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Ben Cherington on Daniel Bard, Jose Iglesias, rotation depth and roster decisions

03.21.13 at 9:08 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — In addition to the decision-making criteria that will enter the decision about whether or not Jackie Bradley Jr. might start the year in the big leagues, Red Sox GM Ben Cherington also addressed a number of additional topics related to the roster composition of his team to open the year. Among them:

— Cherington suggested that while the organization continues to explore trade possibilities, he still anticipates that the Opening Day roster will be assembled from players already in camp.

“I think in all likelihood our opening day roster is going to be made up of guys who are here now, but we still have a number of guys who are fighting for those last spots,” said Cherington.

— Cherington suggested that right-hander Daniel Bard has made discernible progress in his return from a dreadful year in 2012. Still, he noted that there is further room for improvement as he tries to regain the form that made him one of the most dominant relievers in the game from 2009-11.

“[Bard is] a lot further ahead than where he ended the season,” said Cherington. “Probably still not all the way to where he wants to be, but sort of in the range of possibilities, he’s a lot closer to where he wants to be than where he was struggling last year. The nice thing from my standpoint, anyway, about his spring, is that we haven’t talked about it as much. At least it doesn’t seem like we have. He’s been able to just get his work and be a pitcher getting ready for the season. There’s definitely been a few outings where he’s looked pretty close, and I think he’s feeling gradually better about himself all the time. So we’ll see.”

Asked about the looming decision about whether to open the year with Bard in the majors or to send him to Triple-A — an option that might gain further credence from the fact that he has minor league options remaining — Cherington did not tip his hand.

“We started this spring with a lot of options in the bullpen,” said Cherington. “It looks like [left-handers Craig Breslow and Franklin Morales] will probably be a little bit slow out of the gate. I think as I’ve said before, this stuff tends to work itself out as time goes by. Our hope was that we had enough depth of good arms that by opening day we’ll have a lot of good options in the ‘pen. We just have to see where we get to next week.”

— Cherington reiterated that there’s “certainly an element of the unknown” regarding shortstop Stephen Drew‘s recovery and return from a concussion. He suggested that, while heartened that Drew is showing progress in his return, the team doesn’t want him to rush back for an artificial date such as Opening Day.

That, in turn, suggests a likelihood that Jose Iglesias will be the Sox’ Opening Day shortstop.

“He’s had a solid spring,” said Cherington. “He’s played consistent baseball on both sides of the ball. He’s played a lot. He’s had better at-bats, more productive at-bats. He’s made the routine play for the most part, and just looks like a more consistent player. He’s working at it and we’ve been pleased with what he’s done so far this spring.”

— The GM suggested that there have been promising signs from the pitching staff, including the fact that efforts to maintain an aggressive pace, control the running game and attack the strike zone have carried over from the back fields of early spring training to the start of games.

— While manager John Farrell had suggested that the Sox would explore the market for additional starting depth, Cherington suggested that, while the team will remain open to such deals, the organization feels as if it has solid depth options in pitchers like Alfredo Aceves as well as anticipated Triple-A starters such as Allen Webster, Chris Hernandez and Terry Doyle.

“I feel a little better than I did this time last year, in terms of our options, at least early in the season,” said Cherington. “[But] it can never be deep enough. Our job is to always be on the lookout for reinforcements. We feel pretty good about a number of the options we have, obviously in addition to the five guys that are sort of on the turn.”

For now, the team continues to view Clayton Mortensen as a multiple-innings middle reliever rather than a starting candidate, even though Cherington said that he believed the right-hander was capable of spot-starting duty. He also suggested that Rubby De La Rosa could enter the picture as a depth option, but that it will take the impressive prospect — who is entering his first full healthy season following Tommy John surgery in 2011 — some time to build up to the point where he will be a starting option.

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