Red Sox crowded bullpen taking shape due to injuries

Franklin Morales and Craig Breslow, two relievers near the bottom of the bullpen pecking order, have been struggling with injuries throughout camp. Word out of Florida this morning is that Breslow (left shoulder) is questionable/unlikely to be ready Opening Day. Morales, who has not pitched since February 27 with lower back issues, is slated to play catch from 75 feet today. When asked his chances of being ready for Opening Day, John Farrell said that the next five to seven days will determine a lot.

Before these injuries, the top five spots in the bullpen were set in stone: Joel Hanrahan, Andrew Bailey, Koji Uehara, Junichi Tazawa, Craig Breslow. Lefties Andrew Miller and Franklin Morales were most likely to break camp on the Opening Day roster, filling out the sixth and seventh spots. Daniel Bard has much to prove before he is big league ready, and he still has options. Alfredo Aceves has been a headache, and is on a non-guaranteed contract. Clayton Mortensen was productive last year (3.21 ERA), but actually pitched much worse than that (4.74 FIP).

Now that two of the top seven, Morales and Breslow, might start the season on the DL, who will step into their places? Losing two of your three lefties is not good, but hopefully these injuries will only sideline the relievers for the minimum 15 days. I doubt that the Sox reach down into the minors to bring up a lefty for those 15 days (Chris Hernandez was Pawtucket's best lefty last year). More than likely, these injuries might give an opportunity for Alfredo Aceves to prove that he can handle whatever role he is given with grace, and without confrontation. Starting the season with Aceves could increase his trade value. Or in a perfect world he could gain enough trust with the team that they actively look to shop Bailey (the Tigers are looking for a closer).

Injuries might be Aceves' only chance to sneak into the bullpen
If just Breslow and Morales miss Opening Day, expect Aceves and Mortensen to make the 25-man roster. If just Morales is missing, Aceves should get the nod because, like Morales, he has versatility and can be used as a spot starter. If Breslow is the only reliever out with injury, which is very possible, then it might be a tossup between Aceves and Mortensen. Alfredo (3 ER, 3 SO in 5.2 innings) has out pitched Clay (3 ER, 2 SO in 3 innings) so far this Spring, but he of course comes with the unwanted baggage.

The bullpen should be one of the strengths of the Red Sox this season, and could be one of the best in baseball. Of course, this all relies on health. Injuries will happen throughout the course of the season, but injuries to lefties could be troublesome; games are often won or lost in late inning lefty on lefty match ups.

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