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Red Sox moving closer to making final roster decisions

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- When president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski convenes a meeting Monday of the Boston Red Sox's top decision-makers, he might want to borrow a line from Michael Corleone.

"Today, I settle all family business."

Indeed, Monday's organizational summit will go a long way to resolving the roster questions that remain unanswered with Opening Day now eight days away. A rundown of what will be discussed:

1. The final spot in the starting rotation: Steven Wright might have sewn up the job Sunday by allowing one run on seven hits and two walks in 5 2/3 innings of a 5-1 win over the Philadelphia Phillies at JetBlue Park in which Jackie Bradley Jr. and Xander Bogaerts hit home runs. At the very least, the knuckleballer cemented his status as the overwhelming favorite.

But the Red Sox also might want to keep left-hander Roenis Elias, who proved by allowing three home runs in relief Sunday against the Baltimore Orioles that he's useful only in a starting role. In that case, Wright could go to the bullpen, a role with which he has experience at both the minor- and major-league levels. Regardless, Wright is a lock to make the team considering he's out of options and therefore can't be sent to the minors without being exposed to waivers.

2. The last seat in the bullpen: Assuming Wright is in the rotation, right-handers Matt Barnes and Noe Ramirez could both make the team in relief roles. Barnes, a former starter, is stretched out to throw multiple innings. And in the absence of injured setup man Carson Smith (forearm strain), Ramirez could come in handy early in the season, especially against the Toronto Blue Jays' righty-heavy lineup.

But if the Red Sox go with Elias in the rotation, Wright would be bumped back to the bullpen as a long reliever, setting up a Barnes-Ramirez showdown during the final days of camp.

3. Travis Shaw versus Pablo Sandoval at third base: Sidelined for five days by stiffness in his lower back, Sandoval went through normal pregame activities Sunday without issue and is scheduled to play Tuesday, according to manager John Farrell.

But is that enough time to be ready for the season?

Farrell has been looking for ways to get Shaw into the everyday lineup, especially with the 25-year-old going 28-for-49 (.368) with a .975 OPS and playing better defense at third base than Sandoval. Easing Sandoval back after missing nearly a week could be one way to do that. Otherwise, Shaw would be relegated to a bench role as a fill-in at third base and first.

4. The David Murphy situation: On Sunday, Murphy exercised his right to opt out of his contract if the Red Sox don't put him on the major-league roster. Now, the team has 48 hours to decide if it will acquiesce to the veteran outfielder.

Don't bet on it.

Short of placing Sandoval on the disabled list, which doesn't appear necessary, it seems the only way to get Murphy on the roster would be to option underwhelming left fielder Rusney Castillo to Triple-A. But Dombrowski has consistently said the time has come to find out if Castillo is a viable major-league player, a stance that won't change based simply on a spring training in which he's only 10-for-44 (.227) with a .542 OPS.

Murphy was surprised at the lack of interest in the offseason after batting .283 with a .739 OPS in 132 games last season for the Indians and Angels. But if the Red Sox release the 34-year-old, several teams could be compelled to scoop him up, including the Orioles.

"I don't want to jumble my head with what-ifs," said Murphy, who went 0-for-1 against the Phillies and is 9-for-33 (.273) overall this spring. "I'm holding out hope I end up here, but all the same, I'd like a big-league job somewhere. Things might work out, they might not. It's not like I came in here 100 percent thinking I was going to make this team. I was thankful for the opportunity, but I think as a veteran player it's nice to have that luxury to try to opt out a little bit sooner to give myself the biggest window until Opening Day to try to find a job if it's not going to be here."

Murphy's fate, like so much else with the Red Sox, might be decided Monday.