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No final decision on Jackie Bradley as last roster spots come into focus

03.26.13 at 8:18 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — The Red Sox had their final off-day of the spring on Tuesday, and while a few players trickled in and out of the park to work out in the weight room or to take part in limited baseball activity or rehab programs, the only member of the team to play was John Lackey, who pitched parts of six innings in a Triple-A game.

Despite the relative inactivity, however, the Sox came closer to defining their Opening Day roster. The team released first baseman Lyle Overbay after a spring in which the first baseman hit .220 with a .327 OBP and .341 slugging mark. (Overbay, who cleaned out his locker on Tuesday morning, was almost immediately signed by the Yankees.)

The Sox now have a pretty clear picture of 11 of the 13 players with whom they’ll break camp. As it currently stands, barring injury (or, in the case of Stephen Drew, faster-than-expected recovery), the team will feature:

Catchers (2): Jarrod Saltalamacchia, David Ross

Infielders (5): Mike Napoli, Dustin Pedroia, Will Middlebrooks, Jose Iglesias, Pedro Ciriaco

Outfielder (4): Jonny Gomes, Daniel Nava, Jacoby Ellsbury, Shane Victorino

As of now, that leaves four candidates for the remaining two position jobs, with the decision about those candidates to affect the team’s other opening in the bullpen:

OF Jackie Bradley (LH)

1B/OF Mike Carp (LH)*

1B Mauro Gomez (RH)*

OF Ryan Sweeney (LH)

* – On 40-man roster

According to multiple team sources, the final decision on Bradley and the final two roster spots has yet to be made. There is unanimity that Bradley has had an amazing spring, showing a far-ranging skill set that is mature beyond any reasonable expectation given his one year in the minors.

If the team keeps Bradley, it would be, of course, as an everyday left fielder, something that would mean that Gomes and Nava almost certainly would share at-bats as the designated hitter. In that scenario, then, Carp (like Nava, a left-handed hitting first baseman/outfielder) would likely be a redundant option to Nava on the bench. Hence, there’s a good chance that the team would create a 40-man roster spot for Bradley by removing Carp from the roster, with a strong likelihood that he would be claimed by another team off waivers (or traded for minimal return). The roster would then be rounded out by either Gomez — who would represent a right-handed option who is already on the 40-man roster — or Sweeney (a left-handed hitter who could play all three outfield spots).

In some ways, given that the team doesn’t appear to have a pressing need for a right-handed pinch-hitter (of the everyday players, only center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury and, presuming he’s on the team, Bradley are left-handed, and neither is limited to facing right-handers), and that Gomez is defensively limited to first base (he hasn’t been playing at third this spring), Sweeney would appear the better complement better capable of creating a well-rounded roster.

However, if the team adds both Bradley and Sweeney, it would require two 40-man roster spots. Carp would be cleared from the 40-man for one spot, but the need for a second could have implications for the battle for the seventh and last bullpen spot behind Joel Hanrahan, Andrew Bailey, Andrew Miller, Junichi Tazawa, Koji Uehara and Alfredo Aceves. While Clayton Mortensen, in a vacuum, appears more likely to remain on the roster than Daniel Bard, that’s not set in stone, particularly after Bard’s strong appearance (3 strikeouts, up to 97 mph, swing-and-miss slider and some good changeups) against the Phillies. And because Mortensen is out of options, while he’s performed well this spring and would seem to have value as a multi-innings reliever, the team could create a second 40-man spot by removing him from the roster (trying to outright him to the minors but, in the likely event he was claimed, either trading him or letting him get claimed) and carrying Bard on the big league roster.

Still, though Carp appears somewhat redundant, there are scenarios in which that would not be the case. For instance, even if the team carried Bradley, against some right-handed pitchers, if Victorino needed a day off, the team could play Bradley in right, Nava in left and have Carp serve as the left-handed DH. That idea might have appeal given the intrigue about Carp’s upside — he’s not far removed from a very promising 2011 season that was in line with an impressive minor league track record — and he’s both young (27) and inexpensive not just for 2013 but also for years to come, as he remains under team control for four more years.

If the team kept Carp and Bradley, then it would still need to create a 40-man spot. Conceivably, that could render Mortensen vulnerable, though he might be valuable enough that the team would consider removing another player with options who was scheduled to open the year in the minors from its 40-man roster.

If the team elected not to keep Bradley, then the team would likely open the year with a lineup that would feature Nava, Johnny Gomes and Carp splitting at-bats between left field and DH. The need for a strong outfield defensive option like Sweeney likely would increase, with Gomez representing (again) something of a dark horse. A 40-man spot for Sweeney likely would come at the expense of Mortensen or a minor leaguer.

So, the final determinations are left to be made. With Sweeney having an opt-out on March 28, however, the team will likely meet over the next couple of days to finalize its thoughts, with the intention of having the situation resolved during the week (rather than waiting until the final day of camp on Saturday to define the final 25-man roster).

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