By Jeff Louderback
Earlier in the offseason, Red Sox president Larry Lucchino told the media that the club would build “deep depth” for 2013 after a rash of injuries depleted the roster last year. That goal has been accomplished with the array of transactions during the Hot Stove League, and there is no deeper area than the bullpen.
Entering spring training, the Red Sox project Joel Hanrahan as the closer; right-handers Andrew Bailey, Junichi Tazawa and Koji Uehara and left-handers Franklin Morales, Craig Breslow and Andrew Miller as set-up men; and rubber-armed Alfredo Aceves as a versatile long reliever and set-up man.
Daniel Bard – who is just 27 and was one of the best relievers in baseball until an abysmal 2012 campaign when he was moved into the rotation, lost his command and confidence, and struggled in the majors and at Triple-A Pawtucket – has reportedly regained his mechanics and could be a major late-inning factor this year.
The Red Sox also have 26-year-old right-hander Alex Wilson, a second round selection out of Texas A&M in 2009 who was converted into a full-time reliever last season and looked impressive at Pawtucket; along with 27-year-old right-hander Clayton Mortensen, who logged a 3.21 ERA for the Red Sox last season in 26 appearances.
The versatility of Boston’s bullpen also enhances the team’s rotation depth. Morales, Aceves, Tazawa and Mortensen can make spot starts, if needed, and Morales even has upside as a potential middle of the rotation starter.
Do the math and that makes 11 relievers competing for seven spots in the Red Sox bullpen. Wilson has all three options remaining, so he can open the 2013 campaign at Pawtucket. Hanrahan, Tazawa, Uehara, Morales, Aceves and Breslow are likely to secure spots on the opening day roster.
Bailey, Miller and Mortensen are all trade candidates for different reasons. With Hanrahan slated as the closer, Bailey could interest a team in need of filling that role. Miller and Mortensen are out of options. Any of the three could help yield the Red Sox a left-handed hitter who can play first base and the the outfield.
A darkhorse candidate for the Red Sox bullpen – at least at some point in 2013 if injuries arise at the Major League level – is 27-year-old right-hander Jose De La Torre. Acquired from Cleveland last July for Brent Lillibridge, De La Torre owns a 2.84 ERA and a 1.24 WHIP with 351strikeouts in 339.2 innings over five minor league seasons in the Mets and Indians organizations.
Featuring four-seam and two seam fast balls, a plus slider and a change-up, De La Torre delivered a strong performance in the Puerto Rican Winter League and is scheduled to pitch for Puerto Rico in the upcoming World Baseball Classic. He has a chance to make his Major League debut this season.