, 13 1/3 innings, 4.05 ERA, 4 strikeouts, 3 walks) has the potential to be a versatile multi-innings reliever.

Reyes, for his part, made clear that he would love to pitch for the Red Sox in the coming season.

“I signed over here because I wanted to play for a contending team and be in the playoffs,” he said. “I think this team is in a great position to do that.”

In order to clear a spot on the 40-man roster for Reyes, the team placed right-hander Junichi Tazawa — still recovering from Tommy John surgery — on the 60-day disabled list.

OTHER NOTES

–Francona said that Josh Reddick has been dealing with some soreness in his right side. The team would like to get him healthy and ready for game activity before sending him to the minors.

–Minor league pitchers Jason Rice and Blake Maxwell will join the Sox on their trip to Houston for an exhibition game on Wednesday.

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