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Red Sox comfortable so far with rotation options

03.09.12 at 12:07 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. ‘€“ It’€™s early — too early — to draw conclusions.

The Red Sox remain open-minded as they continue to watch the competition for the back of their rotation unfold. It is too early for them to have selected favorites, and even with Daniel Bard having shown no hiccups thus far in his conversion from the bullpen to the rotation, the Sox have not yet penned his name into the rotation.

Instead, according to a team source, the team continues to evaluate a group of five pitchers — Bard and right-handers Alfredo Aceves and Vicente Padilla as well as lefties Andrew Miller and Felix Doubront — to round out the last two rotation spots and to achieve the best mix for their pitching staff.

To date, the biggest change to the rotation competition has been the fact that Carlos Silva‘€™s shoulder inflammation has removed him as a candidate. Aaron Cook and Ross Ohlendorf, both signed to minor league deals, have yet to pitch in games while being held to conservative throwing programs, and so while they may prove capable of entering the conversation about Red Sox rotation options down the road, they have yet to do so.

All of that said, as the second turn of the rotation completes, the Red Sox mostly feel good about what they’€™ve seen in camp to date. There is no sense of panic, or a need by the front office to suddenly change course.

On many occasions, Red Sox officials said this winter that they would keep an open mind to the idea of adding starters either during spring training or during the season. That remains the case.

However, at this stage of the spring, the Sox have not felt any mandate to hit the reset button on the way in which they are approaching the back of the rotation. While they will keep an eye out for trade candidates, the team feels comfortable with the starting candidate pool already in its camp.

Bard and Aceves both showed excellent stuff in their second outings (and first multi-inning appearances) of the spring. Bard’€™s fastball was 94-98 mph with life; Aceves showed a full, wide-ranging pitch mix that underscored that he has starter’€™s stuff.

Doubront had a less-than-perfect line as he pitched two-plus innings on Thursday, permitting two runs on three hits and three walks while striking out two, and he threw nearly as many balls (23) as strikes (24). Yet all of that damage (and his more extreme command woes) came in his third inning of work; in the first two, he showed a low-90s fastball that he kept down in the zone, a swing-and-miss curveball, a solid change and a cutter.

‘€œHe threw the ball well. He’€™s a good pitcher,’€ said manager Bobby Valentine. ‘€œI thought he threw the ball extremely well until he got out of his rhythm. He wasn’€™t feeling good about his leg mechanic. I think he took the idea of slowing the day down a little literally.’€

Padilla’€™s stuff and command has impressed the Sox both in his side work and in his one appearance in a Grapefruit League game, in which he threw two scoreless innings.

Miller, likewise, has shown promise and progress in the strides he’€™s made with his delivery in an effort to keep his rarely seen stuff over the plate. He suffered what has been characterized as a minor setback when experiencing triceps inflammation, but the Sox anticipate that he will soon throw a side session and then, barring a setback, get back on a game schedule.

In their own ways, all five of those pitchers have shown the making of starters’€™ arsenals at this early stage of camp. That, in turn, has given the Sox some confidence about the fashion in which they’€™re rounding out their rotation.

Of course, even if the Sox were interested in trading for pitchers, it is still too early in spring for a real market to materialize. So, the team will more likely be figuring out later this spring whether an upgrade is necessary or even possible.

But to date, the Sox have seen nothing to suggest that their program of seeking quality through quantity in their back-of-the-rotation options requires tweaking.

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