|Tuesday afternoon with Bobby Valentine: A fluid pitching situation||03.20.12 at 7:54 pm ET|
FORT MYERS, Fla. — The Red Sox appear likely to use a pencil as they define their pitching plans for 2012.
The team has taken a flexible approach to the shape of its pitching staff in spring training, with Daniel Bard, Alfredo Aceves, Felix Doubront, Vicente Padilla and Andrew Miller all being considered for either the rotation or bullpen. While the team will have roles for each of those hurlers (assuming they make the team) at the end of spring training, those could be subject to redefinition as the season progresses.
“You take the best of what you have and even during a season as we’ve seen many teams change their emphasis and move a starter to reliever or reliever to starter a guy who’s been on the bench to an everyday player to have the look to change a little,” said Sox manager Bobby Valentine. “I don’t think anything’s going to be in concrete here in the next week nor the next three weeks, but we’ll have a good group going forward.”
In other words, pitchers who open the year in the rotation won’t necessarily stay there for the full season, while the opposite route — from bullpen to rotation — might also remain open during the season.
“We’ve seen Texas do it last year,” Valentine noted of a team that not only stretched out Neftali Feliz in spring training before shifting him back to the closer’s role for the regular season but also had Alexi Ogando convert from the bullpen to the rotation for most of the year before moving the right-hander back to relief for the postseason. “[An in-season change is a product of] need. Bullpen springs a leak or has an injury, the starting staff needs something and I already have it and it’s easier to replace it with a minor leaguer or a bullpen than it would be in the starting staff.”
Valentine said that the decision to shift pitchers between the rotation and bullpen is a reflection of where a team has depth. If a team needs a starter and has depth in its relief corps, then making such a shift during the year is natural.
Asked whether, as things currently stand, Valentine felt he had greater depth for the rotation or bullpen, the manager denied the either/or binarism of the proposition.
“I have both, right now, because it’s early. I know the clock is ticking, but it’s still early. Everything looks rosy out here,” said Valentine. “At this time, everybody has too much pitching. There’s 30 teams who are saying, ‘How are we going to fit all these guys in?’ Give it a little time. That’s how you’re going to fit it in. Then you’re going to be in need of pitching, probably, before it’s over.”
Valentine, who on Monday said that he was uncomfortable with the shape of his bullpen because he didn’t know who would be in it, said that he is comfortable with the personnel on his pitching staff, but that he needs to use the coming couple of weeks to identify roles for everyone.
“Starting guys that have been stretched out and pitching a lot of innings will probably be pitching less innings, so we’ll have an idea as who fits in and how that group works together going forward,” said Valentine. “And we’ll have an idea of whether we’ll go with 11, 12 or 13 [pitchers] as we move north.”
– Vicente Padilla is dealing with a hamstring issue, and it remains to be seen for how long he’ll be sidelined. The injury, said Valentine, occurred in the weight room.
– Carl Crawford is now throwing from 120 feet and took 25 swings in the batting cage today. Valentine declined to define publicly his next step.
– Franklin Morales has recovered from his early-spring shoulder weakness to the point where he’ll pitch in his first Grapefruit League game on Wednesday in Bradenton against the Pirates. Morales is scheduled to throw an inning.
– Ryan Sweeney, out with a right quad injury since March 12, returned to the Sox lineup on Tuesday night and is expected to play with some frequency in the coming games in order to make up for last time in preparing for the season.
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